How to Keep Clean After Diarrhea

Toilet Paper Can Be Painful, But There Are Other Ways to Keep Clean

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) presents many challenges to those who deal with the disease. One of the everyday problems that can be a real annoyance is how to keep the perianal skin (which is the skin around the anus) clean. Diarrhea, in particular, can present several different problems with keeping the bottom area clean, especially when it is continuing and happening many times a day. Other complications such as fissures and fistulas can add to the discomfort caused by diarrhea. Wiping with toilet paper, even if it's soft, can quickly result in raw and painful skin. Overcleaning and over wiping can result in removing too many of the natural oils there and that in turn can create an itch. So, while it's important to keep clean and try to save the skin from becoming raw or getting broken, wiping and cleaning needs to be done in moderation to avoid a condition called pruritus ani.

Squeeze bottle squirting water into more water
George Diebold / Getty Images

Some of the Options for Keeping Clean

Most of us do not have access to one of the more advanced methods of cleaning a dirty bottom, which would be a bidet. A few of the other options to keep clean include getting in the bathtub and taking a shower or a bath, using wet wipes, or even washing with a damp flannel cloth. Most of these include wiping, and if your bottom is sore, it probably won't be pleasant. However, another method that does not include any wiping at all could be as close as your medicine or kitchen cabinet.

A Squeeze Bottle to the Rescue

If you are experiencing pain in the skin on your bottom and need a way to keep clean, you could try using a squeeze bottle full of warm water. Often these handy little bottles are offered to women in the hospital after they have given birth, and are used for cleaning the perianal skin. You could use any squeeze bottle you have on hand, such as those used for nasal irrigation (sometimes called neti pots), or even a water bottle with a "sports" cap on it. The dollar store is a great place to find a squeeze bottle (think condiment bottles!)

Don't forget! You should label the bottle in some way, with indelible ink, to avoid this particular bottle being confused with one that could be used for drinking or for any other purpose. This bottle should be designated just for use in cleaning up after a bowel movement.

Fill your bottle with warm water from the tap, and hold it below your bottom when you are finished with your bowel movement but before you stand up. Squeeze the water anywhere it is needed, and the water will end up in the toilet, where you can just flush it away.

Once you are clean, you can dry off either by carefully blotting (not wiping!) the area with paper or with a soft towel. Another option is to use your blow dryer. Be extra careful if you use this method, and ensure that your hands are dry and that you are not getting the blow dryer in contact with water in any way and that you are not using too high of a heat setting and drying skin out further.

Keeping a Squeeze Bottle Clean

You will want to keep this bottle clean so that it doesn't end up with bacteria growing on it. Washing it in the bathroom sink with some dish soap should do the trick nicely. You could also wipe it down with antibacterial wipes. You might want to avoid washing the bottle in the kitchen sink so there's no chance of having bathroom bacteria make their way into the kitchen. To sanitize your squeeze bottle, first wash it with soap and water and then put it on the top rack of the dishwasher, as long as it's not made of the type of plastic that will melt in the heat. 

It may seem silly at times to use this tactic for washing up, but it can help avoid causing problems with the skin in the perianal area. Diarrhea from IBD can sometimes not only be frequent but also may contain a lot of bile and sting the skin. It's important to clean away all the fecal matter in a gentle way to avoid further discomfort from occurring.

1 Source
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  1. Hammer HF. Chronic Diarrhea, An Issue of Gastroenterology Clinics. London, UK: Elsevier Health Sciences; 2012.

By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.