Today’s article answers the common inquiry, “bidets vs wet wipes: which works better?” It’s a common question. After all, why go in for an exotic hygiene appliance with a high upfront cost, when cheaper more readily available solutions exist?
Bidets and wet wipes perform about the same for both posterior and frontal cleansing (bowel movements and feminine hygiene, respectively) when comparing one bidet session to two swipes with wet wipes. Bidets have a slight edge in that they don’t smear, but the difference is small.
Bidets Vs Wet Wipes: Efficacy
For those most concerned with which works better, have a look at this video.
While similar in efficacy, bidets do offer several benefits over both wet wipes and traditional toilet paper. Where bidets really shine is that they’re a lot cheaper and better for your home’s plumbing. The first point might be surprising, but as we’ll cover further down, buying paper over a lifetime adds up big time.
In case you didn’t watch the quick video, here are the results from the experiment:
Before you get grossed out that such an experiment exists, fake poop was used made of peanut butter, cocoa powder, and flaxseed.
So, they perform about the same. You may have noticed that the bidet paper is moist, but that’s only because the final wipe (to test any remaining residue) helped dry the skin in addition to checking for fake poop.
Bidets Vs Wet Wipes: Benefits
Benefits of Wet Wipes
Wet Wipes Just Plain Work
They work, as mentioned. No matter how you feel about the effect of paper on the environment, you can’t say wet wipes don’t get the job done.
I will say in my personal experience, how quickly they finish cleaning the soiled area after a bowel movement seems to vary. I used wet wipes for years before knowing what a bidet was, and up to that point, I considered wipes the ultimate life hack.
I can’t say they always worked as well as they did in the experiment above, but that’s to be expected because bowel movements vary in consistency depending on diet, health status, grooming, etc. Plus, of course, fake poop doesn’t replicate real poop in every aspect. You get the idea.
Short Term Savings
If you can’t afford a bidet right now, wet wipes might be the best option. If that’s the case for you, then you have to check out the article on what to use when there is no bidet. In it, I list some pretty surprising and underrated bidet replacements. I do list moist wipes but several other options.
As mentioned in several articles at this point, bidets can cost a good bit upfront—not always, it depends on the model.
Wet wipes and toilet paper cost a lot less at any given time but are wayyy more over the long haul. If you have a limited budget, I’d recommend a handheld sprayer, because a good one can be had for about $30.
I don’t recommend going cheaper, because super inexpensive sprayers ($15) tend to be cheap in every sense of the word and thus prone to leaking. So, if on an extra-tight budget, I’d stick with wet wipes o for now.
Benefits of Bidets
Super Effective if Used Correctly
Like wet wipes, bidets beat out toilet paper by a huge margin. You can get an equally good score on the white glove test using TP only, but you’d probably have to wipe a lot more than once or twice and thus end up going through way more TP.
Most bidet users find that a minute-long session is plenty of time for most bowel movements, which is why a lot of electric bidets have a pre-set 1-minute sprays session. Even if you’re unsatisfied with the results after a minute of cleaning (or have a particularly messy BM) then you can spray for longer.
Bidets Are Way Less Expensive Long-Term
As mentioned, you’ll save money upfront by choosing wet wipes over a bidet. More on this subject in the article, do bidets save money?
If you’re looking for better hygiene today, you can get a 3 pack (144 wipes total) for around $4 at major retailers. If you go with the store brand, that is.
For example, if you have three bowel movements/day (at home) and use three squares each time, it’ll cost you $8/month.
Hence, a $30 handheld bidet will pay for itself in just over three months and save you $8 a month going forward. Not bad.
Granted, you may want to continue to use a little TP for drying, but it’s not necessary as you can always use a dedicated bidet towel. If you choose to dry with TP, you’ll still save 90% on a lifetime of toilet paper costs.
Bidets Are Better for Your Plumbing
Wet wipes are terrible for your plumbing. And trust me, you don’t want to learn that the hard way. This is one area where even traditional toilet paper beats wet wipes.
Like TP, wet wipes are made of plant-based materials (most of the time), but they’re thick and ultra-durable and thus don’t dissolve easily.
Here’s a picture of my front yard from several years back before making the switch to a bidet.
Unfortunately, in this image, I can’t tell you that’s all paper and Nutella. Gross, I know but I’m trying to save you money and effort in the long run.
The plumbing failure happened after sustained use of moist wipes with only periodic routine pumping of the system—I was good about having the system pumped per schedule but it wasn’t enough.
The use of wet wipes eventually led to an eruption in the front yard.
If you’re in an apartment, maybe this isn’t a huge deal. But for those who have to pay when the system needs flushing, a bidet is the best option for saving money and hassle long term when it comes to plumbing expenses.
A lot of folks switch from TP to wet wipes to get a better clean, and it works because moist wipes are absolutely a step in the right direction when it comes to hygiene, but they’re bad for plumbing in general.
Heck, moist wipes are hard on sewer systems (and doubly bad for septic tanks), so it makes sense that they’d be detrimental to residential plumbing systems.
Wet wipes are often advertised as septic-friendly these days but public health sources still recommend that you avoid flushing them (source: Department of Health).
Instead, they recommend you put them in the trash bin, but who does that.
No Harsh Chemicals (Fragrances, Additives, Etc.)
Some bidets use an antimicrobial solution (usually something natural like electrolytes or silver) to keep the wand clean. It’s a great feature—one limited to fancier bidets—but no negative effects have been reported.
Wet wipes, on the other hand, contain multiple chemicals because they’re typically soaked and coated in various additives.
It’s been speculated that the chemicals might interfere with the bacteria in wastewater treatment centers, meaning they could be bad for plumbing if you have a septic tank.
As for health, chemicals in wet wipes have been known to dry out the sensitive skin of the nether regions causing irritation in the process. Bidets can do this too, but only when the frontal wash feature is overused.
Bidets Are Better for the Environment
Last but not least, bidets are much better for the environment than paper products like TP and wet wipes.
It may seem counterintuitive that a water-consuming device would save water, but keep in mind that it takes 37 gallons of water to manufacture a single roll of toilet paper (source: Scientific American).
By comparison, most bidets use about 0.2 gal/min. So, if we use the same scenario outlined above (three at-home bowel movements per day) assuming a 1-min session each time, that would be 0.6 gal per day per person.
For reference, consider that about 1-2 gallons/day runs down the bathroom sink drain per person and a dishwashing machine uses about 10-20 gallons per load.
Some wet wipes are made of synthetic fibers and should require less water for production, but paper is still a common material in moist wipes—mostly because it allows for labeling as septic-friendly.
The above-linked article by Scientific American claims that widespread bidet use would save around 15 million trees per year.
Here’s another article for more info on how bidets save water.
So, there you have it.
Bidets and wet wipes both beat toilet paper when it comes to both posterior and frontal cleansing. Bidets don’t smear the skin with feces, so choosing a bidet might offer a slight advantage. But while equally effective, bidets beat wet wipes in measures like cost-effectiveness and sustainability.
The benefits of bidets over wet wipes include equal or greater efficacy, less smearing (potentially better hygiene), lower overall costs in the long term, and better home plumbing. Finally, bidets are more environmentally sustainable by helping save water and trees.
Hence, if you have to choose, go with the bidet. If you’re on a limited budget, get a cheap handheld sprayer. If on a really tight budget, stick with wet wipes for now and upgrade to a bidet the first chance you get.