In this article, we’re looking at whether a bidet can replace toilet paper altogether. And if not, then how much TP can be replaced with regular bidet use.
Bidets replace most, but not all, toilet paper. Not all TP is replaced because most users choose to wipe a bit before cleansing and some dab dry. There are ways you can reduce your use of paper. For example, built-in dryers and dedicated towels replace the need for dabbing dry.
It’s a great question. In my experience hearing from different people, most folks make the switch to a bidet for reasons of hygiene–you just can’t get a more thorough clean. But, some decide to start using a bidet for economic reasons: namely to save toilet paper. But, can you replace all toilet paper with a bidet?
Reading the above you might wonder what the purpose of a bidet is if people still use paper. But, keep in mind that it only takes a square or two to wipe away debris before cleansing and you don’t have to use TP to dry–it’s just that some users choose to.
Folks who use more TP than absolutely necessary probably use the bidet for hygiene more so than saving on paper.
What we’ll do here is go over how the different categories of bidets compare when it comes to saving on TP and the amount of paper (and trees) saved overall by opting to use a bidet in place of a standard toilet.
How Much Toilet Paper Does a Bidet Save?
Bidets reduce toilet paper use which has implications for us (consumers) and the environment—the latter by reducing the economic cost of TP production.
Bidet use can save 2 rolls of toilet paper per person per week (1). Hence, a 4-person household would save about 8 rolls weekly. Population-wide, bidets have the potential to replace close to 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper per year in America alone (2).
I say “close to” because some amount of toilet paper would still be needed. More on this in the coming section.
Talking about the number of rolls has limitations–there’s one- vs two-ply and double, mega, and jumbo size rolls. But, the above will give you a good idea.
As for TP production, bidets reduce the use of a number of resources from trees to water and certain chemicals like chlorine (used for bleaching).
According to Justin Thomas, the editor of metaefficient.com, bidets are a “key green technology” because they replace the use of toilet paper. His analysis concluded that Americans use 36.5 billion rolls of TP yearly, which results in the destruction of 15 million trees.
He went on to say that the process uses over 473,587,500,000 gallons of water, 17.3 terawatts of electricity, and 253,000 tons of chlorine (2).
Not to mention the materials and energy needed in packaging and transportation of TP to retail outlets.
Some might point out that bidets use water which cancels out the benefit. But, they’re not considering the water used in TP production.
Sure, bidet owners use a bit of water for cleaning, but it requires 12-37 gallons of water to make just one roll of toilet paper (3).
Which Bidets Save the Most Toilet Paper? The TP-Saving Tier List
Here I’m talking about electric seats… and toilet-bidet combos—toilets built from the ground up to have bidets. There are plenty of non-electric bidets on the market but they’re not as popular (tangentially, attachments are the way to go if you want a non-electric bidet).
Electric seats and toilet-bidet combos are the best, and the former are more practical because they can be attached to existing toilets. Hence, they’re cheaper and can be used in rental properties, etc.
Electric seats top the list when it comes to almost every feature you could want in a bidet and saving on TP is no exception.
In case you’re new to the subject, these come as a seat-lid combo that replaces the seat/lid on your current toilet. You need only swap them out and then do a simple re-route of the water–the whole thing takes only a few minutes.
Don’t get me wrong, not all seats are electric and some electric seats are nicer than others. But, the best bidets are electric and this category comes with all the bells and whistles associated with high-tech toilets.
Models vary, but the features often include:
- A built-in dryer
- Water temperature and pressure controls
- A retractable and self-cleaning wand
- A self-misting function that cleans the bowl at certain intervals and before/after every use
- Self-closing lid (reduces toilet plume when flushing)
- Heated seat
When it comes to saving on toilet paper, the built-in dryer is huge. Other types of bidets don’t have this function. That’s it.
There are two points at which you might have to use toilet paper:
- Wiping a time or two before cleansing. One of the more common questions I get is, should you wipe before using a bidet? The short answer is that you don’t have to, but a lot of people find it useful. After eating, we usually give the plate a good wipe to brush off any large food scraps in the trash bin before hand washing the dish or placing it in the dishwasher. The same applies when using a bidet. This isn’t always necessary, depending on how clean the bowel movement is.
- Dabbing the wet area dry. No one likes to walk around with a wet rear end. It’s uncomfortable and can lead to chaffing. Also, microorganisms thrive in moisture, which is why yeast infections often occur in folds like the armpit (4). When used correctly (via toilet paper or a dryer), bidets don’t leave you wet all day.
The second is relevant here because toilet paper is a convenient way to dry off. But, modern bidet seats usually eliminate the need for drying because built-in dryers are a standard feature these days.
Attachments and Handheld Sprayers
The handheld sprayer is a popular type of bidet. With this kind there’s a sprayer located next to the toilet–they look like the nozzles common in kitchen sinks.
This is one of the more primitive bidets, but they get the job done and remain quite popular. They’re called “bum guns” in some places.
When installed, attachments look like bidet seats, in that they usually consist of a control arm next to the toilet. But, with this kind, you don’t replace any parts. Rather, you install it under the current seat-lid combo.
Now attachments do vary in terms of what features they offer. But, dryers don’t come standard with this kind so they tend not to reduce TP use as much.
Folks often opt for this kind because they’re significantly cheaper compared to the seats, and offer some of the same benefits like pressure and temperature controls.
And, like the seats, they still shoot water straight at your butt so there’s no manual cleaning like there is with sprayers and standalone bidets.
Keep in mind, with both varieties, you can avoid the need to dry off with TP by using a dedicated bidet towel. But, a lot of people find this off-putting. There’s something that seems unsanitary about using a towel specifically for your anus.
I don’t see the problem. After all, most use their shower towel more than once between bathes and we dry off our butt with those.
These are often called standalone bidets. It’s a mini washbasin located next to the toilet. Paper can be saved with these by using a towel. In fact, it seems towels are most commonly used with this kind.
I list this kind last because most will want to be pretty clean before transferring to the basin which might require more toilet paper.
Most want to keep their basin clean so cleaning the soiled area before using the bidet makes sense. How-to articles that instruct on how to use bidets usually stress the need for wiping to prevent transferring poop to the unit.
Also, folks sometimes like to fill the unit up with water by plugging the drain. This allows for bathing of the soiled area. If you were to transfer any amount of poop to the bidet when doing this, it would contaminate the water.
Hence, a more thorough pre-cleaning with TP might be necessary. Also, you’re going to get wetter with this kind, so anyone not using a dedicated towel would likely resort to using extra toilet paper when drying off.
And, as mentioned above, bowel movements vary in how messy they are and some may not require wiping.
Do Bidets Replace Toilet Paper? Conclusion
So, there you have it.
Bidets replace wiping, but most users continue to use a small amount of toilet paper for drying. Some use toilet paper for pre-wiping, but wiping first isn’t necessary. Bidet dryers vary in effectiveness and users with high-quality bidets often report giving up toilet paper completely.
Factors that influence how much TP continues to be used after switching to a bidet include bowel health, stool texture, and the type of bidet used.
Some bowel movements are clean, especially when the stool consistency is on the firm side. Depending on your typical stool texture, you may find that a pre-cleanse wipe can be skipped much of the time.
Just know that if you decide to make the switch to a bidet, you will save on countless rolls of TP over a lifetime. Not to mention you’ll be getting a thorough clean and avoiding the chaffing that comes with frequent wiping.
Different types of bidets vary in how much toilet paper they can replace, especially if you plan to dab dry with paper instead of a towel.
Finally, most modern bidet seats come with a built-in dryer, completely replacing the need to wipe away moisture.
If you’re curious how much money you will or won’t save by switching to a bidet, make sure to check out the article, do bidets save money? for the big picture on whether bidets save money overall.
Thanks for reading.