Should You Wipe Before Using a Bidet? Experiment Confirms

Are you supposed to wipe before using a bidet

Today’s article looks at whether you wipe before using a bidet. Specifically, should you or do you actually need to wipe first. Folks want to know if pre-wiping is useful but also if it’s necessary. After all, one of the main reasons people make the switch to a bidet is to ditch toilet paper for good.

Wiping before using a bidet is not necessary, but can be useful in some cases. For example, if you have extra debris adhering to the skin, then pre-wiping can clear the way. For those who use standalone bidets, using toilet paper first can prevent transferring stool to the basin.

Don’t wanna wipe first? Check out the article on high-powered bidets.

Anywya, it’s a great question. I’m sure a lot of readers are wondering if it’s normal that they still find wiping helpful after having switched to a bidet.

Below is a quick experiment that looked at the effect of wiping with bidet use.

For those in a rush, after several experiments (including the one below), here’s what I’ve found:

  • 5th (last) place: no pre-wipe + bidet on low pressure. (Worst than TP alone, interestingly, probably because it smears).
  • 4th place: toilet paper alone.
  • 3rd place: pre-wipe + low pressure.
  • 2nd place (a close 2nd): no pre-wipe + high pressure.
  • 1st place: pre-wipe + high pressure.

Before you get grossed out, that’s peanut butter, cocoa powder, and flax you’re looking at on the tissue paper.

What we’ll do in this article is look at the benefits of using toilet paper alongside bidets in different situations. Also, keep in mind that there are several types of bidets each with its own pros and cons. So, one type may benefit more from pre-wiping than others.

For example, handheld sprayers provide a bigger water stream and are operated manually. When operating the nozzle by hand, you can point it in any direction and get up closer to the area that needs cleaning. So, toilet paper might not be as useful when using one of these. You give up a lot of awesome features with this kind of bidet, but they do have their advantages.

White glove test results

The picture shows how much homemade Nutella was left on the palm of my hand after a minute of bidet rinsing both with and without a pre-wipe.

There was a little residue left over on the tissue to the left (no wipe) but it’s a small amount that would’ve been cleaned with a few more seconds. So the final verdict is that wiping helps but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Situations Where Pre-Wiping Might Be Useful

For the most part, I’ll be referring to modern bidets. They include the bidet seats (usually electric) that replace the current seat on your existing toilet and attachments that are fixed to your toilet without replacing anything. For standalone bidets, see the section below. Handheld bidets will be mentioned a time or two as well.

In case you’re new to the subject, here are the different bidets.

Stool Consistency

I don’t want to gross you out, but as well all know, the consistency of one’s poop can vary quite a bit from one bowel movement to another. And the characteristic texture of poop can differ between people. Depending on your diet, yours may commonly have a firm consistency or it might be soft.

Some situations leave us needing to wipe more times than usual to get a good clean. These situations usually involve stool that’s on the pastier side that tends to smear quite a bit. When that happens, it’s not uncommon for some portion of the stool to stick to the skin.

This occurs when a log breaks and leaves behind a chunk. A bidet will take care of this situation in most cases, but how much spraying it takes will depend on how much debris adheres to the skin. In a case like this, using toilet paper to pre-wipe can make for a shorter cleaning cycle.

As I’ll touch on below, shortening the cleaning cycle can have benefits. For example, if you have an electric bidet that provides warm water, you may have a limit on how long the water stays warm before starting to run cold.

Some electric bidets can provide continuous warm water that never runs out. But some of the more entry-level bidet seats use reservoir-type water heaters that store a fixed amount of water in a heated tank. With this kind, the water usually runs warm for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

This is not a huge problem as we’ll discuss below, but it’s something to keep in mind depending on what type of bidet you have or are planning to get.

Those with Digestive Problems

Bidets can offer several benefits for those who deal with certain GI issues. For more info, make sure to check out the articles on the bidet benefits for constipation and diarrhea.

Stool that’s runny isn’t funny, especially when you’re using a toilet seat bidet. If you have a handheld sprayer, you can always clean in any direction. Of course, you give up a lot of awesome features offered by more modern units.

But, if you have a bidet that attaches to a toilet (both electric and non-electric), the nozzle spray a fixed area. Those with bowel incontinence have to deal with stool veering off the normal path. Hence, using toilet paper in this situation might be useful to clear any stool not in the normal spray path.

You don’t have to use toilet paper in this situation, because you can always shift body position a bit to get the job done. Some amount of adjustment is always needed when using a toilet bidet to ensure that water gets to the right area.

Bidets are actually useful for those with diarrhea because the frequent bowel movements throughout the day lead to frequent wiping.

Constant wiping with abrasive toilet paper (pretty much all TP) along with exposure of the skin to acidic stool can make for severe irritation. Electric bidets provide a warm cleansing stream of water that soothes the irritated region.

Senior Adults and Those with Limited Mobility

In the article on the best bidets for senior adults, it was mentioned that some studies looking at bidet use in nursing homes found that the bidets used often failed to finish the job in a single cleaning session (reference).

Seniors were cleaning themselves as instructed but the bidets failed to clean thoroughly enough. The problem is that older adults often lack the mobility that’s useful for positioning the body in angles that allow for maximum exposure to the water jet.

Anyway, for seniors who find that their bidet regularly misses the mark, it may be useful to do a bit of pre-wiping. It’s not absolutely necessary, because, with enough practice and a long enough cleaning session, the bidet should be able to get the job done on its own.

Note, that this is more likely to be a problem for older more primitive bidets. The above study was performed in 2005 and bidets have come a looong way since then. Nowadays, electric bidet seats come with a few extra advantages for aiming:

  • Wider spray areas. Newer electric bidets offer a wide range of spray patterns. Sometimes a concentrated spray pattern is useful (especially for DIY “enemas”) but wider spray patterns are great for covering a larger area. This lessens the need for specific positioning of the body to get the water to the right place.
  • Oscillating spray patterns. Something oscillates when it sprays side to side in a regular rhythm. This allows for much wider spray coverage.
  • Digital aiming of the spray wand. One common question is how bidets aim. Non-electric bidets are pretty accurate given that they work strictly off of water pressure. Being mechanical, they can extend and retract into their housing. But electric bidets allow the user to control the wand position with a small remote or side panel. With the touch of a button, adjusting the wand position can get water to the area that you feel could use a good wipe.

Getting a handheld sprayer seems like a potential solution, but they require a lot of mobility too in their own way. Reaching around awkwardly (into the toilet bowl between the legs or around the back) takes effort. This defeats the purpose for most senior adults looking to get a bidet.

Those Who Use Standalone Bidets

Standalone bidets are located next to and used separately from the toilet. These non-electric bidets are common in Europe. They provide warm water because they’re wired into the home’s plumbing.

Toilet paper is traditionally used with this kind, but it’s not truly necessary in most cases. You conduct your business on the toilet, and then make your way to the bidet to clean off with the faucet that pours (horizontal spray) or the water jet at the bottom of the basin (vertical spray).

By using toilet paper, the idea is that you want to ensure that you’re free of debris before cleaning with water. In this way, you prevent leaving bits of poo at the bottom where the drain plug is.

They’re basically mini sinks so they have drains just like your bathroom sink. Unlike toilets, they don’t have suction pulling the contents down the drain which is why you can’t use a bidet for a toilet (at least, for number 2). And the drain tends to be smaller than the kind in bathroom sinks.

Assuming you don’t have a lot of residual stool adhering to the skin in the crevice (gross I know!), you’re probably not going to be washing much of anything down the drain. But, if you feel like you have a lot that needs rinsing, you’ll probably want to pre-wipe with a bit of toilet paper first before using the bidet.

Using Enough Water Should Do the Trick

In the end, you don’t NEED to wipe before using a bidet even in situations where it might be useful. Regardless of the kind of bidet you get, using enough water will get the job done.

For example, consider:

  • Bidets provide endless water. The only exception is the travel/portable bidets (e.g. the battery-powered bidets and the squeeze bottle kind). With enough spraying, you won’t need to do any pre-wiping with toilet paper. Warm water might be limited (or non-existent) for some bidets, but the overall amount of water isn’t. That’s right, you don’t need warm water to get a clean that’s a hundred times better than that offered by toilet paper. Plus, with “cold” water bidets, the water isn’t necessarily cold, it’s just unheated.
  • Some models provide endless warm water. Those for whom warm water is a deal-breaker (it is comfortable!), some bidets provide an endless flow of warm water. They pull this off by using special instantaneous-type water heaters that warm water up on the spot. So, if you need to spray an extra half minute to avoid using toilet paper, you can enjoy warm water the whole time.
  • Special spray patterns. As mentioned in the section on older adults, wider spraying cleans a larger area reducing the need for manual cleaning. Pre-wiping with toilet paper is no longer as useful when you can spray a wider stream of water or use the oscillating function. Oscillating spray modes cause the nozzle to wash side to side covering a wider area.

Does Pre-Wiping Cancel Out the TP Savings?

If you do decide to go the pre-wipe route, don’t let the prospect of getting toilet paper discourage you regarding the savings you’ll benefit from after switching to a bidet.

In past articles, we did a deep dive into how much money you can expect to save after switching to a bidet. A single consumer goes through about 2 rolls of toilet paper per week which comes to 8 rolls weekly for a four-person household.

One roll goes for $0.84, which means the above household would save $6.72 weekly, $26.88 monthly, $322.56 yearly, and around $3500 over a decade. As covered in the article just mentioned, the savings wipe out the extra energy costs (electricity and water) 20 times over (pun intended).

And the savings hold even after accounting for the cost of the bidet. Even the most expensive of bidets more than pay for themselves in the long run.

Sure, using a couple of squares to pre-wipe before each use of the bidet would eat a little into the savings. But the amount of savings canceled out would be insignificant because you would still use far less toilet paper overall.

Another thing to consider is whether or not you plan to continue drying with TP. If you did, it would cut into the TP savings over the long term but not by a lot.

Like with pre-wiping, you don’t have to dry with TP. And choosing not to dry with TP doesn’t mean using the bidet will leave you wet all day.

There are other options.

One option is that, if you use a non-electric bidet, you can dry with a dedicated bidet towel. In fact, this has been the most common practice over time since the invention of the first bidet—the standalone washbasin kind mentioned earlier. That’s right, the time you used that small towel hanging in the bathroom of your bidet-owning friend, it was not a face towel! Bidet towels are great and save money over time compared to using TP. Just place it in arms reach of the bidet.

Also, electric bidets come with dryers. Modern bidets that run on electricity have warm air dryers that save on TP costs. They also prevent the need for you to do anything but just sit back and relax which is great news for seniors who want to get a bidet to prevent having to wipe.

But, make no mistake, even pre-wiping + drying with TP while using a bidet saves hundreds of dollars (even thousands) over the long term compared to using TP alone.

Should You Wipe Before Using a Bidet? Conclusion

So, there you have it.

You don’t need to wipe before using a bidet, but some find a quick pre-wipe to be useful. Most cleansing sessions last at least a minute, which is usually sufficient to get the job done without paper, but pe-wiping may lessen the time needed to finish rinsing.

Some find that it doesn’t help much. Wiping can help clear debris, but it can also smear small mounts of feces, cancelling out the benefit. It just depends on the person.

Using toilet paper first seems to be more common with standalone bidets. But, you don’t have to pre-wipe so long as you don’t mind transferring some stool to the basin.

If you have a lot to clean, then using TP first is probably a good idea. Like sinks, the basin is connected to the plumbing and has a drain plug and p-trap. So, any residual poo will wash down the drain.

With handheld sprayers and modern toilet seat bidets (electric and non-electric seats and attachments), you don’t have to pre-wipe, but it can be very useful at times.

For those who have purchased a bidet only to find that they still end up wiping most of the time, continuing to use some amount of toilet paper is completely normal. It’s still way less TP overall.

However, using TP isn’t necessary if you’re looking to avoid paper use (e.g. for savings or environmental reasons). I’ve done tons of research and heard from countless people on the subject and never once has anyone claimed to me that they couldn’t get the job done with water alone if they washed sufficiently.

In some cases, it may take an extra 30 seconds (1.5 minutes instead of 1) to finish cleaning without a pre-wipe. Using extra water may sound energy inefficient and less environmentally friendly, but it takes way more water to produce toilet paper (not to mention the trees), so water is saved overall.

Thanks for reading.

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