How To Wipe Yourself Properly After Using The Bathroom

There is perhaps nothing more universal than the use of the bathroom.

Everyone has to deal with poop and pee — and, if they’re physically able, wipe themselves afterwards (or so we hope) to seal the deal. The endeavor seems pretty easy, but you might be surprised to learn that you could be doing it all wrong.

For example, we recently learned that some men don’t wash their buttocks after pooping or in the shower; others stun their friends with their controversial swiping “technique” during a podcast interview. #Howtowipe has garnered over 9.4 million views on TikTok, where you can find video after video of experts from all backgrounds teaching what many of us thought was right.

People with vaginas definitely have more to consider than people with penises when it comes to healthy wiping. Still, everyone can make some of the biggest mistakes when mopping, regardless of what’s in the pants.

Here are answers to some of the most pressing questions about wiping properly after using the toilet.

What’s the best direction for wiping after peeing and pooping?

Regardless of what comes out, you’re always going to want to wipe from front to back — something that’s especially important after you’ve pooped, said Dr. Allison Rodgers, gynecologist and endocrinologist at the Fertility Centers of Illinois.

Everyone should follow this advice, but it’s especially important for people with vaginas.

“Our rectum and stool have a lot of bacteria that can be harmful to the vagina and urethra, where urine comes out,” said Rodgers, who posted to TikToks on the subject. “I think a lot of people, not because they’re trying, but accidentally get stool from their rectum to their vagina when they wipe from back to front.”

In other words, she advises going from “clean to dirty.”

The reason people with penises don’t have to worry too much about their wiping direction is because the distance between their rectum and urethra is much greater, so it takes a chaotic wiping to get the poo to the vulnerable spots.

The penis “also isn’t a warm, humid, and dark cavity that bacteria likes to live in,” Rodgers said, “so it doesn’t matter that much.”

Even better news for penis wearers is that they usually don’t need to wipe themselves after peeing. Stool has lots of bacteria, but urine has little or no bacteria. “It’s a waste material, but it’s not particularly dirty,” Rodgers said, “so people with penises can shrug it off.”

People with vaginas still need to wipe themselves after peeing since “shrugging it off” isn’t as effective, but the front-to-back method definitely applies.

When it comes to the swiping motion, Rodgers suggests doing what’s most comfortable and helps you feel cleanest.

What can happen if you don’t wipe properly after going to the toilet?

Millions of bacteria naturally live on your skin, including the vagina, penis and rectum. Most are harmless, even beneficial to the microbiome. However, some can cause infection and illness, especially if you use the same piece of toilet paper more than once (which you definitely shouldn’t do) – so always remember the front-to-back rule.

Again, people with vaginas should be extra careful.

“There’s this delicate balance between good and evil in the vagina,” Rodgers said. “There’s always good Lactobacillus, which is normal bacteria that keeps your vagina healthy. But if a lot of it is killed off, bad bacteria can grow and they can get there through things like miswiping.”

Unhealthy germs can also grow in the vagina when you take certain medications or do things like douching — the process of cleaning the inside of the vagina with water or other liquid mixtures — that disrupt the vagina’s pH and are normal, healthy organisms. Doctors say you should never take a shower as it can lead to problems like infection.

One consequence is bacterial vaginosis: the most common vaginal infection treatable with antibiotics, Rodgers said.

dr Anish Sheth, chief of gastroenterology at Penn Medicine Princeton Health, told BuzzFeed News that UTIs can also occur after improper wiping. For people with penises, “there’s probably no risk of infection,” he added.

Not mopping properly can also mean you’re mopping too much or too little.

Going overboard while wiping can cause irritation, or “microtrauma,” as Rodgers put it, to the sensitive skin of the vulva or rectum. Sheth said irritation to the skin around the anus can cause external hemorrhoids to flare up, causing itching, pain and bleeding. (Hemorrhoids are inflamed or swollen veins in the rectum or anus.)

It’s also possible for tiny bits of poop to get stuck in the hair around the anus and stay there if you don’t wipe thoroughly, Rodgers said: “It can be incredibly irritating to the skin, and then you’ve got an itchy asshole — and that’s it awkward.”

If you do experience smudge-related irritation at some point, Rodgers suggests using petroleum jelly or creams like Desitin, which “can act as a barrier so pooping is easier and doesn’t irritate your skin as much.”

But sometimes less is more, Sheth said: “You don’t have to scrub the area. Gentle wipes, about two or three, should do the trick. If you’re prone to irritation, use water or wet toilet paper.”

After pooping, why does it sometimes take more wipes to get clean?

Every pooping experience is unique, so sometimes it takes a little extra effort to get clean, which is usually not a bad thing.

That’s why it pays to invest in quality toilet paper, Rodgers said, because in case you need to wipe more than usual, you’ll have a gentler cloth that won’t irritate you. But even the most luxurious toilet paper can leave your genital area feeling rough if you overdo it.

In more serious scenarios, constantly soiled cloths after pooping can mean internal hemorrhoids are popping out of the anus, which can be painful and make it harder to get clean, Sheth said.

But if you’re lucky, you might occasionally experience what Sheth calls the “holy grail of bowel movements” – “that clean sweeping, leaving the first wipe clean.”

Should you sit or stand when wiping after using the toilet?

Ask this question to a handful of people and you might be surprised to find that the answers vary widely. In a 2018 informal poll of more than 3,000 people conducted by Men’s Health, 35% of men said they wiped while standing, up from 34% in a Reddit poll that included both men and women participated. (There’s even a BuzzFeed video outlining the debate.)

There’s no set medical advice for the position you should wipe in, but there’s no denying having your cheeks spread wide when you’re sitting, Rodgers said. (Just try not to sit too long before you’re done, as you increase your risk of hemorrhoids; prolonged sitting can put extra pressure on the rectum, which can cause your hemorrhoids to swell.)

The only downside is that depending on the design of your toilet, your hand can get awfully close to the toilet water – just something else to consider.

If you prefer to wipe while crouching, i.e. hovering over the seat when using a traditional toilet, you can still get the job done.

What toilet paper alternatives are there?

Just because toilet paper is the norm doesn’t make it a requirement. There are some equivalent or even more effective alternatives you can try if you’re looking for a cleaner, more comfortable, or more eco-friendly bathroom experience.

Bidets, for example, are highly recommended. Bidets are standalone plumbing fixtures designed to wash the genital and anal areas with a gentle jet of water (basically a shower for your butt). You can also buy a bidet attachment for your toilet.

You can also use flushable wipes, but you might want to wipe down with a dry piece of toilet paper afterwards to avoid bacterial growth from residual moisture, Rodgers said. Despite being advertised as “flushable,” these wipes should never be flushed and can wreak havoc on drains.

Wet wipes can also cause irritation in some people. “If you want to try them, especially after a bowel movement, I would use them sparingly, throw them in the trash, and stop using them if they become irritated,” Rodgers said.

And if it hasn’t already been taken for granted: always wash your hands after going to the toilet!

You might also like

Comments are closed.