"White people want to be poor so bad."
March 10, 2018 8:26 PM   Subscribe

“The family cloth” is a reusable alternative to toilet paper, made of rags, old t-shirts, sewn fabric, or purchased cloth wipes. They are mostly used for wiping pee, but some families use them for poop and periods. The practice (common until the modern era) is now mostly featured in eco-conscious and “frugal” housekeeping blogs and Etsy shops. Yesterday BuzzFeed published a sympathetic explainer about the wipes. (At the end, readers are asked to respond with “Good for them, not for me!” or “I’d try it at some point.”) Before it grows any more, let’s make it clear: “Family cloth” is not a life hack.

Consider an alternative: Wirecutter's guide to bidets and washlets.

Buttwiping previously. And especially previously. (By MeFi's own Nick Douglas, who would agree that
turnabout is fair play.)
posted by Johnny Wallflower (103 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I want a bidet. So civilized, so refreshing.
posted by jb at 8:37 PM on March 10 [13 favorites]


I suspect the larger reality is that the reason there's so many listings for them on Etsy is that they're incredibly cheap to make and take almost no sewing skills. They're banking on a lot of people thinking the idea sounds novel enough to try--they don't make any more money if those people keep using them versus giving them up after the first day.
posted by Sequence at 8:37 PM on March 10 [23 favorites]


It kiiiiinda makes sense if you’re already washing diapers (and corresponding poopy cloth wipes) anyway. Which is the only context in which I’ve ever encountered family cloth in real life.

Oh, and people seem to like cloth menstrual pads. I tried but could never make them work for me. No need now that I discovered the life-changing wonder that is the menstrual cup! *puts on t-shirt that says TALK TO ME ABOUT MENSTRUAL CUPS*
posted by The Toad at 8:42 PM on March 10 [34 favorites]


And they make great Christmas decorations!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:43 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Wait, without a toilet paper roll, what does the cat even DO all day?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:45 PM on March 10 [21 favorites]


“Family cloth” is as bad a euphemism as I could think of. It’s like the kind of family you can only escape by a three-day trek through the wilderness.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:49 PM on March 10 [76 favorites]


We recently got a second washlet because we decided that grown ass adults shouldn’t have to argue about who poops where, and washlet #1 was installed in the get-the-kids-out-the-door bathroom. They aren’t hard to install and really make life way better. Given that we’re already washing, a butt drying cloth doesn’t sound that awful, actually. I think family cloth is an awful name for it though, since it unnecessarily rubs in your face that other people might use the same cloth, and conveniently omits the part where you launder it.
posted by telepanda at 8:54 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


(Incidentally, one eco-friendly lifestyle commitment to make is to live in high-density housing in a city, which means shared laundry facilities, and the idea of washing family cloth in the downstairs laundry —)
posted by Countess Elena at 8:58 PM on March 10 [20 favorites]


OMG NO
posted by lollusc at 8:59 PM on March 10 [13 favorites]


Y'know what we haven't had in a while? Cholera!


yay cholera
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:10 PM on March 10 [144 favorites]


(...and the idea of washing family cloth in the downstairs laundry —)

Wait, wait, there’s a solution! Now excuse me while I run away screaming
posted by The Toad at 9:19 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


How about classing it up with a Xylospongium?
posted by lagomorphius at 9:19 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


This post has inspired me to get a bidet.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:27 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


I've encountered some weird bathroom setups, but this is something I've happily only read about.

As with many things, I'm all for people living their personal dream and this isn't going to do any damage other than maybe make their kids need therapy later in life. But still, there are better ways to demonstrate your commitment to the environment.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:29 PM on March 10


Guys. $89.97. Takes 20 minutes to install and works beautifully.
posted by HotToddy at 9:29 PM on March 10 [8 favorites]


ugh, this is like putting your seashells in the dishwasher
posted by ryanrs at 9:29 PM on March 10 [62 favorites]


Contra the article, I feel like this is something so distasteful that people are actually pretty unlikely to do it performatively--not for very long. When I started reading the post, I thought this was referring to someone using reusable cloths while changing babies, which, if you're washing diapers or similar anyway, probably isn't a big deal. But on the toilet paper roll--!

I grew up in a household where we cut up worn-out clothing, etc., to make rags for cleaning with, but we certainly never did this.
posted by praemunire at 9:31 PM on March 10 [6 favorites]


Civilized folk use the family cloth to clean the poop knife.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:43 PM on March 10 [71 favorites]


We installed a bidet toilet seat in the master bath. It was easy to install and works great.
posted by elizilla at 9:50 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I’m very skeptical that the (recycled/low-grade/by-product) pulp used to make toilet paper is less eco friendly than growing thirsty cotton and then throwing it in a hot, bleach wash once a week.
posted by rh at 9:53 PM on March 10 [28 favorites]


though, if that's true, rh, shouldn't we mostly be wearing disposable paper clothing?

A sewage management system that relies on copious (potable!) water, that increasingly seems mad to me.
posted by clew at 10:14 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


oh boy.

My father in law grew up in a place and time where the plumbing was, um, not reliable. He learned, therefore, that if the pipe attached to the WC was of sketchy reliability, the first line of response was to start tossing your toilet paper into a trashcan kept next to the toilet for that purpose.

This behavior still recurs, unpredictably. It is helpful to the family in recongizing when he, an elderly man, is experiencing overwhelming levels of stress. My wife, and his other kids, find it embarrassing and distressing.

A couple of years ago, I was extremely privileged to visit, with my wife, the country of my father-in-law's birth, where on one occasion I was deeply bemused to encounter a restroom in a public facility serving a largely international clientele which had a sign up strictly instructing users of the basin toilets to dispose of their wipes in the bins provided next to the basins in the stalls.

Cultural practices surrounding toilet hygiene vary more widely than, I think, an individual can imagine.
posted by mwhybark at 10:16 PM on March 10 [13 favorites]


Wait, wait, there’s a solution! Now excuse me while I run away screaming

Jeezus Criminy, hasn’t that person heard of Craigslist!?
posted by Big Al 8000 at 10:22 PM on March 10


When I was a kid on the ranch with an outhouse, the Sears catalog was so useful. As was a corncob.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:41 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Brings to mind the arse cloths found at Rievaulx Abbey; in The History Boys Alan Bennett points out that some of these surely touched the bum of St Aelred and could therefore be regarded as holy relics, worthy of veneration.
posted by Segundus at 10:43 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Alan Bennett points out that some of these surely touched the bum of St Aelred and could therefore be regarded as holy relics, worthy of veneration.

For the sake of the thumb of St. Aelred, one hopes they weren't holey relics.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:49 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]


I was deeply bemused to encounter a restroom in a public facility serving a largely international clientele which had a sign up strictly instructing users of the basin toilets to dispose of their wipes in the bins provided next to the basins in the stalls.


I mean this is common like almost everywhere outside of the US/Canada and Western Europe.
posted by Literaryhero at 11:24 PM on March 10 [26 favorites]


The important question is what did they do in the Paleolithic era?
posted by waving at 12:46 AM on March 11 [8 favorites]


I think it's got a lot to do with long-term a cultural concept of suffering as a way to repent for sins, which even atheists in Christian countries absorb without realising. "Detox" silliness and "clean eating" are part of this - a secular reinvention of Lent. Also people who go vegan by eating joyless food, rather than vegan stuff they'd enjoy.

(I use Who Gives A Crap bulk-purchased mail order bamboo toilet paper, which sponsors toilets. It isn't cheap but I get it as a birthday and Christmas present from a sister who saw it and thought of me for some reason)

That said, is this that different to washing cloth nappies? Perhaps the solution is to drop them in a sealed bin and have a local business pick them up for cleaning, but that's a lot of very hot water. Like rh I'm curious about the energy and water involved in cleaning vs disposable.
posted by BinaryApe at 1:35 AM on March 11 [10 favorites]


OMG I've just checked the link and realised she's just buying me the cheaper recycled paper, not the bamboo version.
posted by BinaryApe at 1:40 AM on March 11 [8 favorites]


Civilized folk use the family cloth to clean the poop knife.

father: son where is the family cloth i know you used it last
son: i don't know
father: cut the crap!
[the crap cannot be cut until the poop knife is clean. the poop knife cannot be cleaned until the crap is cut]
posted by LeviQayin at 1:43 AM on March 11 [10 favorites]


I don't see the big deal. At all. A few droplets of urine on a piece of fabric which is then washed! * clutches pearls? * I also don't see the big deal about throwing a piece of toilet paper in the garbage. I do find the sanity of our species questionable when I think about the millions of gallons of drinkable water that we poop into.

Also, if you get a bidet, you'll probably dry your ass on a towel right? People here wash their asses after pooping (and find it hilariously disgusting that Americans only wipe with toilet paper) and keep personal ass drying towels available for each family member. I find this grosser than if a small amount of fabric was used a single time to dry up. I don't dry my hands when I'm a guest because I'm afraid I'll mistakenly use someone's ass towel.

Also, men, do you wipe every time after you pee? Do you change your underwear every day or after every non-wiped pee? Wait, don't answer that.

Cloth menstrual pads and cloth diapers: both grosser than this. Both fine by me.

It definitely needs a new name. Family cloth made me think that everyone in the family uses the same piece of cloth.

Not gonna save the world, but as someone who's gone to extreme lengths to live in a way that makes sense to me, I get why this is a thing (although, personally leaning more toward the corncob route). We've reduced our plastic waste to a small bin's worth every month. I'm annoyed with constantly buying more toilet paper, with its thick plastic packaging, and have wondered if it's something we can start doing without...or doing with less of. I like to question stuff like this, and I think that the thousands of small decisions I make daily do make an impact. So there.
posted by hannahelastic at 1:44 AM on March 11 [14 favorites]


‘Family Cloth’ ‘washed once a week’ - thanks for the Sunday morning chortle!

Long time ago I was helping a friend un-build the piece-work sweatshop that was soon going to be his Brooklyn Loft DreamHome. The ladies who worked in the shop were all Dominican with a few Puerto Rican (who were hated and shunned by the bigger group). And these thirty women shared the two toilet bathroom. And, as they learned in youth, you don’t flush the toilet paper because it’ll clog the pipes (or end up on the beaches or in the fisher’s catch). So they threw them away in the bag next to the toilet. Which then wasn’t changed. And so the pile grew, and solidified. It was about six feet high and when the dividers were taken out remained standing with significant structural integrity. Vaughn, the laborer, got the task of bagging it all and it was merely gross until he got to the bottom of the pile and found the skeletons of four rats, whistle clean and intact. We put them on the windowsill and admired them for days.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:58 AM on March 11 [19 favorites]


My resolve to move into a sterile space station continues to harden, much like a used...family...cloth.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:58 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]




[the crap cannot be cut until the poop knife is clean. the poop knife cannot be cleaned until the crap is cut]

Not one of Beckett’s best plays....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:47 AM on March 11 [9 favorites]




Look, I'm just never pooping again.
posted by jscalzi at 3:49 AM on March 11 [11 favorites]


“Family cloth” is as bad a euphemism as I could think of.

“Family”, in this case, being defined by common faecal microbiome.
posted by acb at 4:22 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


“Family cloth” is not a life hack.

The truest thing I have ever read.
posted by jeather at 4:26 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I understand the idea of the "ass towel" if you're practicing Southeast Asia style bathroom hygiene (it's all about the "bum gun" and some soap!) But if you're not... No, just no.
posted by rednikki at 4:31 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


That said, is this that different to washing cloth nappies?

One assumes that the nappy-soiling period of most peoples' lives is more or less finite, and thus easier to grin and bear.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:44 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


American toilet paper consumes...474 billion gallons of water (about 13 gallons per roll).

I'm always a bit annoyed by the reporting of unqualified numbers about water use, such as claims that X practice consumes N gallons of water, when these bald figures are presented as helpful to our understanding of environmental impacts. Water doesn't disappear after it's used. The quantity itself tells us absolutely nothing about the environmental impact of using that kind of water. To understand that, you need to know what the energy and environmental cost of using that amount of water is, including where the water is being used (if it's in a very wet region with a surplus supply of water, for example, the impact will be much less than if its in a very arid region or a region which supplies one) and what degree of processing is needed to return it safely to the water cycle. To some extent, this also applies to figures about electricity consumption too, but our very high global reliance on non-renewable power sources does tend to make electricity use figures a bit less meaningless.

This isn't to say that the paper industry isn't a significant polluter, because it is; but if we're trying to compare the impact of toilet paper use with alternative options, unqualified numbers like this are no help at all.
posted by howfar at 5:44 AM on March 11 [20 favorites]


I really hate the second article. "People are doing a thing that I find distasteful, but is ultimately harmless. I will accuse them of posturing so people will feel obliged to agree with me."

I do, however, judge the person in the first article saying "We don't use cloth for poop, we use baby wipes." At least they specify they aren't flushing them, but surely that's worse for the environment than using toilet paper?
posted by hoyland at 5:59 AM on March 11 [9 favorites]


Heh, my family started doing this when we had twin babies and were using cloth diapers, and my wife figured she might as well sew old rags into reusable wipes since we had to wash poopy stuff anyway. And, even though it's been years since we had diapers, we're still using reusabe wipes. Toilet paper just doesn't feel like it cleans properly anymore. I suppose a bidet would be a better solution.
posted by borsboom at 6:12 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I'll confess: I do this, starting from when my kids were in cloth diapers. I use rags cut up from old clothes, only for pee and to clean up after sex. They're softer and more absorbent than toilet paper, and way more pleasant than a cold water bidet, which require you to use something to dry with anyway.

And it sure as heck isn't a way to display my environmental consciousness; I do my best to keep anyone from knowing about it, because look at all the judgment I'd get for it!
posted by metasarah at 6:20 AM on March 11 [8 favorites]


metasarah: yeah, for us it's kind of an embarrassing family quirk too.
posted by borsboom at 6:23 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I'm on team eccentric but not personally offensive to me. I've used washable sanitary pads, and menstrual cups, and we cloth diapered our kid and the weirdest thing about all of that was encountering people who are, like, personally and deeply outraged that you do such a thing. I had a knock down drag out fight with my dad once over washable sanitary pads (I wasn't living at home, it wasn't his washer I was using in this endeavor). His main argument seemed to be that I am somehow morally obligated to undertake the most immediately convenient solution to every problem, even if I don't actually want to.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:36 AM on March 11 [8 favorites]


While we are at it , let's bring back the outhouse! This is a very bad idea.
posted by mermayd at 6:48 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


ugh, this is like putting your seashells in the dishwasher

My dishwasher stopped draining recently. When I investigated, I found the impeller blocked by a few dozen tiny seashells. Not one of my children will confess to being the culprit.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:59 AM on March 11 [19 favorites]


The important question is what did they do in the Paleolithic era?

Shells, rocks, pinecones, sticks, leaves, water...
posted by Dip Flash at 7:29 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


But is it a sandwich?
posted by Fizz at 7:46 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


The important question is what did they do in the Paleolithic era?

Shells, rocks, pinecones, sticks, leaves, water...


They don't know about the shells?
posted by Fizz at 7:47 AM on March 11


Guys. $89.97. Takes 20 minutes to install and works beautifully.

LOL "✔ Ambient temperature for refreshing wash."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:54 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: I'm afraid I'll mistakenly use someone's ass towel.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:54 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]


I'm not going to implement this practice (though I'd love to find a reliable source of unbleached toilet paper), but Im not going shame or judge the people who want to do it either.

This reminds me of the massive amounts of judgement and resistance I used to get whenever someone found out I was a vegetarian (note, I did not say *whenever I told someone I was a vegetarian. * I never brought up being a vegetarian because, I didn't think it was anyone else's business).

If its not for you folks, that's fine, just move on.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:57 AM on March 11 [9 favorites]


I know this isn't specifically a bidet thread but I've been puzzled about them: do they help prevent UTIs, or help cause them? I've seen claims both ways; most of the 'help prevent' claims are either anecdotal or provided by bidet sellers, and the 'help cause' claims, though fewer, seem better-sourced (though there are some medical providers who argue for them).

I feel like all the splashing would be an issue, especially for those with vaginas, because it seems like the water would tend to flow back-to-front.
posted by halation at 8:07 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Johnny Wallflower, it is extra super DUPER refreshing when it’s six degrees out! But still better than wiping.
posted by HotToddy at 8:47 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


So after using a bidet (standalone or attached to the toilet seat), you have to dry with a towel, right? For those who have adopted this, is there always a dedicated post-bidet towel for each person as described above, or is it sometimes a collective, shared towel? What do guests use?

(I’ve experienced the “here’s a cup of water, use your hand to clean” version, but have never used a modern bidet and now I’m intrigued by the logistics.)
posted by Dip Flash at 9:11 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


The expensive ones have an air dryer, but the review's author wasn't impressed. Me, I'd probably enjoy a good air-dry.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:23 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I use a similar system when I’m in the wilderness. It’s called a pissrag and it’s a bandanna or scrap of cloth that you let air out between uses and rinses by tying to your pack or a tree branch or the boat or a tent pole.
posted by Grandysaur at 10:07 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than drip drying.
posted by Grandysaur at 10:16 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]




So, people who actually do this: do other people just never come to your house?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:48 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


Dip Flash, we just use toilet paper. It's still a dramatic savings in the amount that gets used. The stream of water is narrow and targeted, so there's no actual need for a towel, unless you have other reasons (environmental, etc.) for wanting to use one. I cannot recommend the bidet I linked to highly enough. It's so inexpensive and easy to install and life-changing. I can't think of a better use for a hundred bucks.
posted by HotToddy at 10:56 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Not going to write a novel about how it came to pass, but there was a time during my adolescence when we were really, really poor. We weren't homeless, but we were poor enough that for a time, to a large extent, we were surviving on the charity of extended family and friends.

Luckily, my mother came from a long line of scroungers. If something was going spare, and it was free, you took it. If you couldn't use it, odds were somebody else in the family could.

So, as it happened, my uncle's Masonic lodge got a new coffee maker. The filters from the old machine didn't fit the new one, so they were throwing out a tightly-packed 24"x24"x24" case of them.

We found out you can blow your nose in a coffee filter, clean most surfaces with a coffee filter, eat dry snacks from a coffee filter, and yes, wipe your naughty bits with a coffee filter. Crumpling and uncrumpling them a few times made them softer if desired. We'd pour a bucketful of water down the bowl a couple times a day, just in case the heavier consistency of the filters was putting us on the express train to Clogsville.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:22 AM on March 11 [11 favorites]


Like Dip Flash, I have bidet questions. After pooping is the stream of water sufficient to clean on its own or do you use your hand for ... uh ... scrubbing?
posted by mcduff at 11:35 AM on March 11


I feel like all the splashing would be an issue, especially for those with vaginas, because it seems like the water would tend to flow back-to-front.

At least some Toto Washlet models have options for water coming from the front or from the back.
posted by hoyland at 11:37 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Another old thing made new by white fragility.

"Everybody wants to be ghetto but nobody wants to be poor."
--Dizzee Rascal
posted by Revvy at 11:42 AM on March 11 [6 favorites]


My resolve to move into a sterile space station continues to harden, much like a used...family...cloth.

"Sterile space station" is kind of an oxymoron.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:42 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Having come down with a mysterious bladder problem around the time that the Olympics started, I'm currently using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper. I changed to cloth when I suspected that the issue might be something in the TP. It didn't solve my problem, but at least my parts are not chapped.

On the other hand, that I can do this does speak to how much privilege I have right now.

I can't imagine actually buying special cloths for this. But if I didn't have the privilege of having room to store a bunch of old cotton knit clothes and sheets to cut up, I would have bought someone else's old clothes and sheets.

I also have my own bathroom, so no one else would know unless I mentioned it. And I have a washer with a sanitizing cycle and steam function, and lots of time, so that the 2.5 hours it takes to run isn't a problem either.

No plans to go bidet. It wouldn't cure whatever I've got and might increase my chances of another UTI. A quick check shows that the water coming out of the supply to my toilet is 10 degrees C. Nope. I can't afford what it would take to get a heated one anyway.

Note: Yes, I have been to a doctor for the bladder.
posted by monopas at 11:48 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


I'm perfectly willing to separate recycling, return bottles and cans, use cloth napkins and dish towels, compost, etc. If you have the energy to manage cloth wipes, I can't think why I should object. I have a septic system; the toilet paper is single ply and thin. I can see the appeal of cloth.

A friend was so upset about my use of cloth napkins she would always bring paper napkins to potlucks at my house. But they are much nicer to use and take seconds to fold. When people are that judge-y, I assume they need something to do with themselves. I apply that to myself.
posted by theora55 at 12:00 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I'm never using a small towel on any one's bathroom ever again unless it's obviously completely fresh from the dryer or drying rack.
posted by sio42 at 12:16 PM on March 11 [7 favorites]


is the stream of water sufficient to clean on its own
I have this model. (Hot and cold! And half the price of the other one posted above!) The stream is powerful enough to clean on its own, or also to cut diamonds.

I use a single wad of toilet paper to dry off.

Once you go bidet, you'll never go any other way.
posted by Hatashran at 12:35 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Cultural practices surrounding toilet hygiene vary more widely than, I think, an individual can imagine.

Not anymore! This is the website where I learned that some people wipe their bums while standing up, and that others have a "poop knife".

I've been wanting a bidet for ages. I think I'm going to get one of those GenieBidet units to give it a whirl. I've been holding off for a long time because the Toto Washlet units are quite a bit more expensive and would require an inordinate amount of remodeling just to get electricity to the heater and controls.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 12:39 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


God dammit y'all made me look up poop knife
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:56 PM on March 11 [6 favorites]


so upset about my use of cloth napkins

!!! Why? Too wasteful, too formal, too unfamiliar, she wanted more starch, what?

I have a relative who has brought ice to my house, along with everything else that passes her lips. Not even ice from her freezer; storebought ice.
posted by clew at 1:24 PM on March 11


God dammit y'all made me look up poop knife

I just assumed it was something completely made up and I will keep operating from that assumption
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:33 PM on March 11 [14 favorites]


mcduff, yes, it is entirely sufficient on the GenieBidet (I've also used any number of Toto washlets and it was sufficient on those too). There are two streams: a gentler "front" wash and a rather robust "rear" wash.
posted by HotToddy at 1:35 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


the first line of response was to start tossing your toilet paper into a trashcan kept next to the toilet for that purpose.

As Literaryhero pointed out, this is pretty much the way of it everywhere with squat toilets outside of the First World - the plumbing's just not robust enough, be grateful that it can handle your feces.


is the stream of water sufficient to clean on its own

Absolutely, that's the whole point! A temperature control is mandatory, however.
posted by Rash at 1:38 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


A temperature control is mandatory, however.

I'm going to take a moderately contrary position. A warm water bidet is very, very nice. We only got a cold water one because of issues specific to our bathroom that made a warm water bidet impossible. I did it with trepidation. BUT! It honestly is perfectly fine. On the very coldest days (in my very cold climate) it's a bit more bracing than one would prefer. But there are very few days like that. The rest of the year you honestly never give it a second thought. If for any reason a warm water bidet won't work for you, I would definitely not let it stop you from getting a bidet at all.
posted by HotToddy at 1:52 PM on March 11


this is pretty much the way of it everywhere with squat toilets outside of the First World

Not even just squat toilets. Rather embarrassingly, in Beirut I didn't realise for months that I was meant to put my toilet paper in the bin by the side of the sit-down toilets. I never clogged anyone's plumbing but I still felt bad after I realised, given that I'd inadvertently contributed to the sewage problems.
posted by howfar at 2:07 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Ok, so our family uses cloth wipes too, ever since our kids were in cloth diapers. So it's been...10 years or so? It works for us, but we don't advertise it, certainly. I don't really understand or feel great about the intense judgment here in this thread.

We keep regular TP for guests and for when we are playing catchup with laundry. We have a basket of washcloths on the floor next to the toilet and a stack of double-sided flannel cloths (for pee and for nose-blowing) on the back of the toilet. We have a wicker hamper (lined with a laundry bag!) that the used wipes go into and they are washed every 5-6 days. I use cloth pads for my period and those go in the hamper too.

The wipes laundry is WAY less gross than the diaper laundry ever was. Toilet paper seems totally insufficient and flimsy and disgusting to me now. It leaves paper bits everywhere in your body crevices and does not do a good job of scrubbing away poop.
posted by fancyoats at 2:53 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Fah, toilet seat bidets? Everyone who’s spent time in Southeast Asia knows that the bum gun is best.

I discovered yesterday that you can buy bum guns at Home Depot, and I am now determined to install one.
posted by faineg at 3:05 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I know this isn't specifically a bidet thread but I've been puzzled about them: do they help prevent UTIs, or help cause them? I've seen claims both ways; most of the 'help prevent' claims are either anecdotal or provided by bidet sellers, and the 'help cause' claims, though fewer, seem better-sourced (though there are some medical providers who argue for them).

I feel like all the splashing would be an issue, especially for those with vaginas, because it seems like the water would tend to flow back-to-front.


I have ALWAYS felt this way about bidets...wouldn’t they push the fecal bacteria toward the vagina? I only finally did some research today after seeing how many people were recommending them in the linked Lifehacker article. Found this study from Japan where they are very popular showing use of bidets is associated with bacterial vaginosis. That convinced me never to use one.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 3:23 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


I had a landlord suggest this to us when she didn't want to fix the sewer main, which a tree root had grown into. "Well, it won't be a problem as long as you don't flush anything but waste products. Here, try this."

We moved.
posted by ThatSomething at 4:33 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I use toilet paper when I’m playing catch up with laundry, too! That means all the time, in our house.
posted by Anne Neville at 5:22 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Reusable cloths for urine and sex-related emissions? No problem. Outside of bladder infections, those excreta have very low to non-existent microbial loads.

Absolutely not a problem if washed reasonably quickly (or allowed to dry quickly).

Feces, though, has a high microbial load - a not-insignificant fraction of which can be disease-causing. Re-useable cloths really should be sanitized/sterilized pretty quickly (or immediately dried - but then one runs into the issue of aerosolization of microbes - and in places where there are flying insects, this can become an additional source for vectoring potentially harmful microbes around the rest of the domicile - and into food preparation/consumption areas).

Lids/covers for temporary-hold receptacles is also problematic - depending on the setup, opening the lid can actively promote the aerosolization and spread of potentially injurious microbes. Not to mention odour.

I'm pretty regular and defecate immediately before my morning shower - I wipe with toilet paper, and prefer concentrated shower streaming water (acts like a bidet, before I apply bar soap and wash).

However, when I have to defecate and not intending to shower afterwards, I wipe with TP, then follow through with a wet wipe (baby wipe; Huggies brand is more absorbent and has a superior texture to Pampers brand, which I suspect is has a much higher synthetic fiber content). (Wipe, fold in half, wipe, fold in half, wipe, fold in half) The TP gets flushed, the wet wipe gets tossed into a grocery-store plastic bag-lined bin.

The odour is imperceptible - which surprises the hell out of me - but I change my bin at least once a week (there's probably more odour from my discarded dental floss than from the wet wipes).

--

Paleo - did they even wipe? Do great apes wipe? When did people start wiping after defecating? The "they don't eat with their left hands" thing - that's just pure garbage racism, right?

A bear and a rabbit are taking a dump in the woods. The bear asks the rabbit, "Does it bother you when you get poop on your fur?" The rabbit replies, "Nah."

The bear grabs the rabbit and wipes their ass with it.

posted by porpoise at 8:05 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Bidet evangelists like to use the example of "if you got poop on your hand would you just wipe it with dry paper?" No, but 1. it's much more important that my hands be as clean as possible and 2. water alone does not make them clean. I don't know how YOU wash your hands, but it's not as simple as just holding it under the faucet. You have to rub the dirty hand with the other hand and rinse both. So how on earth does a water jet alone clean your ass? How do you get by without rubbing it with something, whether paper or cloth or your hand?
posted by AFABulous at 8:44 PM on March 11



Also, men, do you wipe every time after you pee? Do you change your underwear every day or after every non-wiped pee? Wait, don't answer that.

Nobody tell her about urinal splash back
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:44 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


The bum gun! That’s why every bathroom in Malaysia had one! I’ll be honest — when I visited three years ago, I was wondering wtf went on in those bathrooms that they needed to hose them down.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 7:45 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


So how on earth does a water jet alone clean your ass? How do you get by without rubbing it with something, whether paper or cloth or your hand?

Technically, the only things needed to clean any area of the body is friction to dislodge the particles and a transport medium to carry said particles away (water or tp). Soap is just a surfactant to help water dislodge the particles more efficiently than water alone.

All that being said, standards for cleanliness of your hands are higher than for your rear. Everyone brings their hands to their mouths; ass to mouth is only for the people who are really into such things.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 7:52 AM on March 12


And the scent of soap is a cultural touchstone too. You can clean your hands with any soap after cutting alliums, but you won't seem clean to anyone else until you've scrubbed with salt or a soap with lemon that will cut those odors. It's not exactly correct, but it's as good an indicator of cleanliness as other people have for each other. (Much in the way that mint is now the "good oral hygiene" smell in this country. It doesn't have to be, but it is.)
posted by Countess Elena at 8:28 AM on March 12


omg I already do so much laundry. incessant amounts of laundry. special loads pf pee rags would really push me over the edge.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:52 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]


. So how on earth does a water jet alone clean your ass? How do you get by without rubbing it with something, whether paper or cloth or your hand?

I don’t understand what’s so puzzling about this. If you had poop on your hand, would you rather wipe it on toilet paper or hold it under a strong stream of water? I know which one I would choose.
posted by HotToddy at 11:40 AM on March 12


Let me also point out that you’re not precluded from also using TP if you want. It’s not either/or.
posted by HotToddy at 11:41 AM on March 12


Surely a better way to save the environment would be to get more Americans to use tupperware instead of putting their lunch in throwaway plastic bags? I was pretty shocked when I learned those baggie things were designed to be used once and thrown away.
posted by mippy at 4:55 AM on March 13


If you had poop on your hand, would you rather wipe it on toilet paper or hold it under a strong stream of water?

My point is that I don't see how water alone will get it off your skin without friction (as Big Al 8000 noted). Let's set aside the need for soap for a moment. If I got something non-dangerous on my hand, let's say grape jelly, it's not going to come off completely just from holding it under a faucet. I need to rub it with my other hand, or paper, or something, and then rinse my other hand or throw away the paper.
posted by AFABulous at 3:32 PM on March 13


AFABulous, okay, we agree--friction plus water is ideal. But if you had to choose (a choice which I understood to be underlying your question), which would it be?
posted by HotToddy at 4:34 PM on March 13


Is poop "one of those things Metafilter doesn't do well," or is my perception just being colored by all the poop?

In a variation of the old "glass half empty" metaphor, I was once accused of looking at a situation "through shit-colored glasses.")

posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:59 PM on March 13


If you used the sink sprayer thing and it had sufficient pressure it would indeed get the grape jelly off.

Or honey. Not that I'd know....
posted by sio42 at 2:45 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Well, water is (technically speaking) the universal solvent, so given enough time it should indeed wash off all the poop.

I'm here to help.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:17 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


The Bidet's Revival (Maria Teresa Hart, Atlantic)
“It’s been completely Americanized!” my host declares proudly. “The bidet is gone!” In my time as a travel editor, this scenario has become common when touring improvements to hotels and resorts around the world. My heart sinks when I hear it. To me, this doesn’t feel like progress, but prejudice.

Americans seem especially baffled by these basins. Even seasoned American travelers are unsure of their purpose: One globe-trotter asked me, “Why do the bathrooms in this hotel have both toilets and urinals?” And even if they understand the bidet’s function, Americans often fail to see its appeal. Attempts to popularize the bidet in the United States have failed before, but recent efforts continue—and perhaps they might even succeed in bringing this Old World device to new backsides.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:29 PM on March 19


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