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“Ultra soft!” “Cushiony!” “Quilted!” “Squeezable!” Oh, how we love to pamper our patooties. No matter how tight the budget, one of the last luxuries people will cut is their comfy toilet paper. How do companies make toilet paper so soft? Why does recycled toilet paper feel so scratchy? And how can we cut down – even eliminate – its use without being… dirty?
Toilet Paper Economics
First, a brief overview. Toilet paper as we know it was unheard of until the mid-1800s. When outhouses were the norm, people wiped with whatever they had available. Old newspapers, catalogs, moss, even corncobs. Ouch!
Once indoor plumbing came along, people needed materials they could flush without damaging pipes. Mass production and mass marketing rose up to meet this new demand. But early products bore little resemblance to the rolls of soft paper we use today.
The first brand was made of hemp and dispensed from boxes in loose sheets. “Splinter-free” paper wasn’t invented until 1935. Ouch again! You can read more fascinating toilet paper history in the book Poop Culture by Dave Praeger.
Nowadays, Americans use over 17 billion rolls of toilet paper per year. At almost 24 rolls per capita, the US leads the world in annual toilet paper consumption. Granted, statistics vary depending on which study you read. In any case, we use a lot.
It’s hard to gauge how much money people spend on toilet paper alone. That’s because those who track consumer spending use a single category for toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins. As a whole, the category average is close to $120 per person per year, or $10 a month.
Toilet Paper Materials
Criticism of traditionally-sourced wood fibers began over 10 years ago. That’s when studies showed that millions of trees from old-growth Canadian forests were being cut down each year for toilet paper alone. The National Resources Defense Council recently revealed that sadly, this practice continues today.
Yet both Consumer Reports and Business Insider both give highest ratings to brands that use virgin wood fiber. These ratings consider performance, comfort, and cost – not environmental impact. Recycled fibers are shorter than virgin fibers. That’s why toilet paper made from recycled material feels more scratchy.
Down the road, I plan to test out different brands of sustainable toilet paper and share the results. Stay tuned!
Toilet Paper Footprints
Whether recycled or “virgin”, making toilet paper requires a lot of water. If it’s bleached, which most brands are, it also creates cancer-causing chemicals. It takes energy to make and transport toilet paper, which adds to its carbon footprint. And the packaging adds waste.
Buying sustainably made toilet paper does help some. But the biggest impact you can make on both the planet and your wallet is to use less of it. A LOT less.
One option: eliminate it. You could switch to reusable wipes made from flannel, bamboo, or even household rags. Frankly, I’m skeptical of how sanitary reusable wipes are. Yet down the road, I may experiment with them and let you know how it goes. If you try them yourself, please leave a comment below so others can learn from your experience!
So Fresh and So Clean
What’s the easiest, most sanitary way to reduce how much toilet paper you use? A bidet! It’s like a mini-shower for your underside. With a little spray of water, your private parts are cleaner than they could ever get by wiping.
When I first heard of bidets, I assumed that Japanese-style was the only option. In Japan, bathrooms often contain a “washlet”. That’s a standalone fixture, separate from the toilet.
I thought to myself, “Those will never catch on here. Who’s going to renovate their entire bathroom to save a little toilet paper? Besides, it takes up so much space. And it’s one more thing to clean!”
Enter: the bidet attachment. This nifty fixture snaps right on to your existing toilet. It’s easy to install, even for someone with no plumbing experience. It uses the same water supply that your toilet does. And the most basic models cost less than a few months’ supply of Charmin.
There are a few different categories to choose from.
- Single temperature ($25-$75). This model allows you to control the spray’s pressure but not the temperature. We’ve been using a basic, single-temperature bidet attachment at our house since 2001. It still works great, even after moving it to two different houses. It is the best money we’ve ever spent. We have avoided using hundreds of toilet paper rolls over the years. Moreover, we enjoy coming out of the bathroom clean and refreshed. Granted, in winter the spray is a bit… chilly. It’ll wake you up in the morning, or any other time for that matter. But once you get used to it, you’ll never want to wipe again.
- Temperature adjustable via your hot water source. This type connects not only to your toilet’s cold water source, but also to the hot water pipe from a nearby sink. It costs slightly more than your basic model. It’s also more complicated to install, and may not be possible if your sink sits over a cabinet. But it adds a level of comfort while requiring no electricity. Before buying, check the installation instructions to ensure the model you’re looking at will work with your bathroom.
- Electric. Besides pressure, this bidet type also allows you to control the water’s temperature. It needs to be plugged in to heat the water, so to use this type, you’ll need an electrical outlet near your toilet. Because of the built-in hot water tank, it can be a mini-energy hog. But it has a few upsides. It’s as easy to install as a basic model and can include other advanced features:
– a heated seat
– an air dryer, which allows you to skip the “blotting” step and forego TP altogether
– a built-in sensor. This prevents the spray from activating when there’s no one on the seat. It’s a great feature for families with young kids.
Bidets: Icky or Not Icky?
Some people get grossed out by the idea of a bidet. Trust me, I get it. It’s weird. It’s different. The thought of spraying water onto such a sensitive area can be unnerving, to say the least. But don’t knock it ’till you try it!
Remember, your underside just another body part. A very dirty one sometimes, but giving it a spray is no different than spraying your hair in a regular shower.
What’s the real “ick”? Admit it. Every once in a while, when you wipe, you accidentally get a little bit of poop on your hands. And guess what? Sometimes, you get a little bit of poop on your hands without even realizing it.
What’s that, you say? “I do always wash my hands after using the bathroom”? That’s great! Thank you, on behalf of everyone you come into contact with. Yet… only 5% of people wash correctly. So chances are, when you leave the bathroom, you still have poop germs on your hands.
On top of that, some people are physically unable to wipe properly. Those with arthritis or limited mobility can find it hard to twist and reach the right spot. This problem will only get bigger as Baby Boomers continue to age. For these people, bidets can be a godsend. Some people theorize that using a bidet could even help prevent urinary tract infections.
And ladies: bidets aren’t just for your dear #2. They also come in… ahem… handy when Aunt Flo comes for her monthly visit.
Doesn’t that squirt of water seem more sanitary now?
Where to Buy
By now you’re convinced that bidets are the way to go. They’ll save you money on toilet paper. They’re better for the planet. And they’re more sanitary to boot. The best sources I’ve found are:
- HelloTushy.com. Everyone’s anatomy is unique. Tushy’s basic and “spa” models both have adjustable nozzles so you can change the water’s angle. They also have a variety of stylish colors to choose from. And if you want to go completely paperless? Tushy offers eco-friendly, naturally antibacterial bamboo Tushy Towels.
- Amazon. Of course, because you can find nearly anything on Amazon.
Do you already have a bidet? Or has this post has inspired you to try one? Comment below and let us know what you think! If you find your bidet as life-changing as we did, don’t keep it a secret. Share this post with your friends!