This guide to rethinking how to wipe after peeing was featured in Consider This, our weekly-ish newsletter of new, routine-breaking ideas.
When’s the last time you reconsidered how you wipe after peeing?
I didn’t until I was in my early twenties.
Until then, I was a pretty wasteful wiper. I’d mindlessly unwind a near arm’s-length of toilet paper, scrunch it up, wipe, and flush. Now that I think back, it’s kind of sad. All that paper down the drain.
What changed everything for me was having to pee in a public toilet in Peru. The sign on the stall’s door said to throw your toilet paper in the trash rather than flush it. I obviously obliged. And as I threw my snowball-sized wad of wasted paper into the bin, I noticed something: The other women’s wipes in that bin weren’t like mine. They were compact, efficient, folded rectangles and about 10 squares less than mine.
So why was I wiping so differently?
It was then and there that I decided to open my mind, change my ways, and pursue the answer to the question:
What’s the cleanest, quickest, and most conscientious way to wipe after peeing?
Let’s Clean Up this Mess, Women!
It’s crazy that in this hi-tech world of the internet, artificial intelligence, and, um… TikTok, that the way we women wipe after peeing remains completely out of date.
You were probably about two years old when you had your first (and last) lesson on how to wipe after peeing. Your mom probably taught you.
But what did she really know? Your mom learned from her mom. Your grandma learned from your great-grandma. And so on. So the wiping technique is nothing more than a chain of old wives’ tales, with each link spaced apart by 25 years or so.
Or, as in my case, your mom didn’t grow up using toilet paper, invented her own approach when she moved out West and passed it on.
No wonder the approaches we ladies use to clean ourselves after going to the bathroom are all over the place. It’s not our fault for being poorly trained. But that doesn’t mean it’s not our responsibility to fix it.
It’s time to clean up this mess and come up with a better answer to how to wipe after peeing.
We Can Do It (Better Than Men)
If Chris and I were to publish a post questioning men’s bathroom behavior, most guys would read the headline, scroll straight to the bottom of the post, and unload derogatory and insulting comments. Just take a look at our men should pee sitting down (at home) post for proof.
Luckily, women are generally more clean, conscientious, and open-minded than men on these matters.
For instance, millions of women have open-mindedly moved from tampons to menstrual cups. There’s no reason to believe we won’t be equally open to reconsidering the way they wipe after peeing, especially if it saves money and the environment.
Speaking of men…
Should Men Wipe After Peeing, Too?
The thought never crossed my mind until I stumbled on a Reddit thread about it while researching for this post. As crazy as it sounds, some men wipe after peeing!
Chris was just as surprised as me. He’d never even considered it. He doubts most men have. Urinals don’t have toilet paper beside them for a reason.
Some women in the forums were equally surprised men don’t wipe. And they’re right to wonder. There is no doubt men’s members would be a wee bit cleaner if they wiped.
Chris isn’t convinced it’s worth the effort for a drop or two, but if women are willing to try a new way of wiping, he said he will too.
What We All Can Probably Agree On
Before getting to more controversial and subjective toilet paper tactics, let’s agree on the following:
✓ We want to wipe cleanly, quickly, and conscientiously
While we may arrive at different conclusions, we all have the same goal: to find the cleanest, quickest, most conscientious way to wipe after peeing:
- Clean: The ideal wipe gets no pee on our fingers and leaves no residue on our underwear or anywhere else. And definitely no UTIs.
- Quick: No time-consuming toilet paper origami to prepare the perfect wipe.
- Conscientious: The less money spent on toilet paper and few resources wasted on wiping, the better.
✓ Always wipe from front to back
This is by far the most important and undeniably true approach to wiping after peeing. Doing so avoids the risk of urinary tract infections caused by bringing in bacteria from the rear. The Mayo Clinic, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic and the University of California, San Francisco agree.
✓ One square isn’t enough
Sorry, Sheryl Crow. Unless your toilet paper’s as thick as a towel, risking a sopping wet single square that disintegrates through to your fingers is too extreme.
✓ One way to wipe doesn’t fit all
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to how to wipe after peeing. Every woman has unique preferences about cleanliness, quickness, and conscientiousness. Every pee is different. And sometimes there’s more than pee down there to wipe up.
✓ Toilet paper quality matters
All bets are off when you’re in unfamiliar territory and need to wipe with paper of questionable absorption and strength.
✓ Toilet paper may not be the best approach
Bidets, blotters, or seashells (see video below) may be cleaner, quicker, and more conscientious. Many people from many cultures around the world would say so. Some wild women even drip dry. But we’re not diving into those topics in this post.
How to Find the Best Way to Wipe for You
Time to find your own approach to wiping after peeing—one that optimizes for your personal preferences on cleanliness, quickness, and conscientiousness.
Go through each of the following wiping variables and open-mindedly consider your answers to the thought-provoking questions:
How Many Squares?
This obviously depends on what kind of toilet paper you’ve got on hand. Let’s keep it simple. Think about whatever quality you use at home.
- What’s your number? How many do you currently use and why? If you don’t count, why is that?
- Why is that your number? Why don’t you use more or fewer squares? If, for example, you use 6 squares of double-ply, why not 7? Or have you tried 5 before?
- Why do you differ? Why do you think the Peruvian women I mentioned earlier seem to use so much less toilet paper? Do you think they have different cleanliness standards? Could it be that they’re more conscientious about waste? And how do you think they would think about the way you wipe?
Scrunch or fold?
Whether to scrunch or fold toilet paper is the greatest debate in the wiping world. Which side are you on?
- How do you know your way’s best? Have you experimented with the other approach?
- Why do you scrunch or fold? How did you decide to be a scruncher or a folder? Do your friends feel the same?
- What would convince you to switch sides? A reputable science experiment finding the other approach is better? A different toilet paper design? An expert opinion?
- What’s the difference between wiping a counter and wiping yourself? Do you scrunch up a towel or rag when you wipe your counters, too?
Wipe or Dab?
Dabbing is an under-the-radar strategy for wiping after urinating that might merit your consideration. Shouldn’t you give the toilet paper time to do its liquid-absorbing job? Or do you not want to risk soaking through to your fingers?
How Many Times Should You Wipe?
- When do you know you’re clean enough? Do you look at the paper to see how wet it is? Or do you not think about it?
- How do you know you’re not wiping too much? Your skin’s sensitive down there and toilet paper can be abrasive.
Wipe, Fold, Wipe?
By this we mean wiping with a folded tissue, folding that wipe in half, and wiping again. Maybe even add another fold and wipe if you’re a daredevil.
- Is it gross? Why? What could change your mind and make you think it’s not gross? Or are you stubbornly opposed to the idea?
- How big of a surface area do you actually need to wipe? A square of toilet paper’s typically 4.5x 4.5 in / 10×10 cm. Your lady bits are probably not that big.
Thank You, Toilet Paper
Above all, let’s be grateful to live in a world with toilet paper, and for where that paper came from.
Maybe this story Chris found will help remind us.
“The TP Tree”
Today is my last day alive.
I’m sad about it, of course. I’m going to miss the sun, soil, wind, rain, and clouds. Even the squirrels. But I’ve known this day was coming since the beginning and I take comfort in the fact that my ending will serve a purpose.
“Serve a purpose.”
The others would laugh if they heard me say that. They always laugh at me. They think they’re better than me because of their pre-determined purposes. The one to my right’s destined to be made into a house. She’ll shelter a family for decades. To my left, he’s going to be made into baseball bats. He gets to play an integral part in the beautiful game all over. And the one behind me has the special destiny of becoming a totem pole. She’ll keep standing in a different way for decades, telling a tall tale in a beautiful way.
I’m destined to be toilet paper.
Go ahead. Take the piss on my crappy destiny. I’ve heard it all before. I don’t mind anymore.
After struggling and soul-searching early on, I’ve come to embrace my destiny. I get to improve tens of thousands of people’s lives. People need me. I’m honored to have the chance to help.
Look around. I’m the biggest tree here! That’s because I’ve worked harder than anyone to stand up straight and grow as big and strong as I can. I can help more people that way. You bet I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and what I’ll become. The other trees can laugh all they want.
I just hope people appreciate me.
I want to help as many of them as many times as possible before my entire existence is flushed down the toilet. That’s all.
The TP Tree
What’re You Going to Do?
What’s your conclusion on the best way to wipe after peeing? Are you going to experiment with a different approach, or stick to your ways?
Please share your approach and opinions in the comments. Put a fake name and email if you’re embarrassed. I can’t be the only one who’s curious about what other women do. And I think that learning from each other can help.
Are You Willing to Reconsider Other Things, Too?
If you’re open-minded, willing to experiment, and want to live less complacently, subscribe to get a new experiment to try, idea to ponder, or place to explore every week or two in our newsletter, Consider This: