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Why do people use toilet paper?
October 13, 2004 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Why toilet paper? On the subcontinent we wash the area with our lil water pots (lota). Just like if your hands get very dirty, you wash them, not just wipe off excess with tissue paper. So why the departure down there? Isn't it unhygenic?
posted by Mossy to Society & Culture (41 answers total)
 
It's because we're lazy, and yes, it is unhygenic. I wish I had a bidet, frankly.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:42 PM on October 13, 2004


Well, the "bucket of water" isn't a more hygenic solution. Think about it: dip hand in water, wipe, then (and this is the important part) dip hand in water again and wipe until complete.

Unless you're boiling that bucket of water after every use, you can get some nasty stuff growing in there. But yes, toilet paper isn't exactly a better solution, either. It's akin to cleaning a dirty countertop with a dry sponge. Bidets are the answer, but... "Ew! Water going up my ass! That's so GAY!"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:46 PM on October 13, 2004


A lota is like a watering can. Angle, direct, pour ^_^
posted by Mossy at 4:48 PM on October 13, 2004


I figured a vigorous wiping + a shower everyday pretty much keeps americans clean. If we weren't, we'd probably get food poisoning more often, wouldn't we?

And what's a bidet like the first time? I've never used one before, but I imagine I would be freaked out if I ever did.
posted by mathowie at 4:50 PM on October 13, 2004


Here's what I want to know:

- Does simply pouring water on the er, affected area, really do the trick? It doesn't seem forceful enough.

- and -

- Don't you have to wipe to dry off afterwards?

Other than those 2 obstacles, which I can't quite wrap my mind around without some hints from those more experienced in these matters, it does indeed seem like the better way to go. Toilet paper is icky.
posted by contessa at 4:50 PM on October 13, 2004


As it's funnelled through the funnel, it's usually more than fine to get the stuff off as it's not solid in the first place.. Unless you're seriously constipated in which case multiple fillings are required..

It normally dries pretty quickly as it's not that much area to get wet and it runs off while you're sitting. I usually use toilet paper for that purpose though as it's there anyway :)
posted by Mossy at 4:54 PM on October 13, 2004


If you're rich, you can buy moist toilet paper. This seems to be the best of both worlds.
posted by Mwongozi at 4:56 PM on October 13, 2004


Lota lessons for everyone!
posted by contessa at 4:57 PM on October 13, 2004


Anybody have a picture of a lota or a write-up of how one is used? I get how a bidet works what with the jet powered spray and all, but I'm having a hard time imagining the gymnastics you'd need to go through with something that's just poured out.

Also, toilete paper, bidets, lotas, that's all fine, but what are you supposed to do with the sea shells.
posted by willnot at 5:27 PM on October 13, 2004


The lota thing sounds like a mess. If you are not doing it in a shower or some place to drain away the crap-water, you're probably just going to spread dissolved feces all over the place.

And how does one remove the crap that is not so easily washed away by simply pouring water over it, as in cases of "serious constipation." Is there some sort of brush or are the hands used?

One advantage of TP is that you're less likely to get anything on your hands. So, unless you're exploring around someone's naked butt, you're not likely to come into contact with any feces-borne infectious agents.
posted by shoos at 6:03 PM on October 13, 2004


Well, in Thailand they had a little dipping cup thingee in a basin thingee of water beside the squatty potty. No way this uncoordinated American would have been able to clean off without , hm, touching the affected area. ew. That is why we like toilet paper....no...contact.

Remember, there is a REASON people don't hand you things with their left hand over there. That hand is reserved for toileting!
posted by konolia at 6:25 PM on October 13, 2004


Remember, there is a REASON people don't hand you things with their left hand over there. That hand is reserved for toileting!
People in Asia can afford to buy soap, just like people in the west. Unless people in the west don't wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom. In which case a big "Eewwww!!!"
posted by riffola at 7:01 PM on October 13, 2004


The answer - baby wipes

I know a few people, all women who carry around baby wipes to use instead of toilet paper. You can buy them in travel packs that will fit into most handbags.

Bidets are not the answer. Most people don't have them in No. America and they are ackward to use. I think baby wipes are easier and get you cleaner.
posted by Juicylicious at 7:03 PM on October 13, 2004


Also Indian toilets have drains besides them to allow drainage from either any dirty water splashed (which normally isn't the case, even when using western toilets), or any clean water that overflowed from the bucket.
posted by riffola at 7:11 PM on October 13, 2004


I second baby wipes. Not just for your derrière, either - when a shower is not available (such as when backcountry camping) they make an acceptable substitute.
posted by letitrain at 8:27 PM on October 13, 2004


The only problem with baby wipes is that many of them contain alcohol, which ultimate dries your skin out.

Related: my roommate's friend had a rule: "If it's not clean in three wipes, I just hop in the shower." Huh!
posted by arielmeadow at 9:57 PM on October 13, 2004


I am pro-bidet, but it's not a perfect solution, any more than rinsing your hands without soap is.
posted by rushmc at 10:38 PM on October 13, 2004


Baby wipes are not appropriate for backcountry use, and please quit using them out there, letitrain. They don't biodegrade worth a damn.

Which, incidently, is also why they're not a home solution, either: if you're on septic, they'll clog it; if you're on sewer, the city will be most annoyed.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:45 PM on October 13, 2004


Yeah, how are you supposed to flush wet wipes? At least toilet paper seems thin enough to break down when dunked.
posted by mathowie at 11:22 PM on October 13, 2004


toilet paper companies make flushable wipes that are biodegradable.
posted by rhyax at 12:46 AM on October 14, 2004


And what's a bidet like the first time? I've never used one before, but I imagine I would be freaked out if I ever did

I love bidets, myself. It feels like, well . . .a stream of water on your ass. It's probably less forceful than you imagine . . .more of a fountain-like rinse than a hose-like blast. I don't know, I'm not really too sensitive about it I guess - but it seems cleaner to me than just using TP.

what a gay answer . . .I'm gonna have to go drink a beer now or something
posted by sixdifferentways at 1:12 AM on October 14, 2004


We don't have a lota or a bidet, (more's the pity) so I use the item given to (I assume) all women upon leaving the hospital after giving birth.
It's a small bottle with a funnel-like top, which is used to spray warm water onto the stitches usually aquired from child-birth.
It's easily filled while 'doing one's business' I suppose, as long as you are within reach of the sink!
I do still use TP to wipe dry, but it's just to DRY, not to 'clean'.
Bottles of this type are readily available in most pharmacies, probably in the cosmetics/soaps area.
The bottles one would purchase for dispensing ketchup or mustard would do the job too. :)
posted by kamylyon at 2:17 AM on October 14, 2004


what are you supposed to do with the sea shells.

Does he notice them before or after?
posted by biffa at 3:37 AM on October 14, 2004


Bidets are wonderful; my last apartment had one, and though I just couldn't get along with that apartment otherwise and had to leave it, I loved the bidet. Nothing else seems civilized anymore. Any of you people building a new home, or doing big, major remodeling - make room for the bidet! (TP to dry off, btw.)
posted by taz at 4:26 AM on October 14, 2004


I think we're comparing apples and oranges. I find that a squatting toilet posture (like many asians use) leaves less poop on you. The cleanup there is really just insurance unless you're feeling way off.

The western sitting postion encourages remainders. But it makes it easier to read.

And maybe I just don't have enough bidet experience, but being wet between the cheeks and no where else is just to reminiscent of my worst bouts of flu and definitely not for me.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:33 AM on October 14, 2004


Oh for cripes sake, just poop in the shower.

hijack: I use the item given to (I assume) all women upon leaving the hospital after giving birth. It's a small bottle with a funnel-like top, which is used to spray warm water onto the stitches usually aquired from child-birth.
WHAT?!OMG you have seriously just cured me of babycravings...
posted by mimi at 5:06 AM on October 14, 2004


Having used toilets in Changmai gas stations, I can assure you there is no soap there. Private homes probably have it, I guess.

And you seriously DON"T hand people things with your left hand, soaped or not.
posted by konolia at 5:44 AM on October 14, 2004


In my experience living in thailand and India, people over there get loads more food poisoning (and feceal-derived disease), so i find it difficult to believe that squatting and washing with a hand is more hygenic than sitting and wiping.

In Turkey, western-style toilets had a little pipe coming out of the back, which gently squirt water up your ass, to eb dried with paper.
posted by Pericles at 6:49 AM on October 14, 2004


We Americans hate touching things with our bare hands. The entire "kitchen gadget" industry is built on this concept. Toilet paper is no different.
posted by mkultra at 7:48 AM on October 14, 2004


So are hands used directly in "the subcontinent?"
posted by shoos at 8:04 AM on October 14, 2004


And you seriously DON"T hand people things with your left hand, soaped or not.

This fascinates me: what happens to left handed Thais? Are they trained to be right handed, as it used to be in the States, or is the rule just about handing things to people?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:25 AM on October 14, 2004


The answer - baby wipes

I know a few people, all women who carry around baby wipes to use instead of toilet paper


Except that baby wipes don't dissolve/disintegrate in water, which fouls up the sewage system, which is essentially a plumbing disaster for you, or an environmental disaster for all of us. I wish it weren't so, believe me, but you've got to put those suckers in the *trash.*

re: watering can - I don't see how getting shit wet disinfects it. If anything, it just helps the bacteria. Now if we're talking SOAP, fine. SOAP, and TOWELS, fine. But a splash of water? I don't think so. I'll take unbesmirched hands and a subunderwear skid mark until shower-time, thank you.
posted by scarabic at 9:11 AM on October 14, 2004


with the condition - of course - that you don't hand anything to anyone using your asshole
posted by scarabic at 9:14 AM on October 14, 2004


scarabic: you wouldn't hand them the lube then?
posted by biffa at 9:37 AM on October 14, 2004


Famously the British Army only issues a few sheets of toilet paper to soldiers on excersise. The idea is that you use only one piece per movement. The procedure goes:

tear off corner and retain in an accessible place,
put hole in the middle,
insert finger in hole,
clean residue with finger,
pull paper off finger taking residue with it,
use previously retained corner to clean fingernail.

Needless to say I believe taking your own toilet paper on excersises was a must!
posted by prentiz at 1:32 PM on October 14, 2004


This thread is pretty gross.

On preview:
a.wholeLOTAnothing.org
posted by orelius at 3:54 PM on October 14, 2004


Baby wipes are not appropriate for backcountry use, and please quit using them out there, letitrain. They don't biodegrade worth a damn.

Well, hell. I seriously thought I was being a good environmentalist by using three baby wipes instead of a wad of toilet paper. Live and learn.
posted by letitrain at 11:13 PM on October 14, 2004


If you are shitting in the woods the right way, letitrain, the toilet paper will biodegrade quite quickly. If you've any questions on how to do it, read How to Shit in the Woods. Light, fun read.

Short version: dig a hole deep enough to get into the bioactive humus layer, deep enough to keep the squirrels out, but not so deep as to get into the more sterile clay/dirt layer. Try to remove the living layer as a single piece with as little disturbance as possible, so that the plants can continue to live. Drop your loaf and wipe. If the conditions allow, burn the paper. If you can piss on the ashes and loaf, do so: it helps break things up. Replace the divot. Tamp it down and walk away whistling.

This informative and slightly disgusting message is brought to you by the phonemes UR & US.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:01 AM on October 15, 2004


prentiz: If anyone needed a good argument against a draft that was it.
posted by biffa at 12:28 AM on October 15, 2004


I used Thai squats for a long time and although I got used to the position, I always had to take off my pants in order to really relax. I mean, think about it: you're squatting with your feet apart, which is not a bad position for the job, but your pants are either holding you knees together or your ankles together; in either case, the pants are partially blocking the goal (and getting wet).

Here in Vietnam, I have a spray nozel next to both of my toilets, the kind many U.S. kitchin sinks have for dishes. Works like a charm, and a little TP for drying. Gotta watch out for rashes when you use water.

konolia: Soap in a Chiang Mai gas station?
*falls on the floor laughing*
What else would madame care for, a TOWEL? ;^)
posted by squirrel at 1:34 AM on October 15, 2004


It should be noted that squatting can increase the risk of strokes.
posted by biffa at 3:53 AM on October 15, 2004


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