Non toilet paper cultures
June 18, 2012 4:16 AM   Subscribe

Non toilet paper users, tell me all about your business. Tissues be damned.

I am thinking specifically of things I've seen in SE Asia, but I suppose bidets are out there too. I am familiar with the bucket of water and scoop, the cool looking flexihose with a gun on the end and several other methods of water based, non-toilet paper clean up. I've heard about the 'wipe with the left hand' rule. So, non-toilet paper users, please explain all the nitty-gritty of use for cleaning your bad self up with water.

Specific area of curiousness: I end up with wet junk. How do you get your junk dry in high humidity conditions? Everything else in indelicate detail please. I'm not interested in installing a bidet, I just want to know I can splash with the best of them when on the road.
posted by Trivia Newton John to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Re:wet junk. Do you do the "splash pad?" Setting down toilet paper on the surface of the water greatly reduces splashback.
posted by victory_laser at 4:37 AM on June 18, 2012

Response by poster: Victory_laser, I'm referring to having wet junk from washing your junk with water instead of wiping it with paper. I have a vulva. The whole question is about non-toilet paper using cultures (which frequently have toilets without water in them anyway).
posted by Trivia Newton John at 4:40 AM on June 18, 2012

I spent a period of my life learning to dog sled, and did a lot of winter camping with the dogs and the other mushers. No trace camping is an important thing, and packing used toilet paper out of the wilderness is not fun.

Winter camping presents an easy and refreshing solution. Wipe yourself with snow. It works surprisingly well. You might think that rubbing snow across your core body would impact your ability to stay warm - I mean, I did this in the Arctic, at incredibly cold temperatures. But, the thing is, to survive an Arctic winter, you have to regulate your core body temperature so carefully. So, your butt has to be kept nice and warm to maintain the core temperature. Wiping with snow then is just refreshing and cleaning.

Inuit culture did it this way for centuries.
posted by Flood at 4:42 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Finland seems to be one of those countries that prefers the "flexihose with a gun on the end" approach. Very practical - but, even in summer, the country is also is home to a cold water supply so icy that it is a miracle it remains liquid. Their solution is to put a small sink by the toilet with mixer tap and a water supply that can be switched (shower style) between the tap and the hose. One turns on the tap and adjusts to find a suitable temperature then switch over aim and fire away using the trigger handle by the nozzle. There is still toilet paper - but that - I believe - is for drying oneself.

All this is often located in an inner stall. In an outer room there will be a separate sink for washing one's hands afterwards.
posted by rongorongo at 4:45 AM on June 18, 2012

I live in Asia and use a flexible hose to clean my equipment after use, but then I use toilet paper afterwards to dry everything off.
posted by atrazine at 5:01 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Specific area of curiousness: I end up with wet junk. How do you get your junk dry in high humidity conditions?

Wipe up with toilet paper. Wouldn't really recommend doing without, as the only remaining option would be air drying.

Hoses are less messy and easier to aim, but you can also use a measuring cup which you can get in any kitchenware store. The lip of the cup provides aim.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:08 AM on June 18, 2012

After giving birth, I was given a squirt bottle with which to clean my junk so as not to have to wipe toilet paper across my stitches. It worked just fine to then pat with TP or just air dry.
posted by sonika at 5:29 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would venture that the wet junk part is just something you'll get used to. I mean you CAN dry with toilet paper (and I do sometimes) but air-drying is the simplest. The wet feeling goes away very quickly, even in humid conditions. You know when you take a shower and some parts of you are still a bit wet when you put on your clothes? Like the backs of your knees or whatever? It’s just like that. If you’re concerned about the dampness leading to infections or something, I’ve never had any kind of problem in 37 years of following the eastern method.
posted by yawper at 6:52 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since you are drying an area you have already cleaned you can use cloth, hanky or a towel instead of disposable paper. Obviously they can be washed and reused many times, even hung out to dry in public without comment.

For some reason I thought this was one of the uses of the many petticoats women used to wear, to dry themselves off with a wipe of the petticoat (that no one would see since it was hidden under the dress. This link talks about using the petticoat to catch the drips but not specifically wiping.

I assume you are wearing underwear of some sort; an old fashioned towel (what was used before disposable sanitary napkins were created) is a nice absorbent layer to help dry you off.
posted by saucysault at 6:54 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you either use toilet paper afterward or just get used to the wet junk-- that and cultures where people use water and toilet paper is not common, they more often wear loose, light fabrics on bottom. Which makes wetness more pleasant than if you're wearing tight jeans-- yech.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:26 AM on June 18, 2012

You can't see any dampness if you wear a kurta. Or a lungi!
posted by goethean at 7:46 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read a memoir by an Muslim American woman that described leaving a plant-watering can by the toilet for this purpose.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:54 AM on June 18, 2012

I dunno if this fits what you're asking for, but some people use cloth toilet paper. I've thought about it, but my SO says no way.
posted by patheral at 7:57 AM on June 18, 2012

If you're interested in reusable wipes, google "family cloth." I've come across some people that started doing this when they used cloth wipes for their babies and just made a whole bunch for the whole family.
posted by chiababe at 8:44 AM on June 18, 2012

I've never done this, but Diana Gabaldon has her characters within the 18th century use non toxic leaves or corncobs(drawn up the crack, not inserted).
posted by brujita at 8:47 AM on June 18, 2012

Here's what they did before toilet paper

Elsewhere, wealthy people wiped themselves with wool, lace or hemp, while less wealthy people used their hand when defecating into rivers, or cleaned themselves with various materials such as rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, maize, ferns, may apple plant husks, fruit skins, or seashells, and corncobs, depending upon the country and weather conditions or social customs. In Ancient Rome, a sponge on a stick was commonly used, and, after usage, placed back in a bucket of saltwater. Several talmudic sources indicating ancient Jewish practice refer to the use of small pebbles, often carried in a special bag, and also to the use of dry grass and of the smooth edges of broken pottery jugs (e.g., Shabbat 81a, 82a, Yevamot 59b). These are all cited in the classic Biblical and Talmudic Medicine by the German physician Julius Preuss (Eng. trans. Sanhedrin Press, 1978).

The 16th century French satirical writer François Rabelais, in Chapter XIII of Book 1 of his novel-sequence Gargantua and Pantagruel, has his character Gargantua investigate a great number of ways of cleansing oneself after defecating. Gargantua dismisses the use of paper as ineffective, rhyming that: "Who his foul tail with paper wipes, Shall at his ballocks leave some chips." (Sir Thomas Urquhart's 1653 English translation). He concludes that "the neck of a goose, that is well downed" provides an optimum cleansing medium.
posted by goethean at 9:33 AM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Very interesting information here (the snow has blown my mind). Toilet paper is another one of those completely ubiquitous things in the west that much of the world wouldn't consider using.

I think my concern was having the 'wet your pants' look when wearing linen pants. Also, it is such a stinking shame to put used tp in a bin if it isn't necessary. 'Drying only' paper wouldn't be so ripe.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 5:39 PM on June 18, 2012

I suppose you could wear men's boxers and a long skirt/sarong on humid days for coverage and ventilation if chafing is a problem.
posted by elizeh at 8:04 PM on June 18, 2012

Add a handkerchief or bandanna to your standard things you carry. (Separate from the one you may blow your nose in, obviously.)
posted by desuetude at 8:41 PM on June 18, 2012

FWIW, I use the Cottonelle moistened wipes (now with Aloe and Vitamin E!) and they are very wet out of the dispenser, and yes, after cleaning myself, my bum does feel a little wet. However, by the time I've hitched up my drawers and washed my hands, my bum is dry. This, whether I happen to be wearing boxers or briefs. So, even if you use a squirt bottle, you'll probably dry off fairly quickly unaided.
posted by xedrik at 9:25 PM on June 18, 2012

Japanese style washlets work pretty well for washing and drying.
posted by thatdawnperson at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2012

Note to self: read the entire question carefully. Someone not interested in installing a bidet is likely not interested in the joys of washlets. Water, designated towel, and nether-garments that don't nestle in cracks are the order of the day, as noted amply above.
posted by thatdawnperson at 4:26 PM on June 19, 2012

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