Toilet paper (or the lack of) around the world

Inspired by this post:

inthis thread about what you would miss if you lived abroad.

Lets talk about bottom cleaning: what do you think of johnny foreigner’s methods of cleaning up.

Do you favour the ‘lets use some paper to scrape it all off’ method; and how do you feel about placing the soiled result in a bin, rather than down the toilet? Or perhaps the high-pressure-jet method of the bidet? Out in the jungle, how does ‘choose a leaf and pray it’s not a stinger’, grab you? Does anyone under the age of ninety really go for hard paper?

Tell me about your daily habits. (Boy, am I going to regret this.)

I could never get used to the rinsing of your ass with a ladle of water that is the preferred technique in some southeast Asian nations. I could probably get used to it if I lived there, but as an American tourist, I could never get my head around it.

Many, many, countries have poor to nonexistent sewage treatment facilities, so I have no problem tossing used toilet paper into a bin. I find it gross, but I can respect the fact that the sewer can’t deal with it. This seems to be the default in our neighbor Mexico, It freaks me out to see toilet paper in bins in Mexican restaurants in the USA. I assume that some recent immigrants are not aware that American sewers can handle toilet paper.

Just be grateful we don’t have communist toilet paper of the people. I was in Czechoslovakia in the 90s just after communism fell, and I swear I could see flecks of bark. I think I got splinters.

In Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, the mother of one of the main characters tries to keep him from leaving for England by pointing out how barbarous those westerners are. She tells him that they wipe their bottoms with dry paper.

Of course, he doesn’t believe such a ridiculous myth…
It made me wonder what they do instead. I don’t have the nerve to ask any of my Indian acquaintances about it, though.

Japan, as always, takes the high-tech route with the Washlet (about halfway down the page). Man, these things are beyond fantastic. Once you get hooked on these, even the cleanest American toilet will feel like the third world if it just has paper. Better than sliced bread (although wiping your ass with a fresh piece of Wonder is kind of nice, too).

(Note: despite the photo at the top of the page, most have some kind of pressure sensor in the seat to prevent your bathroom from getting hosed down).
At the other end (so to speak), travelers to Japan are warned to take care when using train station toilets (especially in rural areas), as not only are they often fitted with just the old-style squat toilets, the paper is frequently available only from a vending machine outside the front door.

My feelings on the matter:

In praise of south-east Asian toilets

Readers of a sensitive disposition should cease reading now.

Sorry to bring this up, but I think they’re brilliant. Not for the minimal hygiene standards they offer in many places they’re found, but for two very concrete reasons:

Firstly, rather than toilet roll, in Thailand and Malaysia at least, there’s a handy little hosepipe with a shower nozzle on it - your own, DIY bidet that leaves you clean as a whistle. You use your left hand in conjunction with this, and then wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Given the warm climes, one dries very quickly, but a modicum of toilet roll can also be used for this purpose. For those who find the concept disgusting, here’s an analogy for you: imagine you’re strolling in the park, when you trip over and your hand goes into a pile of doggy doo. There’s a stall in front of you selling toilet roll or water, for ten cents a piece, but you only have ten cents on you. Which are you going to choose? A thorough wash with water to remove the debris, or a few dry sheets of tissue paper to smear what’s on your hand sort of off? I believe I know which one most people would choose, and I see a mild paradox in the disgust that many westerners express towards this particular method of hygiene.

Secondly, the position in which one does what one needs to do. Once the Asian squat (heels flat on the floor, not on tiptoe) has been practiced enough times that the requisite muscles in the front of the legs are strong enough, it’s entirely functional. Not only does it mean that the only part of you to come into contact with anything nasty is the soles of your shoes, but - and I won’t go into too many graphic details here - emptying a ‘toothpaste tube’ is easier when there’s no kink in it: it’s my belief that sitting down to function puts a kink in the ‘toothpase tube’, meaning extra squeezing is needed to get the ‘toothpaste’ out, whereas squatting unkinks it, and allows gravity to do its work.

When I was in East Africa in the Peace Corps many years ago, the accepted method (outside the city) was a bucket of water in which you dipped your LEFT hand, and washed with it. A scrub afterward was necessary of course. One of the tenets of Islam is that the left hand is taboo. This may be one of the reasons.


I was once a filthy westerner, content with smearing poo around on a dry piece of quilted paper. Then I had kids. After deciding that pre-moistened diaper wipes were the tool of choice in cleaning up the baby bits I tried it on myself and loved it.

Soon the babbies were gone and the need for Huggies wipes dried up so to speak, but I continued to buy and use them for a while longer. Eventually I moved from the diaper wipes to the shower, removing most of the residue with paper and the rest with good old soap and water. This was inconvenient in public places so I made every effort to not deficate in public places.

A few years later I found myself vacationing for a couple of weeks at a resort in Johnson County ran by a bunch of folks wearing brown shirts with little silver stars on them. It was a clean enough place (because we cleaned it every day) but the food was bad and the accomidations were terrible. 33 men locked in one room 24-7 with no bathroom doors and scheduled shitting / showering times. There was no way to go from the throne to the hose (I had no intention of parading around naked with a soiled crack and sure as hell wasn’t going to pull up my skivvies and risk a skid mark that might be there for days before I got a new pair).

Necessity being the mother of invention I did find a way to maintain the level of sanitation to which I had grown accustomed. I realized that I had been sitting on the answer all along. Thus my toilet habits developed as follows:
Step 1. Clean and disinfect the toilet before use.
Step 2. Drop the kids off at the pool.
Step 3. Wipe any major deposits off and flush.
Step 4. Clean and disinfect the toilet again.
Step 5. Prepair a bit of toilet paper for drying.
Step 6. While sitting on the bowl, reach around with the left hand, dip into the water and wash the remaining area.
Step 7. Repeat until all traces of fecal matter is gone.
Step 8. Dry left hand and ass crack.
Step 9. Clean and disinfect the toilet again (I can’t stress this enough).
Step 10. Wash hands thouroughly with soap and water, return to bunk, stash toilet paper under mattress and try to suppress the fear that one of these kind gentlemen is planning to stab me to death in my sleep with a plastic spoon.

At home and in public the toilet seat gets in the way so I often go without the seat but I always clean the stool (no pun intended) very well before and after. It’s not as effective as a nice hot shower with soap and water but it does the trick.

The trick would be to use your left hand rather than your head. :smiley:

I’ve got used to both the flexible-hose-pipe-and-left-hand method that is now widely used in at home in India (as an upgrade from the ladle-and-left-hand method) and toilet paper down the drain, and while I can live with both, I definitely prefer the clean feeling of being properly clean using water. I’ve taken to having a final clean with moistened toilet paper, or a shower as soon as I can manage, to achieve that final squeaky-clean feeling. A good scrub of the hands with soap is essential, of course, to maintain standards of hygiene.

Oh, and the reason left hands are considered unclean in South Asia has much to do with this. You never offer anyone anything or accept anything from them (never, but NEVER money) with your left hand. Always, always, always the right hand. Useful tip for tourists. Also, you eat with your right hand only, and use your left hand for serving yourself, if you are inclined to eat with your hands.

nd_n8, I admire your meticulous commitment, but if you ever find yourself back there, be careful not to let others know how nice and clean you are down there. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m not sure I understand this. How far up would I insert the hose?

At the very least, I’m surprised that we all don’t use pre-moistened (or “baby” wipes.) Think about it. When changing a baby’s diaper, could you imagine just using a piece of toilet paper to cleanse him…of course not. You always use a moistened baby wipe. How can we even imagine that mere toilet paper is doing the job of removing adult-type fecal matter!!! Also, if you get some baby poo on your hands, do you just wipe it off with a piece of TP? No way! You use a baby wipe, probably followed by a hand-washing.

Hijack: Why in the name of all that is good and holy do lots of men leave treadmarks in their underwear. Beyond nasty! Are you not wiping enough? How are you not disgusted by yourself? I mean, it’s common enough to have been mentioned on “Sex and the City” and in “The Stand.” WTF? If I pulled down my drawers to do my business and saw brown on my undies I would imagine that I was probably very sick. How can guys be ok with this? Don’t you and your pants smell disgusting? Wouldn’t you be embarassed to leave them on the floor and have your S.O. or one-night stand find them? EEEEEW!

When I travelled in the Soviet Bloc countries, I always carried western TP in my suitcase. The TP in that part of the world was like crepe paper in texture, with what looked like hunks of wood in it. I would store my stash at the embassy I was visiting, because local hotel help would steal it.

I had no such fears but, although the resort was all inclusive (meals and aminities included), I think I’ll stay somewhere a little warmer next year. Someplace without stainless steel benches and composite glass windows.

A travel writer once described foreign TP as being either “wax paper, crepe paper, or brown paper.” It was therefore meant to “wrap sandwiches, decorate for a party, or wrap packages,” not for the use it was actually put to.

We use quilted ultra-soft paper followed by a wet wipe. Cottonelle makes some nice ones.

Y’all do know that they make flushable wipes? Very nice!

No inserting. Ye gods, no. No inserting. You use the hose to spray from a polite distance while using your left hand to wipe.

Flushable wet wipes are the ultimate experience for me. The hose of South East Asia I would favour, however I can’t manage the shock of the coldness! Eeeeek!

Modern homes in India will have the hosepipe with the shower nozzle attached to it. I don’t feel a need to use my hand to wipe down there - just aim and spray (the water pressure is adjustable), and the shit just washes away.

Still wash my hands after though - I’m a clean-hands freak.

I believe that the customary method in the North of England is to wipe your arse with your bare hand and then smear it all over the toilet wall.
Those with a creative bent and who are able to spell their own name sometimes write their initials in faeces as a sort of territorial marking.

Traditionally the Scots hold it in until they go to work or the pub, that way they never have to buy any toilet rolls.
This gives them more money to count and recount and generally gloat over to pass the long winter nights, a pasttime that is very close to a Scotsmans heart.

The Welsh of course wipe their arse on the nearest sheep.

Where I live in Southern England we’re far too posh to go to the toilet so the question never arises.

I’m sure that my fellow Brits will completely agree with all that I’ve posted here as being the truth of the matter, well either that or there might be a remote possibility that they may well wish to punch my lights out, heaven forfend!

I was in Ceylon a number of years ago just before it became Sri Lanka waiting to meet a smuggler I was to do a story on. When the guy came in he looked every inch of what a smuggler should look like. He was an Aussie, big two or three tattoos, in the complete safari outfit, even the hat. He even had an eye patch. I was warming to the story. I figured this was going to be a great story. I imagined he smuggled drugs, guns, booze or something similar, but nooooo. It was, you guessed it - toilet paper.

I was somewhat taken aback. He explained that because of the Indian government’s monopoly on toilet paper, the paper was at best second rate and expensive. He said there was a huge market in India for the soft stuff. He said he was making much more than he ever did smuggling the romantic stuff that smugglers are expected to smuggle.