Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 15, 2020

On Toilet Paper

Several decades ago I was tank soldier and my unit went to a training area at the coast of Wales, Great Britain. There were several tank shooting ranges and the Brits had built some very simple outhouses for those who were training there. They even provided toilet paper. This came in single sheets in a 12 x 8 centimeter (4.7x3.1 in) format. They where yellowish in color with a glossy surface that made them water resistant. That made somewhat sense in the rather foggy surroundings but did not help with the intended purpose. Printed in blue on each sheet was "Her Majesty's Property". I pondered if it would be lèse-majesty to actually use it. As a person in need I did it anyway. The sheets turned out to be rather useless for cleaning anything.

The story comes to mind as the virus panic causes a run on toilet paper at least in some countries.

The run points to a lack of personal infrastructure.

Toilet paper is certainly not ideal for cleaning ones butt. It is okay for removing the rough stuff but after that it tends to spread the rest rather than to remove it.

Separate bidets (vid) are good for a real cleaning. They are widely used in Italy and France but require extra space and installations. They are excellent for their purpose but when I lived in an apartment that had one I found it rather inconvenient to use (and clean) it.

If one is sitting on a water toilet why not use its water supply to also clean ones ass?

In some warmer Asian countries Bum Guns (vid) are widely used.

These are special shower heads on a hose with a trigger. In warm countries they are excellent to clean one's butt thoroughly. But in colder areas it is an uncomfortable process as they are connected to the toilets cold water supply. They also require, like a bidet, an extra towel or toilet paper to dry oneself after use.

In Japan one finds toilets that play music, have inbuilt shower heads and dry blower, odor suppression and other gimmicks like a chemical analyses of ones urine. They are also expensive, need a larger installation and are hard to find in Europe or North America.

The solution I implemented for myself several years ago is of a minimal Japanese kind. I use a toilet seat with a bum shower and dry blower (in German). It fits on any standard German toilet and it is quite easy to install or to remove.


At the press of a button the stainless steel shower head appears from its housing in the back of the seat and a jet of warm water starts to blow at ones butt hole. The water pulses and the shower head moves back and forth. After a minute or so the head retracts while cleaning itself with some extra spurts before it vanishes again. Then the dry blower starts.

Here is a video from a U.S. distributer of such products that demonstrates the above process.

Some models have a certain amount of preheated water while others use a flow-type heater and then mix a warm and cold stream to the desired temperature. The second type is preferable as it provides an unlimited supply of warm water.


The seat is also heated which makes it very comfortable to use it in my usually unheated bathroom. The temperatures and jet position are adjustable and can be preset. I use the energy saving mode which ensures that heating only starts when one sits down. Energy and water consumption of the device are minimal. They are certainly less than what is used to produce the toilet paper I would otherwise have to use.

There is only one button that is used daily. It starts a one minute shower cycle followed by a 30 second dry blow. After several years of using the seat daily I can confirm that the results of this process are excellent. One leaves the toilet with a clean and dry butt. I still have toilet paper in reserve but that is now mostly used for other than its original purpose.

There are types of such seats which have more features like odor suppression, lighting or automatic lid opening and closing. It all depends on the price. I paid less than 500 Euros for my version and I believe that it was an excellent investment. Instead of using several roles of toilet paper per month I am down to one or two per year.

Prices in the U.S. for such devices seem to vary between some $300 up to and above $1,000. The middle range will do. One does not need more than the basic features. I personally find an attached side control panel better than a remote control which is guaranteed to be misplaced or out of battery juice just when one needs it most.

Consider that such a toilet seat cost about the same as a smart phone. Everyone now seems to carry one of those. But only few people use a similar priced device for their daily hygiene. Why is that?

Note: I have no relations of any kind with any of the linked companies.

Posted by b on March 15, 2020 at 16:52 UTC | Permalink

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* Not that I believe it. Only plasticky objects like wet wipes will do that. Newspaper or kitchen roll won't, nor the washing methods advised on this thread.

Posted by: Laguerre | Mar 16 2020 14:41 utc | 101

Laguerre | Mar 16 2020 14:41 utc | 103 (clog) At sewage plant the "input" stage (in those I've worked building, several plants) input stage passes "grinders"...syringes, all sorts of horrid things, are diverted and sorta destroyed. My experience was the everybody working at an operational plant gets sore-throat sick. I can't imagine how the CV might make that worse. In my active days I finally refused sewage plant work entirely because of the vector.

That said, there's a long path from the crapper to the plant, and some systems are quite old...and also there may be intermediate pumps, which can clog... This might not be the best time to enter a clogged pump space, eh?

Posted by: Walter | Mar 16 2020 15:04 utc | 102

Walter @104 I'd done industrial wastewater rather than municipal in years past. How fortunate I was to be dealing with Heavy Metal rather than weird organic stuff. Metals seem nice and clean in comparison.

Posted by: William Gruff | Mar 16 2020 15:22 utc | 103

I think the panic in buying and hoarding rolls of toilet paper in the atlantisist lands is mostly due to the feeling that morality is demonstrated by cleanliness -- "wir sindt ja anständige Mänschen!" So having sufficient stores of sweepsheets for those who want to take a shot at the Crapper doth deminstrate high-minded moral idealism in corpore resii.
One of the most important essays by Rebellais has to do with how God greets the good in Paradise and treats them to all that pleases the senses. One thing is angels playing trumpets and so forth, but even better: God doth provide You with welters of small gooslings and ducklings to wipe Your bottoms with!

Posted by: Oū Sī / 區司/ Usman |

Posted by: Oū Sī / 區司/ Usman | Mar 16 2020 15:22 utc | 104

William Gruff | Mar 16 2020 15:22 utc | 105 ( metal )

Yeah, I used to hide and nap at the small plant we maintained on the output of a military plating shop, very clean and quiet and out of sight...if the suits came 'round I'd show 'em the pump I "was working on".

The US Army was the biggest socialist organization imaginable, work was an option... After "Desert Storm" several people were infected with oddball diseases - evidently from the equipment being repatriated.

Shortly after that Wally quit - a choice largely forced by the immoral character of the war. It was a good choice.


off topic but interesting, Corbett has a critical show on wiki...

Posted by: Walter | Mar 16 2020 15:58 utc | 105

With regard to bringing your memories to life I append the news about IZAL the product which made constipation a definite option......

Posted by: Paul Greenwood | Mar 16 2020 16:42 utc | 106

Much simpler and less expensive than a bidet to use wetted folds of TP once the point of diminishing returns has been reached with dry TP. Once inspection reveals nothing left, use a final fold of dry for capillary action. This can be taken further with a final wipe with a disinfectant, since bacteria spread outward once there is any sweat and eliminating the source will keep you fresh longer.

Posted by: Thirdeye | Mar 16 2020 17:12 utc | 107

Maybe there will be bidets in your coronavirus concentration camps?

Wuhan residents comment on Covid-19 coronavirus and authoritarian coping measures: “it’s all fake”

Posted by: magediw764 | Mar 16 2020 18:24 utc | 108

Jen @81

"Many ancient Roman city-dwellers used public toilets located next to public baths..."

Leave it to the Roman Empire to "industrialize" the more down-home Greek city-state practices... :-p

Posted by: Vintage Red | Mar 16 2020 19:49 utc | 109

I get favorable reports from friends who are using more or less this method, which will only work as long as we have electricity and the running water. Apparently, they've been available, minus the electricity, to royalty since the early 1700's. Right now, I'd say the odds are dicey on them, and the infrastructure they demand, still being around in another 300 years. Of course, the odds are 100% that I won't be around to find out if I'm right!

Posted by: Martin Holsinger | Mar 17 2020 0:09 utc | 110

A police department in Newport, Oregon has recently urged people to stop calling 911 when they run out of toilet paper amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"It's hard to believe that we even have to post this. Do not call 9-1-1 just because you ran out of toilet paper. You will survive without our assistance," the Newport Oregon Police Department wrote on their Facebook page.

The police department's post comes amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, which has led people to stock up on a number of different items, with toilet paper being one of the most popular.

In their Facebook post, they provide Newport citizens with a number historic examples of how people managed without the option of toilet paper.

"Seamen used old rope and anchor lines soaked in salt water. Ancient Romans used a sea sponge on a stick, also soaked in salt water," the police department wrote. "Mayans used corn cobs. Colonial Americans also used core of the cob. Farmers not only used corn cobs, but used pages from the Farmers Almanac."

"The Sears Christmas catalog, four times thicker than the normal catalog, could get a family of three wiped clean from December through Valentine's Day; or St. Patrick's Day if they were frugal," the police department added.

In addition to providing toilet paper alternatives that have been used throughout history, the Newport Police Department also gave citizens alternatives that can be used in 2020.

"Grocery receipts, newspaper, cloth rags, lace, cotton balls, and that empty toilet paper roll sitting on the holder right now," they wrote. "When all else fails, you have magazine pages. Start saving those catalogs you get in the mail that you usually toss into the recycle bin. Be resourceful. Be patient. There is a TP shortage. This too shall pass. Just don't call 9-1-1. We cannot bring you toilet paper."

Posted by: Mao | Mar 17 2020 7:08 utc | 111

To 84

You're right: the Turkish contraption is simpler, cheaper and much easier to install than the elaborate Japanese deluxe or the bum gun. It doesn't require any paper for the locals, who learn how to at a young age.

In fact, in mosr Islamic countries people don't need paper if they have any water. Don't ask me exactly how they manage as I'm not in on the secret but they sure manage to keep cleaner than paper users.

Posted by: Piero Colombo | Mar 17 2020 13:37 utc | 112

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