How to Wipe Your Butt the Right Way (Plus 4 Wiping Tips)
Yes, there is a right (and wrong) way to wipe your butt. A gastroenterologist offers these top tips for wiping after using the toilet.
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Everybody poops, but not everybody wipes correctly
For most of us, using the toilet is something we don’t put much thought into. After all, we’ve been doing it for decades. But you may want to think twice about how you wipe your butt. You may have been doing it wrong this whole time. (It’s just one bad pooping habit you’ll want to break.)
Here’s what you need to know about the healthiest way to wipe your butt after bowel movements.
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How to wipe your butt
The best way to wipe your butt is from front to back.
According to Niket Sonpal, MD, a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist in New York City, wiping front to back minimizes the possibility of spreading bacteria from the anus to the urethra, the tube connecting the bladder to an opening where urine empties outside the body.
According to Sonpal, it does not matter if a person sits or stands to wipe. “Essentially, it is entirely up to the person’s own preference,” he says. “Neither sitting nor standing to wipe works better than the other.” That said, an article in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology Research suggests sitting is best because it offers better access to the anus.
If lack of mobility makes it hard for you to reach through your legs or around your backside to wipe front to back, wiping tools can help. “Wiping toilet aids are long sticks built to hold toilet paper and help those with limited mobility or joint pain wipe after going to the bathroom,” Dr. Sonpal says.
What’s the worst-case scenario for wiping incorrectly?
The consequences of wiping back to front depend on your genitalia.
“If a person has a vulva, meaning they have an opening to the vagina as well as an opening for the urethra, wiping back to front can easily transmit bacteria from the anus to the urethra or vaginal opening, ” Dr. Sonpal says. “Bacteria entering either of these holes can lead to urinary tract infections, yeast infections, as well as other forms of infectious bacterial vaginitis.”
That’s why people with a vulva should always wipe front to back. That rule is less important for people who have a penis.
“Those with a penis can wipe however they please since their anus is much further away from their urethra, so the spread of bacteria into the body is rare,” he says.
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Chakrapong Worathat / EyeEm/Getty Images
Other wiping advice
Now that you know how to wipe your butt, follow Dr. Sonpal’s other wiping-related tips.
Be gentle when you have diarrhea
The skin around the anus is extremely thin and can be irritated easily. “When a person has diarrhea, that skin can become red and tender,” Dr. Sonpal says. “Instead of wiping, it may be better to wash the area in the shower with lukewarm water or use a bidet.”
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders also recommends bidets and soaking in a bath of warm water, sans soap.
If you must wipe, use soft toilet paper and gently wipe front to back. Vaseline on the skin around the anus may help with irritation and retain moisture, Dr. Sonpal says.
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In fact, always be gentle
The most common butt-wiping mistake that Dr. Sonpal sees is an anal fissure, or a tear within the lining of the anus. It’s common among people who wipe too aggressively.
One sign you have an anal fissure: there’s bright red blood on the toilet paper after wiping. Just be aware that blood in your stool can be a sign of other problems, like hemorrhoids or something more serious, so discuss with your doc.
“Instead of wiping excessively, try only wiping a few times with gentle motions and soft toilet paper,” Dr. Sonpal says. “Bidets, as mentioned before, are great for cleaning the area around the anus without irritating it or causing cuts.”
Look for two-ply toilet paper
Dr. Sonpal says that two-ply toilet paper is the most durable and absorbent material. It’s also less likely to break during wiping, which protects your fingers from any unpleasant surprises. Plus, rolls of two-ply toilet paper don’t run out as quickly as other, thinner kinds.
If the area around your anus tends to become irritated easily, look for toilet papers that have “comfort” or “sensitive” in their names, says Dr. Sonpal.
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Avoid wet wipes
“Wet wipes should be avoided, as many are made with toxic chemicals that can cause rashes and irritation of the skin,” Dr. Sonpal says. “Wet wipes keep the skin around the anus moist, which can aid in allowing bacteria to multiply.”
They’re also environmentally unfriendly because they take an extended period of time to decompose and can clog pipes.
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Talk to your doctor
Wiping seems simple, but as with other bathroom mistakes, you can have uncomfortable side effects if you do it wrong.
“Overall, it is best to gently wipe front to back, minimal times, with a soft toilet paper, or [use] a bidet,” Dr. Sonpal says. “If you feel you are suffering from any symptoms that have to do with wiping incorrectly, make an appointment with a certified gastroenterologist for a customized treatment plan.”
For more wellness updates, follow The Healthy on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Keep reading:
- Here’s the First Thing Amanda Kloots Does When She Gets Out of Bed in the Morning
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- Niket Sonpal, MD, a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist based in New York City
- Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology Research: "The Butt, To Wipe or Not To Wipe"
- International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: "Anal Discomfort and How to Deal With It"