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Knowing things like how to wipe your bum or how to use the toilet paper might seem like common sense, but there are lots of different ways to do it – some more effective than others. Do you think you already know how to wipe properly? You might be surprised to find that a few tweaks to your routine could help leave you feeling more fresh, comfortable, and hygienic.
1. Wiping back to front or wiping front to back: which direction is best?
There are lots of rules in life that are there to be broken, but wiping front to back isn’t one of them. Germs can end up in the wrong place, which can cause problems up front – particularly for girls, as it can increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
Help kids remember how to use toilet paper by explaining to them that they wouldn’t wear their clothes back to front, so they shouldn’t wipe back to front either.1 If they accidentally wipe from back to front while they’re still learning, it’s a good idea to take it as an opportunity to remind them of the correct direction.
If you’ve got a bit of a dodgy tummy and your toilet trips are feeling uncomfortable, make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids, to help flush out any lingering germs.2 Read our tips on how to cope with diarrhoea at home for some further comfort.
2 . How to wipe: front to back
It’s good to know not only which direction, but how to wipe. Front to back is the best to reach around the side of your body (compared to wiping back to front) to the back, then put your hand through your legs from behind. This makes it easier to wipe in the most hygienic direction in one motion, keeping everything away from the urethra.
If that’s too uncomfortable, or you have physical limitations that mean you can’t use this technique, you can use a different method instead. You could put your hand between your legs from the front; you just need to take extra care that you’re only moving in a front-to-back direction when wiping your bum from this angle. There are also mobility aids that hold toilet paper on a long handle, if you’re restricted from reaching back at all.
3. What you need for wiping your bum
An important part of learning how to wipe your bum properly is finding the right paper for you. Choosing a toilet paper that’s soft and strong, such as Cushelle, will mean you only need to use a few sheets to feel clean and comfortable.
Feel extra clean by following up with a Cushelle Fresh Flushable Moist Toilet Paper Wipes. Not only will it save any need to use excess toilet paper, it’s also biodegradable, so flushing is free of hassle (and blockages).
4. How to clean your bum – gently
As you gauge how to wipe – and how hard – you should keep in mind that the skin on your delicates is, well, delicate. Finishing with a flushable moist toilet tissue that’s pH-balanced and gentle on skin will help you avoid the need to wipe vigorously. This will reduce the chance of irritation or infection.
Tip: Encourage boys and girls to finish with a moist toilet tissue right from the start of learning how to use toilet paper, so they understand it’s just as important as the initial dry wipe. It’ll help them get cleaner quicker and avoid skin irritation.
If there’s an occasion when you’re a bit too vigorous, you might be left with itching in that area. This is caused by inflammation. You might also experience some swelling and redness, because the capillaries underneath the skin have dilated.
There’s no need to worry, though, as with a little tender loving care you’ll soon be back to normal. Try to avoid scratching, using harsh soaps, eating spicy food, or sitting down for long periods, as they can all make it worse.3 Carefully use moist tissues and an emollient-rich barrier cream while the area is sore – pop it in the fridge first, and the cool cream will feel even more soothing.
5. Correct way to wipe bum with diarrhoea
Frequent, runny stools can cause discomfort to that delicate area. You’ll be wiping your bum more often than usual, too, which can add to the soreness. This is when moist tissue can make a big difference.
It’s gentle on your skin when you need that soft touch most and can clean the area quickly with a minimal number of wipes. You might find dabbing is even gentler.3 If you’re wiping a lot and the area is particularly tender, gently washing with water every couple of times instead can also help.
A bidet is perfect for this, but if you don’t have one, you could use a handheld showerhead instead. Set it to a lukewarm temperature, as hot water can dry out the skin and cause greater discomfort. However, as they say – prevention is always better than cure! Learn how to avoid general discomfort from frequent, runny stools by discovering the common causes of diarrhoea in our separate article.
6. How many times should you wipe?
There’s no set number of times you should wipe when it comes to learning how to wipe your bum, but using a toilet paper that’s strong and soft will help you feel comfortable, no matter how many pieces you need.
The number of pieces of toilet paper (and amount of time and effort) needed will be significantly reduced if you follow up with your trusty moist toilet tissue. Remove actual pieces of solid stuff with dry toilet paper first, and then finish the job with your moist tissue. When it comes away clean, you know you’re ready to flush.
7. Should you sit or stand while wiping your bum?
Kids might find it easier to learn how to wipe standing up, but try and encourage them to stay seated, right from potty-training-age. This will help them develop good toilet hygiene habits for when mum and dad aren’t there to supervise.
There you have it: a quick and simple explanation of how to use the toilet paper and moist tissue. This should help you feel clean, comfortable and confident after you’ve used the toilet. If ever in doubt, remember this simple ABC guide on to how to wipe properly:
- Always wipe from front to back
- Be gentle
- Choose soft yet strong toilet paper and follow up with moist toilet tissue
And don’t forget the most important step of all – wash your hands! The NHS guide to hand washing is a helpful reminder of how to do a thorough job, with step-by-step instructions on how to get every part of your hands spick and span.5
1S. Persad, S. Watermeyer, A. Griffiths, B. Cherian & J. Evans, Association between urinary tract infection and postmicturition wiping habit, Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica. 2006; 85: 1395-1396
2Amber J. Tresca, The Healthiest Way to Wipe After a Bowel Movement, Very Well Health, 2019
3Cleveland Clinic. Pruritus ani (anal itching): Management and treatment; 2018.
4Cancer Research UK, Tips on coping with diarrhoea; 2019
5NHS, How to wash your hands
6NHS, Diarrhoea and Vomiting