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Knowing how to clean your bum 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 your bum properly? You might be surprised to find that a few tweaks to your routine could help leave you feeling more fresh, comfortable and hygienic.
Wiping your bum: which direction?
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 wipe with 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. And make sure to clean the urethral area afterwards, to help get rid of any germs. Avoid turning the shower up high, though, as the force can actually force the bacteria further inside. Instead, rinse the area gently with cool water. Drinking plenty of fluid over the next couple of days will help flush out any lingering germs.2
How to wipe your bum: the technique
The best way to wipe from front to back is to reach around the side of your body to the back, and 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.
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.
How to clean your bum – gently
As you gauge how to wipe – and how much pressure to apply – you should keep in mind that the skin in that area is 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.
Encourage boys and girls to finish with a moist toilet tissue right from the start of learning how to wipe with 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.
How to wipe diarrhea
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 in 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.
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 wipe with toilet paper and moist tissue. This should help you feel clean, comfortable and confident after you’ve used the toilet. 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
2 Amber J. Tresca, The Healthiest Way to Wipe After a Bowel Movement, Very Well Health, 2019
3 Cleveland Clinic, Pruritus ani (anal itching): Management and treatment; 2018.
4 Cancer Research UK, Tips on coping with diarrhoea; 2019
5 NHS, How to wash your hands