No toilet paper? No problem! Cleaning your crack in a crisis

When widespread coronavirus panic hit the United States, the first thing to disappear from shelves wasn’t food, bottled water, medicine, or even hand sanitizer, but toilet paper. In many ways, this wasn’t a surprise: Americans love their toilet paper. The United States is the world leader in toilet paper consumption, and Johnny Carson once accidentally sparked panic buying of toilet paper with a joke on The Tonight Show.

The album cover for Redd Foxx's "You Gotta Wash Your Ass"

Not being able to buy toilet paper is bad, but my fellow Americans, there’s a bigger problem at hand here: your backside hygiene is fundamentally bad. Smearing feces around your rear exit with handfuls of paper is no way to be clean. If a dog pooped on your shoes, would you just wipe it off with toilet paper and get on with your day? I would hope not. As the late, great comedian Redd Foxx once said: you gotta wash your ass.

During a global pandemic, hygiene is more important than ever, especially since coronavirus can possibly spread through fecal transmission. This is no time for half-measures like toilet paper.

Spray the stink away

The traditional Western method of cleaning your posterior is a bidet, a standalone device you sit on that sprays water up your backside. It’s like a toilet but in reverse. The good news is you don’t need such a thing to improve your hygiene and drastically reduce your toilet paper consumption. There are bidets you can attach to a toilet seat, but my “weapon” of choice is a detachable sprayer.

We use cloth diapers on our one-year-old son, and so a toilet sprayer was essential. We invested in the Aquaus SprayMate system, which includes a sprayer and rinsing bucket, along with various accessories. You can buy the sprayer by itself and save a bit of money and bathroom space. I like the bucket not only for spraying diapers but muddy shoes and other things. The company also recommends the SprayMate if you need to throw up, so that your face isn’t in the toilet. I haven’t had to use it for that yet, but I’ll take their word on it.

The complete Aquaus SprayMate system

I like the Aquaus sprayer for a few reasons: it has a small head that’s easy to get into tight spots, an adjustable switch to easily control the water pressure with one hand, and an on/off valve where it attaches to the toilet.

Installing a sprayer

Whether you choose the Aquaus or another sprayer or bidet, installation is pretty much the same and shouldn’t require tools. Here is a video explaining how to install the Aquaus sprayer.

One problem you might have is a leak that develops in the toilet shut-off valve. You can usually fix this by tightening the packing nut directly behind the valve, but be sure to use another wrench or pliers to secure the valve where it goes into the wall so that you don’t put stress on the pipe, which could cause it to break. Here’s a video demonstrating how to tighten the packing nut.

If you’re unsure about any of this, put down the wrench and call a plumber.

Using the sprayer

You have your sprayer attached and it’s time to go. You finish your business…now what? It takes a little practice, but you want to put the head of the sprayer near the soiled area and slowly turn the water on. It doesn’t take a lot of pressure to clean yourself off, but too much pressure and you could give yourself an accidental enema.

Before you flip the switch, understand that the water will be cold. You could have some plumbing done to bring in hot water, but I don’t think it’s necessary and it could even be dangerous. The first time I used a bidet I scalded myself and avoided them for 20 years. Besides, once you get used to cold water on your tailpipe every morning, you might find it invigorating.

Be sure to turn the water off on the sprayer before you put the sprayer away or else you’ll accidentally spray your wall. I know this from experience. Don’t worry if it’s awkward at first, you’ll get the hang of it.

When you feel like you’ve got everything, wipe with a bit of toilet paper. If you didn’t get everything, spray again, making sure to hit any areas you missed. If you just get water on the paper, great! Dry yourself off with toilet paper and wash your hands.

You’ll find that you use a lot less toilet paper when you use a bidet sprayer.

Other alternatives

Let’s say you don’t have access to a sprayer and need some alternative ways to cleanse yourself. Here are some tried and true methods:

  • For generations, Muslims have used the lota to keep their hindquarters squeaky clean. Most American Muslims will just keep a watering can by the, er, “can”. I haven’t personally done this, but the idea is you pour water over the affected area with your right hand while using your left hand to scrub everything clean. You could also just use a cup of water, a squirt bottle, or drill a hole in a water bottle cap and use it to squirt…well, you get the idea.
  • Just hop in the shower. Before I got my sprayer, my rule was if it took more than three wipes I’d take a shower. I find a detachable shower head is great for this.
  • Newspapers still exist and can work in a pinch. Many supermarkets keep racks of free shopper-type newspapers outside.
  • Wipe the natural way! There are all sorts of leaves that will do the job.

During this time of worldwide emergency, stay calm, stay cool, and please wash your posterior.


    • woodswalker

      First off, its a sign of strange times that this article is necessary. I’m glad you took the time to pen it though, and I hope it travels the cyberspace channels far and wide based on the paper product aisles I’ve seen in the last 96 hours…

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    • prepper77

      When balancing cost versus quality of life improvement, a $75 bidet seat might be the best purchase I have ever made.

      I wasn’t thinking of it as a prepper item at the time, but I do now after seeing what happens with TP in a crisis.

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    • Brandon

      Mr. Centers,

      Than you for the timely write-up. Besides newspapers and leaves, are there any other ideas for paper products that don’t require the water grid to be operational?

      Also, I’ve been browsing the site for some guidance on quantities of bulky consumables. I’m picturing a shelter with its walls lined with a year’s worth of toilet paper and paper towel. The would require a huge space; the stuff is pretty bulky. I did see compressed TP in the bug-out bag checklist.

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      • Josh CentersContributor Brandon

        That’s a bit of a challenge. Many of my Amazon boxes include brown packing paper, which might suffice. Corncobs are an old favorite in the South. But a water bottle or pot is probably going to be your best bet. If the water grid goes down you’re going to need a source of water anyway.

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