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What Did Ancient Romans Do Without Toilet Paper? (sapiens.org)
573 points by JoachimOfFiore on April 4, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 538 comments

For 22 years I used toilet paper until I traveled to South East Asia where every toilet has a seperate sprinkler. After a few toilet visits I decided to give it a GO. Man, toilet paper feels strange and plain stupid now. Water is way cheaper, doesn't hurt your "behind" and I feel cleaner afterwards. Paper seems an invention to sell something we really don't need (by Mad Men :-)).

After our trip to Cambodia we wanted to bring the "Bum Gun" to the UK. For those who haven't tried it, it's the weirdest thing and sounds disgusting.

To quote a crazy Canadian we met, "if you had poo on your arm and you wiped it off with toilet paper, would you say its clean?"

That said, SE Asia really lends itself to the Bum Gun. Its warm and can be humid, so you're not really worried about being a bit damp afterwards. I can't imagine being in a suit in cold UK winter and using one.

Looking forward to trying a Japanese toilet with those sprays...

"if you had poo on your arm and you wiped it off with toilet paper, would you say its clean?"

If you had poo on your arm and rinsed it with a gentle spray of plain water, would you say it's clean?

If I had poo on my arm, I'd use soap and water to clean it then rinse well. Of course, if my arm was what was generating the poo, I'd probably be less fastidious about keeping it clean and free of poo. And I'd see a doctor.

> If I had poo on my arm, I'd use soap and water to clean it then rinse well.

That is why the only acceptable option is using a bidet, with soap of course. It boggles my mind that some people can withstand even the thought of cleaning themselves with just paper or wet wipes.

Animals don't use toilet paper or bidets.

Animals don't have oversized glutes that allow them to stand upright, and run long distances to catch prey, and a high fat/carb, low fibre diet that most humans have.

Ever had an intelligent conversation with one?

>If I had poo on my arm, I'd use soap and water to clean it then rinse well.

This is the correct answer.

Baby wipes or go home.

Plumbing wasn't designed for them in most places. Most of them are not really "flushable" like they claim.

Thankfully we also invented rubbish bins to dispose of stuff instead of throwing it down our pipes.

That's because people use "face wipes" instead of "wet wipes" meant to be used for the bum.

Nope. At least from all the articles I have seen from different waste treatment plants in America. Those wipes that are advertised as flushable don't breakdown that much and they just end up getting pulled out at the waste treatment plant.

That's because you are not buying the right ones. Real biodegradable & flushable wipes are okay for waste treatment plants. You need to purchase those that do not contain any trace of plastic fibers.

If you are so worried about clogging anything, put them in the compost bin.

And then there are those of us on a septic system - "Septic safe" still causes issues.

And do not get me started on antibacterials... RID dosages to the rescue! (not necessarily a product endorsement).

No. Not really. flushable bum wipes are not really flushable.

What? You can't say "no" to an entire line of products. Simply make sure that you buy wipes that are flushable AND biodegradable. Flushable simply means that the wipe will make it out of your home. You also need to live in a country where there are rules in place stopping manufacturer from lying on the packets.

If they are made of, let's say, viscose rayon which is wood pulp (well, any compatible plant fiber) there's no reason why it would clog anything at the processing plant.

Edit: Well, it would also depend on how your local plant processes waste. Give them a call and ask them.

How is it possible to design a wipe that 1) does not disintegrate when wet inside its box and 2) disintegrates when wet in a sewage system?

Even Andrex's maximally biodegradable 'flushable washlets' offering contains 2% plastic fibers.

I'm not sure about which of the two is the best solution with regards to hemorrhoids but I use "wet toilet paper" in combination with normal (dry). Dry -> wet -> dry -> usually done. It works good enough for me, and I am pretty sure that a little bit of soap and water wouldn't make my hands clean if I had poo on them. Because when I wash my ass under the shower or in the morning, and it smells a bit like poo, that smell is hard to get rid of. The question is of course whether that's a problem from a hygiene PoV. From a smell PoV, I do not want to smell poo on my hands except from my newborn. That poo I don't mind.

> gentle spray of plain water

gentle, my eye. Here its usually forceful enough that it seems it would fountain out through my head. IMO way better than smearing things around and calling it clean.

>Looking forward to trying a Japanese toilet with those sprays...

Why wouldn't you just use the 3 seashells?

>if you had poo on your arm and you wiped it off with toilet paper, would you say its clean?


Do those sprays have the pressure and duration to really spray everything down?

I can poor water from a bottle of water onto the poo on my arm and I'd still think it'd be unclean. I'd need some positive pressure to think otherwise. Oh, and some soap.

I've been Tunisia where they had a hose like this in the hotel, as you can see it has variable pressure, and even without setting it to the maximum it's sufficient.


Some of them also have variable temperature.

Combine it with your hand and you get clean, even better when there's soap. Then wash your hands properly.

On our bicycle-journey through Asia we had a dedicated squeezable poo-bottle and poo-soap ("Kackflasche" and "Kackseife" in German).

Googled "kackflasche".

Was disappointed.

10 minutes later he used the hostel toilet and came back saying that it had torn him a new one.

You know a high pressure hose that pushes back when you spray it? It was like that. Vicious.

In terms of duration, it was just like a normal tap, I assume fed by the local water supply so you're not limited.

I'd use it for max 10 seconds to feel fresh.

I'd say most people (in west) have shitty arses.

Sometimes, while in a toilet cubicle, I hear other people wipe once or twice, then leave - their arses are definitely shitty.

Me - I bring in a cup of water, and wet the paper to give my arse a proper shine.

Not everyone has messy shit. I often have literally nothing on the toilet paper. Increase your vegetables, and fiber.

Agreed. Switching to vegan brought my TP use way down. Becoming gluten-free, however, was so transformative down there that I'm still having trouble adjusting.

I usually tear off the sheets before I'm done, so that if I go multiple rounds, my TP is prepped. Usually, that means I tear off 3-4 strips of 2 squares each if it's thick paper, or strips of 3 squares if thin. After going gluten-free, I rarely end up using all the strips, and I'd say about a third the time, I'm done after using my first two squares of it, so the rest is wasted.

depends on how furry your butt is. I have the south asian furry butt curse.

Nah, just doesn't come out all sticky. Definitely a hairy ass.

I doubt it has literally nothing on it. You can eat nothing but fiber, but bowel mucous is still dirty.

Haven't you ever done a shit that when you wipe there's nothing on the toilet paper?

Nothing visually, I don't consider the paper clean.

I don't understand who would fade for your views on this, and there's no reply explaining so I'll chime in: you're right and I agree.

You can think that you've won the poo lottery by pinching one off that seems to wipe clean, but no one is going to recommend sticking that paper back on the roll or putting it in their pocket to wipe their child's face with later just because they don't see anything on it. That's absurdity, and anyone arguing otherwise knows they wouldn't do the same because they don't actually believe it's clean.

That "clean" paper has enough on it to inoculate a fecal assay, and for some people, that's enough to cause issues. There's also the case of it wiping clean but not being completely cleared yet. Not everyone needs maintenance wipes, so not everyone even knows or understands how unreliable wiping as an indicator is.

The mods of HN are suffering from wipe privilege, and it needs to be addressed.

Some googling found this informative (and entirely SFW) "bum gun" video:


> if you had poo on your arm and you wiped it off with toilet paper, would you say its clean?

My dad says the same thing but he uses wet wipes.

Those things are supposedly hell on every septic, and even (older?) sewer, system.

You can put them in the trash.

If you had poo on your butt, would you wipe it off with toilet paper and throw it in the trash?

No because it would stink up the place and someone can touch your poo while taking out the trash

> No because it would stink up the place and someone can touch your poo while taking out the trash

How about menstruation pads? Are you afraid to touch those as well when you take out the trash? Because what you said is true for anything which resides in a trash bin or compost bin. Heck, my plastic bin sometimes smells like rotten fish. It is disgusting. But that's what you get when you eat fish.

Yes. I've spent time in countries with poor plumbing systems and picked up the habit. I've found that it does not stink up the trash since it dries quickly. Additionally, if you put the poo side down it all stacks up in the bin until you take it out. Since I started doing this at home I have not had to unclog a toilet.

How do you get them from the stall to the trash?

Women's bathrooms have trash cans in the cubicle.

Mind. blown.

Unisex bathrooms do as well.

you bundle it like a paper basketball and shoot it from the stall.

Boy was my aim way off! Will have to put some more work in on my sky-hook.

You must be talking about a public toilet? I think most "normal" or home toilet routines go out the window when using a public restroom.

I don't think throwing them out of the window is the answer either.

And then there is the mountain-climbing poo experience... I would guess that eventually (when the plastic degrades) there is some rather lush, fertile groundscaping at the foot of some of those places.

I have raised chickens, after a year or so to "cook" (I am a low-intensity composter) we end up with some pretty rich compost.

probably less so than tampons though, but that doesn't make it right I guess.

Has he been able to solve the problem of bridging the gap between the bathroom stall and the waste bin? Ir does he flush them? Most stalls in the colonies don't have waste bins in the stall. So you are faced with the problem of how to dispose of your dirty nappies. If you walk out of the stall to the vin before going to wash your hands you will be on the business end of some odd looks. This why most wet wipers flush. There are, however, alternative methodologies.

He owns his own business (funeral home) so he has his own bathroom for employees. He's hardly ever at a public restroom so I don't know what he does. I recall him carrying around a 10 pack of disposable wipes so he probably flushes them.

Agreed. They use water in Iran, too. Other than religious considerations (that only water will really clean mess), it actually feels better and cleaner.

Plus, their toilets have a different shape, something like this:


As far as I've heard, this form of toilet is better and easier for colons.

All Arabs and Muslim countries use water to clean too, and that toilet too is used by 90% in Arabs homes and in public toilet is considered must have since it's easy to clean.

A good spray helps clean the toilet bowl of poop too, which is ten times harder once it dries to the porcelain..

Easier to wash too, and to lose your smartphone into

But worse for your knees...

Squatting is a more natural position for evacuating

A proper squat puts zero pressure on the knees. That's why people with ACL injuries are still able to do squats.

Grab a copy of a basic barbell weightlifting book, and you'll see - it'll say the same thing.

Maybe what the other commenter was referring to was something like weak leg muscles that manifest as pain in or around the knee.

A lot depends on the age from which you've been squatting. I don't mean weight-lift squats, just squatting on the ground.

Most people from Asia are able to squat pretty comfortably, comfortably as in heel on the ground and not exerting any calf or knee tension, having done it since childhood. Most Western Europeans and Americans can no, the heel of the foot doesn't rest on the ground and squatting is done on the ball of the foot therefore calf and knee pressure.

After traveling through a decent portion of China I tend to agree. The design of the “facilities” (e.g. “squatty potty”) in a lot of locations made a few in my group question toilet paper all together. Though being back in the states there are a lot of weird looks trying to find ways to mimic the stance...

A few years after my time there I saw the “Squatty Potty”[0] on Shark Tank, but haven’t tried it. Anyone with thoughts?

[0]: https://www.squattypotty.com/

I like Chinese toilets as well, but I think they're a hard sell here. They're more hygienic (no touching), better for health (in terms of poop position) and simpler to clean (just mop the whole floor and you're done).

An honest question: how these handle when you have to drop a "scatter bomb"?

When you are in that position, it doesn't scatter, or at least my limited experience on the topic says so.

Never had an issue, you just have to squat deep enough.

I use things similar to that Squatty Potty and it feels better for me. I discovered this a couple of years ago. Coincidentally we have brand name ones at work, but any stable platform will do--my favorite might be this kids' stool from Ikea: https://m.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/art/60248418/

Having not used such a contraption, it always seems to me that the same thing could be achieved by leaning forward without one?

I lean forward (elbows resting on thighs). I've always done it. I never even thought it was a thing not to lean forward until I saw/heard advertisements for the Squatty Potty.

That, spreading cheeks when sitting down, and a decent diet means almost zero clean up.

It might be possible, but at least for me achieving the same position in a different rotation requires a lot of strength (due to gravity). And I can't poop while flexing half of my muscles.

A squatting posture made a big difference for me. I get more thoroughly emptied out more easily. I literally need to go less often than I used to.

The "hose" is a recent innovation. You can still find the old version occasionally, consisting of a big bucket of water and a smaller bucket for scooping.

But yeah, once you've discovered the beauty of the hose, it's hard to go back. Worse is traveling in other tropical parts of the world with bad plumbing, where the solution to the same problem is "giant garbage bag filled with used toilet paper".

Yeah, when I got back from spending about a year in SEA I immediately bought a TOTO for my apartment. Now I dread having to go when I'm out and being forced to use a barbarian toilet. I can't _wait_ for the States to catch on.

Do you dry yourself before putting your pants on? If so how?

This is the most important. Use toilet paper before and after water use to ensure cleanness.

The hand towel

Or TP to dry.

I carry a portable electric hair dryer. It's rechargable and lasts about a day.

As an Arab and now not living in the Middle East. I feel just sick trying to clean with toilet paper

So, my current employers have the, uh, washlets you describe, real high grade ones with a heater and a dryer. And I use them for the wash cycle, but I've found that I still prefer to dry off using toilet paper; the air dry function, even though it's heated just takes to damn long.

Just like those stupid hand air driers at public facilities. God, how I hate those. Americans have it easy, in general paper towels are available even when the damn air thing is installed. But here in Europe, most often you only get the stupid air machine with no paper towels.

The high end ones take maybe 20s to dry your hands off. Properly drying your hands with paper towels takes at least as long and it wastes paper. What is your problem with an air dryer?

No, it doesn't take 20 seconds, even a 2 (two!) second wipe job does a better job at drying than 30s of air. Apart from that, air driers are incredibly unsanitary, spreading stuff everywhere.


Also see this episode of mythbusters, which goes into much more depth than the synopsis on Wikipedia:


And the high-end ones, which are only marginally better, are very, very loud. Loud enough to trigger tinnitus in myself, for example.

Paper towels don't "waste" paper, they use paper (of which there's no shortage of, in the world) very efficiently. Plus in Germany and Portugal (at least) they have these reusable cloth towels that move between two spools.

If I don't have towels of any kind, I just wipe my hands on my clothes. It's not great but it sure beats the damn useless contraption.

> And the high-end ones, which are only marginally better, are very, very loud. Loud enough to trigger tinnitus in myself, for example.

I basically don't use air dryers any more due to the infernal noise of the new ones. I'd rather go with wet hands.

Or carry a kerchief in your pocket.


A side benefit of the paper towel is that in-swinging doors can be pulled with the paper, not your hand. Imagine how many people _didn't_ wash their hands then pulled that door.

Trivially fixable by a little foot hook on the bottom of the door intended to be used to open the door after you're done.

What if you have no foot? Or the foot hook isn't there? Or you have to turn a knob?

Plus pipelining.

You answered your own question. "The high end ones" all others take anywhere from 30 seconds to infinity. I can probably dry my hands on a paper towel in about 4 or 5 seconds max. I don't feel strongly enough about the subject to argue either way, just adding some more data points to your view on the matter.

Paper towels are much more sanitary. Big part of washing hands is wiping the bacteria and viruses along with water into something. Drying just gets the water, leaves everything else.

No. It's a nice idea, but doesn't hold up. (Gustafson, Vetter, et al. 2000)

I rather trust a fairly recent review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538484/

Only one person can use it at a time, and it wastes energy. Paper is recyclable, and more need for paper means more trees. Paper is low tech and works, and is more hygenic.

I hate it when there are only air dryers in a restroom. Towels can dry anything. Dryers are special built for hands. (sometimes i like to wash my face)

also, the level of noise pollution they create is toxic. Especially the high end/high speed ones.

the problem is that you are actively doing something with the paper towel, while you passively wait for the air dryer.

It's called Bidet, from the french word. Bidets are very common in southern Europe. Bidets are more common in Mexico and parts of Canada than US. Anglo regions are behind on the trend here.

There are lots of places here in SG that have these toilets. They ... freak me out, tbh. Mostly because I have not the faintest idea how you'd use them and "So, how do you do your business" is not among the list of conversations I want to have.

This whole floor (hosting six companies I think?) in a prominent office tower has one shared male restroom. Two booths. One is usable for me, the other one the scary thing. Most people, locals included, fight for the single seat..

>> Mostly because I have not the faintest idea how you'd use them

Once you get a stomach bug and you should have gone to the bathroom a minute ago you'll figure it out :) . Hint: It's like the old days, like we've been doing it for millennia, if not millions of years. https://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+use+squat+toilet

May be a naïve question: have you tried googling the topic?

I honestly did. But the descriptions (just like the StackExchange link's replies) are utterly alien to me (squat..? How?) and I haven't found it in me to go on a video hunt (the StackExchange one links to something which supposedly is safe and helpful).


Not sure how I feel about sharing this here but yeah, this should answer some of those questions.

The Youtuber is.. A 'comedian'..

Thanks, I was waiting for someone to post that one. :)

> (squat..? How?)

This is a thing for westerners; the squat position (with feet flat on the floor) is really hard to do for a lot of them, iirc mostly having to do with ankle flexibility (for me personally anyway). In countries with squat toilets the people are a lot more used to the position / motion. I guess most people could get by with doing a toe squat, but that's harder to keep balance.

this always amazes me...it is like telling me some population of humans cant raise their hands over their shoulders..

Yes, ankles, after 18 months learning Shotokan karate I can almost do a squat now, kids can do it with ease. I think with a toe squat you can't relax as much, which makes it difficult to open your sphincter.

Just pretend you're taking a dump on the floor. You stand over the hole and squat down any which way seems comfortable and just let your droppings... drop.

Maybe I'm weird, but I've been spitting on toilet paper for years.

You can use toilet paper, and then in addition wash yourself afterwards. That's what bidets are used for by most of Europeans.

I'd be afraid of the sprinkler collecting fecal and other matter, and am not too eager to nebulize that onto my behind.

It's not really an issue. It sprays from an angle below that should minimize sprayback (no idea whether that is a word), plus you just clean it when doing the normal toilet cleaning. For sure is better than those overfull American toilets that welcome your butt with splash toilet water everytime you drop something.

The $300 add-on unit I have does self-cleaning after every use. When the sprayer retracts, it again sprays, but since there is now plastic directly above it, it cleans off the sprayer head on the rebound.

My uncle was an engineer for a toilet paper manufacturing plant, that took logs in one end and put TP rolls out the other end. The path was over a mile long. He worked on variable speed electronic drives for the 1000 horsepower motors that turned the machinery.

TP illustrates the triumph of civilization: 1000s of people all doing specialized jobs so billions of people can each avoid a daily unpleasantness.

This made me recall immediately the "I, pencil" article. It's stunning to remember that almost anything one gets to touch or see throughout the day is a product of almost always global collaboration, if we include a things conception with its production, and also transportation, selling, etc.

Going off of that, when I realized that an ice cube was proof of incredible engineerning and that in terms of mankind, it's brand new tech !! I "couldn't believe it". I got that the concept of freezing water was some complex thermodynamics, but never realized it implied I couldn't make an ice cube without it when it's hot outside ! I thought the French had been drinking cold champagne all these years ! (turns out they have, since mostly only the rich ere drinking it and they were using various caves to keep cold temperatures, and they shipped ice from the Alpes; no source on my hands, but that's what I remember when looking into it).

Shizzles, I couldn't make a simple flame by myself ;p

Before refrigeration, people would use evaporative cooling to keep things cool: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporative_cooler

And cooler cabinets, where they had blocks of ice in a compartiment at the top of a closet (of sorts).

(source: guided tour of a late-1800s castle with a fully equipped French kitchen complex. Complex because they had rooms for separate tasks.)

Ice Houses were really popular; especially in the UK:


Harvesting ice in the winter was a common and wide spread activity in North America (and most of Europe). Short article on Hudson River ice harvesting http://www.genealogy.clifflamere.com/Aid/History/IceHarvesti...

This is the result of free markets. Centralized economic planning is simply unable to deal with the complexity.

Please don't take HN on generic ideological tangents. They lead to generic ideological flamewars, which are more or less all the same, and therefore off topic here.

Wut? Do you really think you can convince me that USSR did not have toilet papers or pencils? Or send the first man to space? This is not about what economical model is better. People can collaborate both under central economic planning and through free markets. One might certainly be more preferable to the other, but that's totally a different conversation (I'm not a fan of either, for the records).

You will laugh, but yes, USSR also had troubles with toilet paper from time to time (while launching satellites i guess) - https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&pr...

In my Soviet childhood it was quite permanent, actually. So permanent as a child I would be surprised to hear it's a trouble :-) We used newspapers cut into rectangular pieces, and it was such a usual thing that cultural norms already existed around it. Where I lived, for example, cutting newspapers for bathroom use was definitely a men's chore. A lady could be very angry at her husband, not finding accurate pieces in time of need.

Wow, thanks! This is why I like to err in public sometimes, you never know how interesting things will come your way.

The soviet union was one problem after another of limited availability of goods. I'm glad you are open to this info.

Free markets are self-organizing, and are constantly adapting, evolving, and innovating. Centralized planning (socialism) cannot hope to match it.

Free markets also have no concept of human suffering; they centralise power with the most ruthless and exploitative, and so preference those human traits.

Equating centralised planning with socialism is wrong though. You can have the latter without the former.

> USSR did not have toilet papers or pencils?

No. Just that it could not produce them reliably with efficiency. Consider this from Friedman's book "Free to Choose":

First, the wood comes from a tree, "a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon." To cut down the tree and cart the logs to the railroad siding requires "saws and trucks and rope and . . . countless other gear." Many persons and numberless skills are involved in their fabrication: in "the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, ... untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink!" And so Mr. Read goes on to the bringing of the logs to the mill, the millwork involved in converting the logs to slats, and the transportation of the slats from California to Wilkes-Barre, where the particular pencil that tells the story was manufactured. And so far we have only the outside wood of the pencil. The "lead" center is not really lead at all. It starts as graphite mined in Ceylon. After many complicated processes it ends up as the lead in the center of the pencil. The bit of metal - the ferrule - near the top of the pencil is brass. "Think of all the persons," he says, "who mine zinc and copper and those who have the skills to make sheet brass from these products of nature." What we call the eraser is known in the trade as "the plug." It is thought to be rubber. But Mr. Read tells us the rubber is only for binding purposes. The erasing is actually done by "Factice," a rubberlike product made by reacting rape seed oil from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) with sulfur chloride. After all of this, says the pencil, "Does anyone wish to challenge my earlier assertion that no single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me?" None of the thousands of persons involved in producing the pencil performed his task because he wanted a pencil. Some among them never saw a pencil and would not know what it is for. Each saw his work as a way to get the goods and services he wanted - goods and services we produced in order to get the pencil we wanted. Every time we go to the store and buy a pencil, we are ex changing a little bit of our services for the infinitesimal amount of services that each of the thousands contributed toward producing the pencil. It is even more astounding that the pencil was ever produced. No one sitting in a central office gave orders to these thousands of people. No military police enforced the orders that were not given. These people live in many lands, speak different languages, practice different religions, may even hate one another - yet none of these differences prevented them from cooperating to produce a pencil.

Toilet paper, lightbulbs, stockings. I brought carloads of that stuff from the west back in the stone age.

They/we did, of course. But the supply never matched the demand up or down. Usually it was lack of.

The USSR had pencils, yes.

> USSR did not have toilet papers or pencils?

They had cars made of toilet papers. /s The car industry is a great example of how centralized planning is a total failure.

Yeah, we certainly can't produce toilet paper unless 50% of the population is in poverty.

I believe OP was talking about trade throughout the world.


National slights, regardless of nation being slighted, aren't ok here. You've done this before, unfortunately. Would you please not do it again? It's obviously uncivil. If people can't respect each other here, they can't comment here.

Because of HN's origins, it's often the case that there's some ambiguity about whether a statement is scoped to the US or more widely. The fix for that is disambiguation, not taking or making insults.


To take your sarcasm further, it appears we can't: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/kass/ct-venezu...

(Yes, I know we could)

Freer markets means less poverty though.

Haha, do they?

I think the question is how do you define free? Free for powerful to do anything they want? Free subject to govt control? The tension is between those points.

The term is "free markets" which have a reasonably agreed upon definition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_market

Absolutely, nothing has brought a greater level of prosperity and equality to the world than free market capitalism. This is simply an empirical fact. Just like it is an empirical fact that every socialist nation in history has created huge levels of poverty and inequality.

I feel like the fall of the British Empire and subsequent reversion to the mean is probably responsible for most of that prosperity.

The revision to what mean? The pre-British empire mean? Because pre-British empire wasn’t exactly a prosperous period.

Hey, remember when the USSR started and they eliminated homelessness within 10 years. And also, were the first to space. In addition, had citizens that were better fed than the US, had more doctors per capita. And this is just from State Capitalism, not Socialism.

No I don’t, because that never happened. I do remember millions of soviet citizens dying from famine though, and millions more dying from state sponsored killing. I don’t remember any famines taking place in developed free markets during that period. However, I have a pretty clear memory of the two class system that developed in all of the socialist nations that existed in the 20th century. One of the starving poor, and another of the rich oligarchs.

That's not inherent to markets, it's caused by allowing a market system to have a feedback loop where investments are rewarded proportionately to their size (capitalism). The people able to participate in the feedback loop inevitably become wealthier than those who can't until the market prioritizes what they want over everyone else.

Shameless plug, I made a short podcast episode about this, from a systems perspective. It looks at what it takes to clean your teeth...and how systems have a tendency to spiral out this way. It’s a feature of problem solving systems: they generate new/different problems that need to be solved, and therefore propagate the system into something like global collaboration.


Toilet Paper is one of my favorite "How it's Made" episodes. Feel free to check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z74OfpUbeac.

My favorite part is at 4:43 with the Circular Saw!

oof, look at those wee small rolls at the edges... seems the machine is a bit out of sync!

I think those are trimmed off because they're uneven?

They might be trimming the first inch or so, so that there's a neat edge

One can recognise an engineer to how long one can watch, fascinated, "how it's made"! It's a great show.

Except TP is not the solution. If a bird pooped on your arm, would you rather use a dry paper towel to clean it off or water?

I don't get the false equivalency between your arm and your anus. The anus is neatly tucked away, and is supposed to handle fecal matter. You're not going to accidentally rub your unclean anus on some food or in your face, unless you cook differently than most people and is more flexible.

Would you put your face in your shoes for hours at a time, or rub it on the ground when you walked? Probably not, but thats no problem for the feet, because they're a different body part with different strengths and requirements.

That's a common argument, and a flawed one at that IMHO. If a bird pooped on a table, would you rub it off with your bare finger with some soap water, or would you use paper? (Granted, even this might give you the hint that dry paper isn't always the best idea.)

Well no, the whole point is that there's shit on you in the first place already, not touching it is not an option.

You clean your arse with water so that it's clean and not just wiped with paper, just as you afterwards will wash your hands instead of just wiping them on a paper towel.

Well, that comes down to cultural or personal preference. Some cultures consider feet unclean. Some people consider the anus unclean. How clean you try to make a body part depends on how clean you consider or expect it to be.

Soap and water. Never just water alone.

If a bird pooped the human way (same diet and result) the solution would be a piece of dry paper or leaf

It is not just unpleasantness. It is an essential tool for the contamination risk management.

Wiping with TP is still relatively unpleasant and ineffective in terms of cleanliness.

It was funny to see this HN post tonight. This week I'm doing upgrades to the DCS (distributed control system) operator stations at one of the largest tissue manufacturing sites in the US. I was just telling my fiancé how funny the security is here. You would think they were enriching uranium.

When I first got into the paper industry, which resulted from coming out of grad school during the Great Recession, I thought i would be a top performer within six months. I have to admit though that it took me longer to be proficient in my current position than it did in my former position as a metrology engineer in a semiconductor fab. There is more technology in the paper industry than one might assume.

The way US homes are designed it's hard to add a bidet to an existing bathroom, but doing away with toilet paper must be a goal. Unless you wash, you cannot feel "good" down there. That's the truth.

There are lots of products (on Amazon) that are quite easy to add to an existing bathroom.


Yep. However I think that you responded to the wrong comment.

not really. It was about the great engineering that goes to design TP. I said to do away with it totally

I agree, corncobs work just fine

Go in the morning then take a shower... my normal routine.

I think a machine vision directed spray is the future. I don't fancy collecting the training data though.

LOL, "a machine vision directed spray", missing a '/s'? My toilet has a built in bidet. When the spray comes on, I move my butt to positions the stream to dead center. There's really no need for any added complexity.

Toilets seats with built in bidets have already been perfected in Japan and South Korea since the nineties. Anyone who suggests the need for computer vision aided complexity has never used one of these. They just work, and you learn to use them properly really fast.

They just want to gather the footage for research

I only used one in Korea once, and to be honest, it worked so well without doing anything special that I assumed they were already using some kind of recognition.

And those toilets have been readily available in the US for over a decade. I did opt for a higher end model, but it wasn't hard to find either.

It's knowing when it's done

I can already see the news reports about racist toilets.

over-engineering much

Better safe than sorry

Please no. I don't want asshole recognition software tracking my movements from washroom to washroom.

But the potential for offering targeted hemorrhoid treatment advertising could heavily subsidize the cost of the Amazon Toilet

Two answers to this one

1) iPhone X already has this feature.

2) GDPR will require you to opt-in to asshole tracking, and you'll also have the right to request your asshole scans be forgotten.

Surprisingly relevant Adult Swim Infomercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJklHwoYgBQ

A sewer pipe that could detect what’s passing through it would actually have all kinds of practical uses!

I wonder how feasible it would be to embed chemical sensors into such an environment.

Governments sometimes analyse waste water for drugs and drug metabolites. You can't pinpoint specific houses' drug use, but you get get trends and general population data.

Targeting action on drugs by monitoring sewerage plants is some sort of genius.

Are you suggesting that each human has a unique anus-print? Or is this just some shitty theory of yours?

Each human actually does have a unique anus print and I'm pretty sure it was pornhub that figured this out. If I find the article I'll edit.

and the data can be stolen by an analytics company which may use it to manipulate elections.

How else would we elect the biggest asshole?

Once I had a very serious conversation about this, bussiness conversation

No need to go that far. Even the $300 unit I purchased off of Amazon is, uh, remarkably accurate.

And of course it will be sending the data to the cloud, to improve ad targeting.

Or you can just use wet wipes

Beware, many of those "flushable" wipes aren't actually: https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/putrid-130-ton-mass-...

Especially for septic systems. In related news, it is very expensive to have a plumber come fish "flushable" wipes from your septic system when they are blocking the tank and backing the "water" back up into the house.

I asked a plumber about those once and he laughed and said there’s no such thing as a flushable wipe - but they’re great for business.

What's the limitation? Why can't we make actually flushable wipes?

Shear stress. You want something that won't tear when it is pulled against your skin, but with enough friction to remove viscoplastic residue.

The way to make a cloth that supports such high shear stress without tearing is to use a very long fiber. This precludes the fiber from dissolving in water. Some experimental materials actually dissolve not in water but in alkalines such as fats that are found in most sewer systems. But not all sewer systems have the proper conditions so these materials then do not dissolve.

Doubt it would take off, considering the low adoption rates of "regular" spray toilets in the west. It's a relatively marginal improvement after all.

Bidet use is accelerating rapidly* in the US. Which doesn't surprise me, really. When I got one, most of my family was surprised. As they tried it out of curiosity, most of them were really happy with how clean they felt, and have gone on to get one for their own homes. I'm sure they have other friends that come over and will experience the same. It's an exponential effect.

(* source: https://www.proremodeler.com/bidets-finally-making-inroads-u... )

If I have taken only one thing away from living in Japan for near-on a decade, it is that the washlet (aka the cyber-bidet) is, quite possibly, mankind's greatest invention.

The predecessor to the above were small squeeze bottles full of water, and you can still buy various versions of these today, which are heaven-on-earth as a wilderness backpacker.

I picked up a travel bidet[1] for backpacking, and it has proven to be one of the best uses of six bucks that I can remember. Weighs in at 50g (~2oz), and not only cuts down on the amount of TP I need to pack in (and out), but it's also been a general lifesaver when traveling.

[1] https://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/B007ZLB3NA

Hooooly shit I never thought of this for backpacking.

You're a life saver. Accidentally pulling out my shit wipe Ziploc is my least favorite part of backpacking.

Yeah, it's pretty hard to differentiate that from an MRE.

There are non-electronic bidets that I found worked just as well (you rotated a nob to spray water using just water pressure).

I installed one of these at home. Absolutely superb.

That sounds like a rather... brisk experience in the colder months. I hope you live where the winters are mild!

Washing one's "back-parts" after they've completed their job feels much more clean to me compared to using toilet paper. Whenever I'm forced to use TP (i.e. when not at home, mostly) I always feel a little dirty after the deed, no matter how much TP I use. I don't have that feeling when using water to clean said back-parts.

Cost of bidets are coming down a lot with more domestic manufacturers. At $200-300 for a Toto-like attachment I upgraded all of my toilets. It's hard to go back once you are used to it.

I agree 100%. I purchased bidets as Christmas presents for many family members this past year after a visit to South Korea (where they were the norm in the hotels I visited). I've even found myself telling my neighbors about the advantages of bidets over cocktails (which is kind of weird). I wouldn't want to live without one, and I spread the word.

And what are the advantages of a bidet over a cocktail? Not as sticky, I imagine.

Yes. I recently went to Azerbaijan and was amazing at how barbaric we are in the USA with our hard, dry toilet paper :-)

You don't need to pay so much, you can get some that attach under the seat for $30.

Far easier is just to have the person move into the proper position.

wow, collecting isn't so bad, (you just place a camera) Labeling it however!!

That would mean literally looking at poopy buttholes all day long and highlighting the poop on the butt, maybe also highlighting where you think the hose should start. I wouldn't want to be that Mechanical Turker

There's someone out there for whom this is their dream job. Probably a substantial fraction of the population, actually, judging from the tag clouds on porn sites.

The tersorium/stick the Romans used is the source of the expression: to get "the wrong end of the stick"

My grandfather grew up on a farm. He said they always had a bucket of corn husks in the outhouse and that was what you used. He was totally serious. If cheap toilet paper makes my bum feel raw, I can't even imagine what a corn husk would do to it.

Here in Finland, some public toilets used to have a piece of wood attached to a chain in the early 1900s. Everyone carried their own puukko (a traditional Finnish knife) and could carve shavings for cleaning up.

I always knew Finnish people were rough and tough back in the day, but this gave me a whole new perspective.

My father grew up on a farm in WI. My mother grew up on a farm/gravel put not 10 miles from him. There's a reason the Sears Catalog was so popular in rural areas (in outhouses, no less). Read a page, use a page.

I think you may have misheard him: farmers used to use corn cobs to wipe.


This article has the answer;

"In Rome, people cleaned themselves after using a public latrine with a sea sponge lashed to a stick, stored in a bucket of salt water or vinegar. It was considered polite to give the sponge a cursory rinse and a squeeze before putting it back in the bucket to get it ready for the next person."

Oh, you're right. He did say corn cobs. Apparently I don't use corn terminology often enough to keep everything straight.

François Rabelais did a thorough explanation on the best ways to wipe back in hist late 15th century books (don't remember which one exactly, sorry). After discussing the virtues of various sorts of leaves, hay, moss, he concludes that the best wiping material is a small, soft bird. :)

I thoroughly enjoyed your comment so I did some Googling around, and found this gem straight from the man himself:

|'I have, answered Gargantua, by a long and curious experience, found out a means to wipe my bum, the most lordly, the most excellent, and the most convenient that ever was seen… I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs, arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs.' http://qi.com/infocloud/geese

Not just a small bird, but a whole goose neck! XD

I've found the original text which uses "oison", actually the gosling, so we're both right :) . Many of the words in this text were, as usual with Rabelais, written in French for the very first time. The whole text is incredibly satiating, reading it aloud naturally fills both the mouth and the belly with this incredibly coarse tongue, and provokes roaring laughter.


> Like Gayetty’s sheets, Scott tissue was originally marketed as a medicinal product

Interesting. The TOTO washlet style toilet was marketed originally in the US as a medical device (meant for people who had difficulty wiping). It never caught on in the US but caught on in Japan instead. I'm wondering if the washlet is the next technological advancement like the toilet paper was compared to the Roman butt-brush. In theory a butt brush can still work today, although considered unsanitary, but a wipe with paper is just as unsanitary when compared to flushing with water. Even a non-electronic bidet is vastly superior to toilet paper.

When I moved to Argentina, it took me a while to get used to bidets. But now that I'm used to them, I never use toilet paper voluntarily. It leaves your butt still dirty!

As someone said, if you got poop on your arm, maybe while changing a diaper, would you wipe it off with a piece of paper and consider it clean? No, not if you're from the mainstream of any developed country. You would use water, soap, and maybe more extreme measures.

Well, why do you leave your anus caked with residual poop, then? Advance into the 18th century: get a bidet, and learn to use it. Overcome your ignorance and embarrassment. Even I did.

(I still use toilet paper in public restrooms, though. They usually don't have bidets.)

Honest question: Can a bidet user explain why bidets are superior to just having a nearby faucet to dampen the toilet paper, like this?:


Having a separate system and jet of water seems like a lot more complexity with increased risk of splash. And the cleaning properties of dampened paper seem strictly better than a stream of water. Just like I wouldn't wipe off poo from my arm with dry paper, I also wouldn't just run my arm under water without also mechanically scrubbing it.

Obviously, most toilets without bidets don't have faucets close enough to reach from the toilet, so a bidet might be an improvement over the status quo. But it seems way easier to install a small faucet than a stand-alone bidet, and way less maintenance to have a small faucet than one of those built-in water jets for toilets.

>Can a bidet user explain why bidets are superior to just having a nearby faucet to dampen the toilet paper, like this?

Water pressure. I live on the 5th floor of a 16 floor building with the water tank at the top. The pressure of the bidet is enough to clean everything off in seconds. The risk of splash is only when you use it incorrectly. Just sit for a minute or two extra to let gravity do it's work on the excess water present on your butt.

>Having a separate system and jet of water seems like a lot more complexity

I don't think so. In India, we just attach it to a normal water valve. The same one to which we attach taps, flush tanks, showers etc. It's a pretty standardized attachment.

Sit for a minute or two on the toilet waiting for all the water to drip off?

Before I put a bidet attachment on my toilet, my flushable-wipe usage was about a median of 3 and a mean of probably 4. Sometimes I just had to keep wiping to make sure _everything_ was gone from underneath, and I make sure my wipes are extra-wet with witch hazel.

Now, my flushable-wipe usage has a median and mode of 1, with a mean of maybe 1.2. The long right-hand tail is considerably shorter and not as tall.

All this is probably better for the environment since it probably uses less stuff to get the extra water to my house than it does to get the extra processed butt wipes to my house. Also, I get a cleaner clean with fewer wipes going down the pipes, which reduces the likelihood that the pipes will clog. The Cottonelles I use don't clog my pipes generally, but I've used (and stopped using!) other brands that have.

As for the splash? Well, I've got TP right there if my cheeks and perineum get too wet. It's not a problem.

Sure, spraying with a bunch of water will minimize paper usage, just like lightly dampening the paper with water will minimize water usage. But both amounts are so trivial compared to the water and paper product usage by a typical person that most of us aren't optimizing for this.

Where I live, toilet paper is mandated to dissolve in water at a certain rate (to avoid clogging the sewage), and that rate precludes dampening the paper sufficiently.

I guess? I don't know if your paper dissolves vastly faster than the standard stuff in US and Canadian stores. I haven't had a problem, but to each his own.

The bidet does not need to be stand alone. You can get them for under $30 that attach under the seat.

Even in the USA, it is fairly trivial to attach a bidet. Being from India, I could not live without it and went on to install it in all our bathrooms. Takes less than 30 minutes to install one, and you can order one from Amazon

But they break and make cleaning more difficult.

I've been using a $30 bidet for a couple years now with not a hint of trouble. Figured I'd test the concept out before dropping real money on a Toto, then realized that I actually like the water cold. I clean the toilet the same way I always have -- with a toilet brush. The bidet does not really change that process meaningfully.

I guess my experience living in a house with one of these in-bowl bidets was very different. It introduced more nooks and crannies than a simple bowl, and necessitated more frequent cleanings.

Well said. Whenever I bring this up to friends, they seem weirded out by bidets, sometimes even grossed out. How can it be grosser than trying to smear poop off with a paper towel!?

I was (surprisingly, to me) mocked by friends/family when I purchased a bidet seat a few years ago. Over the period of a few months, most went from teasing to shy curiosity to buying one for their own home. A victory for cleanliness!

People who mock you for having a cleaner butthole than them are strange people indeed.

Surgeons used to mock other surgeons for washing their hands. A centuries-old insult about the French is that they insist upon bathing every day. People seem to generally associate cleanliness with a sort of hysterical fussiness.

This is not about cleanliness; any type of virtue is resisted by others before it becomes the norm, because of course people tend towards less effort than more.

> [..] insult about the French is that they insist upon bathing every day.

That's funny, I think the Brazilians have exactly the opposite insult - i.e., the French rarely take a bath.

::shrug:: Can't say I disagree. People have surprisingly strong feelings about getting their butts splashed with water.

They're afraid they'll enjoy it, and it will undermine their fragile macho manhood.

Perhaps unexpectedly, it was the women who were most put off it, not the men. FWIW. I realize this was hardly a scientific sample.

> How can it be grosser than trying to smear poop off with a paper towel!?

I understand that with a bidet one must use one's naked fingers to clean the area. That seems substantially grosser than using toilet paper. Then there's the risk of spray going the wrong direction, and of getting one's trousers wet.

A bidet sounds awesome, but terribly impractical. I wonder how people are able to use one so often.

You have a couple of options:

· Just spray your anus with high-pressure water, let it drain, then put your pants back on, dampening them with the few drops remaining. This leaves you cleaner than toilet paper, while keeping your fingers away from your anus and any poop that might be hanging around.

· Spray your anus with high-pressure water, then use your naked fingers and soap to wash. This does indeed potentially contaminate your hands with the film of fecal bacteria left behind, but then you wash your naked fingers with soap and hot water, which is usually considered adequate.


$35 and installs in 10 mins with included tools on most toilets. I have installed them on every toilet I regularly use and somewhat internally question anyone who uses Amazon and toilets and doesn’t have one.

It also now bothers me when I stay in a 5 star hotel in the US and there is no bidet; I have seriously considered installing one of these (and leaving it) in each hotel I stay at for more than 48h.

It's really not the same as a line pressurized bidet, but I bring this [1] with me when I go out.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008CSDKSQ/ref=oh_aui_sear...

For those interested I bought this exact model and it didn't fit my toilet seat. It essentially adds an extra 2 inches or so of material between the porcelain and the bolt tabs on the seat. This means it doesn't close completely. Apparently you can buy bumpers but I'd need huge bumpers and didn't like the aesthetic. I have what I'd consider a standard seat so I'm not sure what kind of seat wouldn't require the bumpers.

Thanks for this. I had no clue this was a option. Just ordered one. And in my apartment the sink is right next to the toilet and the hot water line is exposed for the sink. So it should be easy enough to make it warm.

This is great if you don't have small children -- I discovered this the hard way... Otherwise, you probably need something with an auto shut off watchdog timer.

Thanks. Seriously considering buying one.

Others: be sure to read the review by Mercury. It's very funny.

you question my internals? That's an interesting phrase to internally question :-)

I grew up with bidets, but lately have been giving myself “quick enemas”, which means colon cleansing. My method is a simplified version of a more traditional enema, and it has the following perceived benefits: more thorough cleaning with water, evacuation of feces that would have stayed in otherwise, less smell in the area throughout the day.

Method: after pooping at home, I use a vaginal cleanser (a pump) with some soap to lubricate the tube and inject cold fresh water into the anus. I immediately release the water into the toilet. It gives me additional relief after the regular evacuation and there is always something to be released.

Here’s a traditional enema method:


I'm not a doctor, but to me it doesn't seem to be healthy to be giving yourself a daily enema.

I think your point is also valid in countries that are still developing - and more so, if you consider those cultures have never used tp and likely never will.

Do bidets shoot soap up there? Should they? :D

They do not. Since sometimes the pressure is high enough for water to go into your anus, it would be dangerous for them to shoot soap.

How do you dry?

Toilet paper!

Well, I have one of the simple unheated hose sprayer-type bidet things which I installed during a period of let's just say discomfort at some point in the past, and that's what I do, but I assumed the hardcore bidet users had some superior solution, like mentioned below.

The higher end models have heated blowers. But TP is kind of superior to that imo.

Small towel. Bath towel > Face towel > Foot towel.

(Spot the euphemism. But it is also used for drying feet, after wrapping the body with the bath towel, when coming out of the shower.)

Maybe the skin around the anus is more resilient to bacteria?

how much better is water ? is it 100% clean ? is it the most efficient (outside nasa technology) ?

Do we need to bring Dyson to the table ? bladeless ass wipe, only 900$

> how much better is water ? is it 100% clean ?

They did provide a reference point...

> if you got poop on your arm, maybe while changing a diaper, would you wipe it off with a piece of paper and consider it clean?

...were you expecting something more rigorous?

yes, I don't really understand the whole thing.

A bidet you use water to clean your outputs, instead of paper only. But

1) you probably have your arm under there to dry it too, it's cleaner but not perfectly clean I suppose. So you might have bacteria/microbes too

2) I forgot my 2 but you get the idea. Unless you have something that doesn't involve approaching your ass you're still not 100% clear.

It is infinitely better than dry toilet paper. Trust me because like OP I've used both methods and I am never more grossed out than after going through a North American toilet.

I just use sink at home. Being tall has its benefits. When I come around to buying my own apartment I will definitely get a bidet.

I did that for a little while after I'd discovered a bidet but didn't have my own. But this one [1] is only about $25 and is really worth it. And I bring this [2] with me when I go out.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003TPGPUW/ref=oh_aui_sear... [2] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008CSDKSQ/ref=oh_aui_sear...

You might want to use a "bidet shower" if you don’t have a standalone bidet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidet_shower.

It connects to your water faucet or your toilet tank so you don’t spread germs in the sink. On Amazon they start at $ 10.

Hope no one uses that sink beside you. A "Biffy" toilet attachment is very convenient to install, inexpensive, and potentially a lot more considerate to others.

Sink is easy to clean. Nothing is left behind. I don't see this problem. It is like bidet, but taller. I first clean my ass, then the sink and finally my hands.

Toilet paper is gross. The notion that toilet paper is the best much less the only means of toilet hygiene is pretty ignorant.

For an educational laugh: https://youtu.be/dKkryfdtMNQ

By the way, the simplest solution, for people who are regular, is simply to do your business before your shower.

Exactly. Nothing beats the home advantage. Hot water and soap and a proper cleaning of all those hidden areas is the only way to get clean.

We can buy "adult baby wipes" in u.s. stores now. It's a good compromise.

Aren't those things an environmental catastrophe though?

Which will cause blockages in sewers.

It's also really wasteful.

Bidets are pretty weird, but I totally recognize their superiority to plain ol' toilet paper.

+1 for wet wipes.

> +1 for wet wipes.

As long as you bin them.


wet wipes are terrible for plumbing though.

You can slightly dampen toilet paper for a similar, and more safely flushable, effect. You can buy little bottles of spray for the purpose, loaded with the same anus-friendly substances as wet wipes.

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