This is a comparison guide of toilet paper vs bidets vs wet wipes.
We look at which might be most eco friendly and sustainable, as well as consideration of the cost, cleanliness, health, and sanitation of each option.
* Note – this is a general information guide only. It is not professional health or medical advice.
See a suitably qualified professional for health, sanitation and other issues you are seeking expert advice on.
Summary – Toilet Paper vs Bidets vs Wet Wipes Comparison
100% Recycled toilet paper, bamboo toilet paper and bidets might be the most sustainable and eco friendly over a number of categories, with regular toilet paper behind them, followed by wet wipes in last
It can depend on the individual sustainability indicator in question though
Cheaper/more affordable bidets with low electricity usage and that have cheap installation costs might be the more affordable option.
Regular toilet paper tends to have more affordable products available compared to bamboo and some types of recycled toilet paper.
Cost can be highly dependent on the individual product and how often someone goes to the toilet, and the amount of cleaning they do though.
Ability To Clean
Bidets and wet wipes obviously have the ability to wet clean, whereas toilet paper can only dry clean.
What is best can come down to several variables, including but not limited to:
– The brand and type of product used
– Specifically what the product is being used to do
– The individual needs of the person, such as how often someone goes to the toilet, their body parts and bodily functions, how many times they wipe and the amount of toilet paper they need, and so on
As just one example, if someone prioritizes wet cleaning, bidets and wet wipes may be the best option in some instances and situations.
Types Of Toilet Paper, Bidets & Wet Wipes
– Regular toilet paper
– Recycled toilet paper – both 100% recycled post consumer, and partially recycled toilet paper
– Bamboo toilet paper (which sometimes includes sugarcane as well)
Read more about the different types of toilet paper in this guide
– Bidet attachments
– Non electric toilet seat bidets
– Electric toilet seat bidets
To clarify, a bidet is an attachment or toilet seat with bidet spray nozzle that sprays a stream of water to the anus or genitals.
Depending on the model you get, the angle, pressure and temperature of the water can be adjusted, and some models come with air dry features as well
A standard bidet might come with controls to control the angle and strength of the water stream.
More advanced models might come with water temperature controls, air drying, electricity, and more.
– Regular synthetic wet wipes
– Natural/organic wet wipes
Note though that wet wipes can be used for many different purposes – general cleaning, cleaning after the toilet, baby wipes, make up removal, and more.
Variability In Each Brand & Product Of TP, Bidets & Wet Wipes
Note that every brand and product of toilet paper, bidets and wet wipes is different, so they all need their own individual assessment.
This is a general guide only on each type of product as a whole.
Some brands and products might be better in different aspects than others.
Eco Friendliness & Sustainability
Different factors to look at include sourcing/production, usage, disposal and waste created.
– Regular Toilet Paper
Some regular TP products can be less eco friendly and sustainable than recycled and bamboo toilet paper, and bidets.
Made from sawdust, or offcut wood from wood used for other purposes.
Can also come from pulpwood tree plantations (made into a paper pulp) that may or may not be sustainably certified.
There is an eco footprint to this process, such as the use of chemicals, waste like waste water, and plastic packaging used for toilet paper.
– Recycled Toilet Paper
Can be one of the more eco friendly and sustainable options along with bamboo toilet paper, and bidets.
Post consumer 100% recycled paper is generally seen as best, as it comes from used office, home and school paper.
Waste water from the production process might be re-used several times and treated.
Packaging might be recyclable paper.
– Bamboo Toilet Paper
Can be one of the more eco friendly and sustainable options along with recycled toilet paper, and bidets.
Some of the leading companies tight now source their bamboo (and sugar cane if it’s included) from small villages in China where local families rely on it for income.
Waste water from the production process might be re-used several times and treated.
Packaging might be recyclable paper.
Some other sustainability and eco friendly consideration with toilet paper as a whole might include …
– What Is Most Toilet Paper Made From? Virgin Wood, Or Something Else?
The vast majority of toilet paper in the U.S. is made from the pulp of virgin trees (toilettravels.com)
In America, 98% of toilet roll sold come from virgin woods due to the country’s insistence on having extra-soft, quilted, multiply (hollyrose.eco)
Many trees used for tissue products do grow on tree farms, and lumber by-products such as wood chips may be reclaimed for tissue.
But some trees from old-growth forests still end up [in toilet paper]
– How Many Trees Do Toilet Paper Rolls Use?
… global toilet paper production wipes out about 27,000 trees per day, which comes out to almost 9 million trees per year (mic.com)
Americans use an average of 7 billion rolls per year … twice as much as Europeans … so that’s 7 million trees per year being chopped for America (hollyrose.eco)
Worldwide, the equivalent of almost 270,000 trees is either flushed or dumped in landfills every day and roughly 10 percent of that total is attributable to toilet paper [i.e. 27,000 trees] (1millionwomen.com.au)
– How Much Toilet Paper One Tree Provides
… 1 tree can provide 100 lbs of toilet paper (toilettravels.com)
… the eucalyptus tree, one of the most common sources for toilet paper, can produce up to 1,000 rolls (mic.com)
– Are Trees Replanted After Being Cut Down?
… most American companies are replanting trees after they’ve taken full grown trees (toilettravels.com)
– How Much Toilet Paper The Average Person Uses Per Year
The average American uses over 100 single rolls—about 21,000 sheets (madehow.com)
The average American uses 57 squares of toilet paper a day, adding up to 50 pounds … each year (realsimple.com)
[The average person] uses approximately 1 – 2 rolls of toilet paper per week [which is] … about 100 rolls per year (ri-industries.com.au)
– How Many Trees One Country Might Cut Down For Toilet Paper Per Year
… on average, Americans use 23.6 rolls per person per year
… that means [an American population of] 319 million sacrifices about 7.5 million trees per year [for toilet paper]
Other estimates are higher … in 2009 that the number is closer to 15 million trees … other sources say it was 54 million
1 pine tree can produce 2000 rolls or enough toilet paper for 20 people per year.
In 2015, Australia had an estimated population of 23.9 million people.
[This means that] 11,950 trees will be sacrificed for Australians on a yearly basis
– How Much Deforestation Is Toilet Paper Responsible For?
Toilet tissue accounts for approximately 15% of our world’s deforestation (pureplanet.com.au)
– Water Use
… the creation of toilet paper requires quite a bit of water [and] each roll [uses] around 37 gallons of water (mic.com)
There’s more stats about the amount of water that toilet paper uses in manufacture in this guide
– Chemical Use
… many brands use bleach to whiten the appearance of their toilet paper [… and,] While standards have vastly improved since 1990, when … stricter guidelines [were implemented] for the bleaching process, it’s not foolproof (mic.com)
– What Happens To TP Once It’s Flushed
Once TP arrives at the sewage plant, it’s either treated and discharged with the rest of the sludge and effluent, or treated and used as a compost (where sewage plants have this capability).
But, this depends on the country and their sewage treatment processes.
Generally seen as one of the more eco friendly and sustainable options along with recycled toilet paper and bamboo toilet paper.
The electric bidet toilet seats might use slightly more energy and water than the non electric ones, and the small bidet attachments (without heated water or warm ary dry features).
One thing to note about bidets is that the footprint of their manufacture process often isn’t taken into account – plastic (made partly from petroleum) and metals (that are mined) could increase their eco and sustainability footprint.
Read more about sustainability related stats for bidets in this guide
– Regular Wet Wipes
May contain plastic fibres, be made with synthetic chemicals, may not biodegrade or compost properly, and is heavily linked with pipe blockages in countries like the US, UK and Australia (can costs hundreds or thousands and even millions of dollars or pounds to fix blockages, and this money could instead be going towards upgrading pipes instead).
Synthetic and non biodegradable or dissolvable wipes are linked to pollution (from synthetic chemicals), and other environmental issues.
– Natural Wet Wipes
May be made with natural fibres, be made with natural chemical, may only biodegrade or compost under certain conditions and may still take too long to break down compared to truly organic material, and may or may not properly dissolve in toilet water (meaning it might still be unsuitable for flushing).
How wet wipes are disposed of can make a difference
Read more about the potential sustainability of wet wipes in this guide
Regular toilet paper – might cost less than $1 a roll
Recycled toilet paper – might cost about $1 a roll
Bamboo toilet paper – might costly only slightly more than $1 a roll
– Bidet Attachments
Might cost on average $30 to $40 for a standard model (but can be more expensive for higher quality and more features).
Attachments are easy to install, are portable, and can be used by people like renters
– Non Electric Bidet Toilet Seats
Might cost on average $100 for a standard model (but can be more expensive for higher quality and more features)
– Electric Bidet Toilet Seats
Might cost on average $250 for a standard model (but can be much more expensive up to thousands of dollars for higher quality and more features)
– Installation, Maintenance & Replacement Costs Of Bidets
Installation, maintenance and replacement costs have to be considered for bidets.
Some bidets can be installed in less than an hour with little upfront cost (except time), have little maintenance, and are cheap to purchase
Some bidets may require the services of a plumber to install though, and some bidets may be more expensive to purchase.
Some bidets might need a specific set up from the toilet it’s being installed on, so make sure to read the installation requirements before installing to make sure you’ve got everything you need for a successful install.
Some sources recommend to stay away from bidets with cheap plastic parts such as plastic screws and plastic t-connecter pieces, which might lead to product issues during use.
You can read a guide on how much it costs to operate a bidet at bidetking.com
Regular wet wipes – might be about 4 cents per wipe
Natural wet wipes – might be about 14 cents per wipe
How They Perform & Clean
Toilet paper moves feces, but can’t wet clean
Toilet paper absorbs urine
Bidets can wet clean feces and urine
Some bidets have air dry features that can also dry an area
Some people still use one or two bits of toilet paper to dry or as a final clean up after using a bidet
Subjectively, some people say bidets do a better job than toilet paper only, they feel cleaner afterwards and how clean you get will vary based on whether you use it in combination with toilet paper or not
Bidets could be helpful for women [during their period, and after sex]
Can move and wet clean feces and urine
Some people choose to still use one or two bits of toilet paper to dry or as a final clean up after using wet wipes
Different people have different health requirements, so see a health professional for any issue that requires an expert opinion.
But, some general comment might be:
Toilet paper is generally fine for most people when used in moderation
Overwiping, or wiping with rougher paper can cause irritation or aggravate the skin and other areas though
People with certain conditions or ailments, like IBS or hemorrhoids, may have some issues with TP
Some reports indicate that some toilet paper has been found to use trace amounts of BPA
… wiping could be leaving faeces behind and excessively wiping could cause health problems such as anal fissures and urinary tract infections (news.com.au)
Toilet paper has its place, as do bidets … [and] for people without major issues, toilet paper is just fine (yahoo.com)
Generally healthy as long as used in moderation, and the water spray is not too strong or not too hot
Is generally softer on and more gentle on the skin than TP
May be good for people with certain requirements, ailments or conditions
Can be good for people with hemorrhoids or rashes, where they don’t want to further irritate the area (scientificamerican.com)
Can sometimes remove good bacteria from the anus or vagina if used too frequently
… using a bidet just might be healthier for … the urinary health of women [specifically, washing out urinary tract infection bacteria]
… a bidet has a gentler effect than toilet paper [on the anal area] … [and] bidets are especially useful for people who have to use the bathroom a lot [and] people who have had surgery below the belt, and women who have just given birth
… bidets are also good for maintaining the natural oils necessary for optimal anal health. Those oils are more likely to break down if you wipe vigorously or use a soap-and-water combination to clean up, versus a stream of plain water … [but] Cleaning too frequently can disrupt some of this good bacteria
Although there is some support for some of the [health] claims, ultimately, you likely shouldn’t turn to a bidet to improve medical issues …
… there’s no hard evidence, no peer-reviewed papers, and nothing that proves bidets actually reduce the amount of fecal matter on your bottom better than toilet paper alone, or make it any less germy …
Believe it or not, there’s no research comparing the health benefits of using a bidet versus toilet paper, so we have to make a judgement based on common sense and anecdotal evidence (refinery29.com)
Generally healthy as long as used in moderation
May sometimes remove good bacteria from the anus or vagina if used too frequently
Some people question the long term use of wet wipes with synthetic chemicals for cleaning, disinfecting and fragrances
Sanitation & Safety
Generally sanitary and safe as long as used as directed
Some reports indicate that toilet paper might have something to do with the amount of viruses passed between humans through human contact, as we use our hands to wipe, and not everyone washes their hands in a sanitary way
… almost 80 percent of all infectious diseases are passed on by human contact and that only about half of us actually wash our hands after using the facilities—making hands-free bidets a safer alternative all around (scientificamerican.com)
Generally hands free unlike toilet paper (unless the bidet user also use toilet paper to dry)
The sprayer nozzle is also fairly sanitary – it sits far enough away from the anus and genitals. And, some bidets self clean the nozzle
… Many attachable bidet models have anti-bacterial properties and are essentially self-sterilizing (biobidet.com)
Generally fairly sanitary and safe
Like toilet paper, because it requires the use of hands to wipe, it’s not as ideal as a hands free bidet for example
Most Eco Friendly Way To Go To The Toilet
In this guide, we discuss might be the most eco friendly way to go to the toilet.
1. Various BMR toilet, bidet, and wet wipe guides