The Great Toilet Paper shortage may have eased for now, but in recent months, when little was to be found on grocery store shelves, I found myself confronted once again with challenges of personal hygiene. As I’ve written before, cleaning up after #2 is not easy when your hands don’t work well. This has been exacerbated for me recently with painful calcium deposits in the pads of both thumbs. But with toilet paper a scarce commodity, I’ve had to be conscious of conserving paper—as any of you with scleroderma well know, that makes it extra hard to really do the job.
For several years I relied on “flushable” wipes, which are a very efficient solution. But I had to give up after the second of two disastrous lessons in the physics of sewer line back-ups into our basement. As our plumber said, there’s no such thing as a flushable wipe. Indeed, not only do they clog plumbing, but also those wet wipes that make it into the sewer system cause major problems in public waste sanitation systems, creating what the industry terms “fatbergs” that destroy expensive pumps.
After our trip to Greece last summer, where you quickly learn to toss all toilet paper in the handy waste basket next to the toilet, because the plumbing and sewers can’t handle even regular toilet paper, I tried a modified approach of disposing my wipes, wrapped in more toilet paper, into the bathroom waste can. But this uses a lot of paper, once again, and the wipes are also still not biodegradable. Moistening toilet paper with water doesn’t work well, either, if (a) you have bandages that you don’t want to get wet, and (b) the toilet paper often disintegrates.
So, this brings me to my latest solution, which I found thanks to all the articles and blogs being written about toilet paper alternatives when none could be found due to the pandemic: a postpartum peribottle. Designed for women to ease soreness after childbirth, this is a soft rubber bottle with a spout with a hooked end, so you can hold it upside down, aim and squirt. It does not eliminate the need for toilet paper, but it certainly cuts down on how much.
I found one for $15 online, and it has a collapsible spout and even a little bag for travel. It takes a little practice, but it is definitely the easiest and cleanest solution I’ve come across so far. And it’s far cheaper than installing a bidet.
Even if you don’t have hand problems, using a peribottle is a mighty convenient way to conserve toilet paper—which, in turn, saves the trees that toilet paper is made from. And saving trees helps to moderate climate change and maintain animal habitats—which matters for a host of reasons, including the mounting evidence that human encroachment on natural habitats contributed to the way that a bat-borne virus morphed into the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s all interconnected, folks.
Image: Jasmin Sessler