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  Wet Wipes vs Toilet Paper: A Historical


    The wet wipes vs toilet paper

debate is surprisingly recent, primarily because both wet wipes and toilet paper are

surprisingly recent in the long history of human hygiene.
    Toilet paper was introduced first. China is widely believed to have invented toilet

paper. Yan Zhitui made the first known historical reference to paper used for wiping in the

6th Century, saying: “Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five

Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes.” In other words, out

of respect, Yan Zhitui avoided wiping with paper inscribed with the Five Classics and the

names of sages, implying that paper was a known wiping method in those times. However, it

was not until nearly 900 years later that China was believed to manufacture paper

specifically for wiping on a large scale.

    At this time, the Americas were still many centuries away from using toilet paper.

Prior to the late 1800’s, the Americas used what we have dubbed the “closest smooth-ish

object” method (i.e., identifying the closest object that was relatively smooth and using

it to wipe). For example, early Americans used corn cobs, straw, newspapers, catalogs, and

magazines to wipe.

    Patents related to toilet paper started to appear in the late 1800’s.

    And it was not until the early 1900’s that toilet paper began to be manufactured on a

large scale in the form that we know it today.

    The wet wipes vs toilet paper choice saw its birth in the mid-1900s. Wet wipes were

originally known as “wet naps” and were invented in the 1950’s. Wet wipes were not

originally used to wipe the backside, but instead were first sold to Kentucky Fried Chicken

(KFC) to wipe dirty hands.

    It was not until the 1990’s that wet wipes became popular to wipe baby bottoms in the

form that we know them today. There are also make up wet wipes, and

wet wipes bucket.

    Wet wipes remained a toilet paper alternative primarily for wiping babies bottoms for

the next 10-15 years. However, in the last decade,

baby wet wipe demand

has grown by 50%. This is due in part to the adoption of wet wipes by all ages. And in this

last decade, the wet wipes vs toilet paper debate has begun to rage.

    Wet Wipes vs Toilet Paper: How Are They Made?

    Many of the differences in wet wipes vs toilet paper arise from the way that each is

made. And the way that each is made is directly related to the original purpose of each


    Toilet paper is made from trees. The manufacturing process includes stripping trees of

bark, cutting the trees into wood chips, creating a pulp, bleaching the pulp, and pressing

it to drain water and flatten the pulp. Toilet paper is designed in this way so that it

will break down and dissolve easily when exposed to water.

    Wet wipes were originally made to wipe dirty hands. They were made to be durable in

order to clean up messes and to be thrown in the trash, not to disintegrate when introduced

to water. In fact, disintegration when in contact with a fluid would defeat the very nature

of a wet wipe – wet wipes are supposed to be wet; therefore, they should be durable enough

to withstand being wet so that consumers do not purchase a disintegrated product in the

    To provide durability, disinfectant wet wipes are typically composed of various nonwoven fabrics,

such as polyester, polypropylene, viscose pulp, and cotton. It may come as a surprise, but

some of these non-woven fabrics are actually plastics. The integration of natural and

synthetic materials offer wet wipes their durability.

    Wet Wipes vs Toilet Paper: Polls on the Internet

    What can the metrics tell us about who is winning the

adult wet wipes vs

toilet paper debate?

    We polled the audience in our first wet wipes vs toilet paper article to determine how

people wipe. Wet wipes currently have a commanding lead with 62% of the vote followed by

toilet paper with 16% of the vote. Toilet paper spray (which is sprayed directly onto

toilet paper so that the toilet paper functions like a wet wipe) came in third with 9% of

the vote.

    TreeHugger.com has a similar wet wipes vs toilet paper survey. Toilet paper took the

lead in this poll with 59% of the vote, followed by a relatively even split between a bidet

and wet wipes at about 17%. Despite the lopsided results, TreeHugger.com noted an

increasing trend in wipes use, especially among millennials.

    We found a third wet wipes vs toilet paper poll on a BodyBuilding.com forum. The survey

has wet wipes in the lead with almost 47% of the vote, followed by toilet paper at 32%,

with an astounding 20% of participants opting to jump in shower instead.

    The polls demonstrate the relatively even split, depending on the readership, in the

wet wipes vs toilet paper debate.

    Wet Wipes vs Toilet Paper: Price Comparison

    Toilet paper typically offers better pricing than wet wipes. It is best to think of the

cost of wet wipes vs toilet paper in terms of cost per wipe – how much are you spending

each time you wipe?

    We have analyzed the cost of wet wipes extensively in our wet wipes cost article here.

Cost per wipe for wet wipes is influenced primarily by whether you are buying: (1) in bulk,

(2) online or in store, and/or (3) natural, high end brands or brands that may contain

synthetic materials or ingredients. The cost per wet wipe ranges from $0.023 per wipe all

the way to $0.123 per wipe. On average, you will pay about $0.06 each time you wipe your


    Toilet paper is cheaper in the wet wipes vs toilet paper cost analysis. For example,

take this Charmin toilet paper with 24 rolls, each roll having 363 sheets, available on

Amazon for $28.49. That equates to 8,712 sheets of toilet paper. Assuming you use about 6

squares per wipe, you are spending about $0.019 per wipe. On the cheaper end, this Presto

brand toilet paper with 24 rolls, each roll having 308 sheets, is available on Amazon for

$19.43. That equates to 7,392 sheets of toilet paper. At 6 squares per wipe, you are

spending about $0.016 per wipe.

    In sum, when you are considering wet wipes vs toilet paper, keep in mind that the cost

of wet wipes may average 2-3 times the cost toilet paper on a per wipe basis.

    Wet Wipes vs Toilet Paper: Hygiene Issues in the News

    One of the primary drivers behind increased wet wipe use is the improved hygiene that

they provide. Recently, some doctors went so far as to suggest ditching toilet paper

entirely in favor of wet wipes. These doctors warn that wiping with toilet paper alone

could “leave feces behind” and could lead to excessive wiping that “could cause health

problems such as anal fissures and urinary tract infections.” Indeed, they point out that

toilet paper may wipe, but it does not actually clean because it does not contain cleansing

ingredients. Wet wipes, on the other hand, can contain ingredients that actually clean,

which improves hygiene and potentially prevents health issues.

    While wipes may prevent some health issues, it is important to choose your wipes

carefully. Some chemicals in wet wipes have been linked with skin irritation and rashes.

For example, a preservative known as methylisothiazolinone found in some wipes was linked

to rashes (see this article discussing the effects of methylisothiazolinone). As another

example, a preservative in some wipes known as phenoxyethanol has been reported to be a

potential irritant as well.

    If hygiene is a top priority to you in your wet wipes vs toilet paper choice, wet wipes

may be preferable, but be sure to research ingredients prior to purchase if you have

sensitive skin.

    Wet Wipes vs Toilet Paper: Environmental Issues in the News

    Toilet paper is the most eco-friendly option in the wet wipes vs toilet paper

discussion. As we previously pointed out, the TreeHugger.com audience preferred toilet

paper to wet wipes, which we believe could be due to environmental issues with wet wipes

that have recently come to light.

    We have written about the eco issues with wet wipes extensively in our article here;

however, here is a brief introduction. As we discussed above,

non woven wipes are designed

to be durable enough for heavy duty tasks and to avoid immediate disintegration when in

contact with fluid (hence, a “wet” wipe). Therefore, wet wipes do not break down very

easily when exposed to toilet water. In fact, an experiment performed by Consumer Reports

(watch the video, it is fascinating) indicates that even “flushable” wipes may not break

down quickly enough. On the contrary, toilet paper immediately begins degrading when it

touches water, so it does not cause issues after flushing.



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