Wet wipes are the Pellegrino of butt-cleansing tools: People who swear by them for their post-bowel movement wipe believe that the method is more thorough and leaves the buttocks cleaner than it would otherwise be. And while I hear you concerning the argument at hand, an anal surgeon says it’s time to ditch those wet wipes for good.
“People think if they can use a wet wipe on their baby, they can use it on themselves,” says Evan Goldstein, DO, anal surgeon and founder of Future Method. However, while wet wipes might make you think you’re getting your butt cleaner, they can actually cause a myriad of complications that you probably don’t want to have to deal with in the long run. Besides being a major environmental concern—which is a big deal—wet wipes aren’t the best option for the health of the anal region.
Just like the skin on your face, your butt and its surrounding skin is covered in good and bad bacteria, which work together to find homeostasis. “This is important, so when you start to augment that [microbiome] with wet wipes, what happens is that you’re wiping away the good bacteria and the balance becomes a problem,” says Dr. Goldstein. When there’s an imbalance, you can wind up with irritation, rashes, or fungal or bacterial infections. “With the homeostasis in the biome altered, bad bacteria starts to populate fungus or irritation, which I see all of the time,” he says, noting that a standout sign of this is redness and overall discomfort. And, BTW: Even wet wipes that are “chemical-free” will do this.
Another big risk with using wet wipes is the moisture factor. “People tend to use wet wipes and then pull up their pants, so what happens is that the moisture sits there,” says Dr. Goldstein. “The moisture just festers, and it causes a change in bacteria and leads to irritation.” If this continually happens, he notes that people can feel as though they have fissures or hemorrhoids when really it’s just a buildup of irritation and bad bacteria. If you experience something like this, make an appointment with your doctor to see what’s going on.
What’s more, wet wipes can cause major problems for the health of the toilet ecosystem as well (ever heard of a fatberg?). “They often get clogged in the plumbing systems, and wind up in rivers and streams, which becomes a major issue,” says Dr. Goldstein. So, according to him—a bonafide bidet advocate—wet wipes should never, ever be used. And there you have it.