The bottom line

The TP shortage continues unabated.

I’m down to 13 rolls. Small ones. This is not a scary number if you know that next week you can go and buy your usual 24-pack. But I can’t. I’m also not prepared to stand in a queue of potentially lethal bogans on the offchance of snaffling a single twin-pack. There is another way.

(In the interests of full disclosure, these links are unaffiliated and I don’t get anything for posting them. I’m just showing you what I’ve been looking at.)

I can’t afford to install a fabulous all-singing, all-dancing bidet toilet. The Husband secretly lusts after one, with multiple programs and sensors, adjustable water temperature, a variety of spray intensities, warm-air drying and a heated seat. For a couple of hundred, you can buy a bidet attachment to retrofit to your toilet. But it doesn’t heat the water or dry you after. I can afford a shattaf hand spray which can be installed by a reasonably competent DIYer. Which I am. That’s what I’m after, ideally. The Husband, tropical-climate princess that he is, feels that the cold-water-only spray may be a bit chilly in the winter. Or what they call winter here in the tropics, which is a balmy spring day to the rest of us. So we’ve agreed to try an intermediate stage before we agree on a long-term solution.

I’ve ordered a ‘portable bidet‘ from amazon.com. Squeezy bottle, long stem with right-angled spray head on the end. There’s an amazing selection of these devices out there, so I read all the user reviews and picked the one that gave the strongest spray for the smallest size. Sadly, the vast majority of these items are now out of stock, as it seems the toilet tissue issue has bitten deep. Got in just in time!

To accompany this device, I have made a selection of dry-off cloths and a pump bottle of lavender water. Do your business, spray with water till clean, dampen cloth with lavender water (still a work in progress), and wipe. There should be nothing visible to worry about. If there is, you haven’t sprayed enough. I’ve seen a YouTube video demonstrating these things in action and she was able to dislodge a large lump of very sticky peanut butter from an apple. Very tastefully done, but enough to show it worked. I’ve seen another, demonstrating another device, using Nutella and the top of a clenched fist. Much less tasteful, especially when he licked off the Nutella afterwards…. The device is effective but initially a little challenging to use if you’re new to the concept. The used cloth goes into a lidded container. No, it’s not smelly, except if you count lavender water. It’s just water, remember?  You could get in there with soap if there’s a lot of clean up to do.

For small jobs, my cloths are 6 inches square and made of flannel with serged edges. For the bigger jobs, I halved old face washers and serged the raw edges. These are 12 x 6 inches. I have a spray pump bottle filled with water and about 5 drops of lavender oil. I’m looking at adding some glycerine, aloe vera gel, etc, to see if that increases long term bum-comfort.

While I wait for the portable bidet to arrive (mid-April, eek!), I’ve had to resort to a temporary solution. Voilà. The bottle formerly known as Toilet Duck or other local variation, henceforth to be known as Bottom Buddy. Wash it out well. Fill it fresh for each use – unsurprisingly, the Husband likes warm water, the great big girl’s blouse. It works surprisingly well. Scoot forward on the seat and lean forward for rear cleansing and aim the nozzle at the, er, bullseye… In other words, hold the bottle as you would for toilet cleaning, but pointing at yourself. For front cleansing, scoot back and lean backwards. Simples, peoples… Squeeze, gently at first and then to the pressure that works for you. Release and repeat. Use all the water. Take a cloth, give it a couple of squirts of lavender water. Wipe and dry. Put the cloth in a lidded container till it’s time to launder them.

I repeat, this is not stinky or chunky. There are no Klingons,  dags or dingleberries. However, wash the cloths hot, as you would with terrycloth nappies/diapers. This is no grosser than pullng your underwear back over a bottom that hasn’t been washed at all after doing your business. Hot water and soap takes care of it all. If it works in the shower when you wash yourself, it’ll work in the washing machine.

If you can, wash the bottle and nozzle after use. It shouldn’t touch the body, but a little back spray is possible.

I know how much damage ‘foreign materials’ flushed away can do. I’m not ever going there. To one raised on the paper scrub-clean, this takes a little getting used to. To most of the Asian world, it’s normal. If you’ve been using a ‘wet wipe’ after anyway, as I have for years, it’s not so weird. The big downside about this? Forgetting what you’re doing and dropping the cloth in the toilet. Yup, you’ll have to get in there after it. So don’t forget.

I’ll let you know how it goes. So far, I’m really pleased with the result, but I think the purpose made bottle will be a bit more user friendly than the Bottom Buddy. I may also need to make more cloths, or change the spray formulation. This is simple, cheap, and easy, and you know what?  It feels good!

I’m also working on a small travel-sized kit with a small squeezy bottle you can fill from a tap, a small spray pump of lavender water and a couple of cloths, in a zippered waterproof bag .

And yes, visitors will remain untraumatised. I’ve kept my remaining TP rolls for them.

62 thoughts on “The bottom line

  1. Clever and beautifully explained.

    • katechiconi says:

      I did wonder whether it would be a hack too far and I’d get a lot of distaste, but it’s simple and easy and not at all unpleasant, so I thought I should share.

  2. Oh god – hilarious descriptions Kate – I had tears! Tears!! The toilet duck bottle is just perfect – who knew!! I went through Europe years ago with my homemade lavender cloths ready for all emergencies. I’ve not given them a thought since. I was just planning on using the shower – it’s a mere two steps away. But mostly, right now I’m hoping I’ve got enough tp on hand and will be able to buy some more a bit further down the track……. But I’ll save the empty toilet duck bottle too – just in case.

  3. tialys says:

    I am so looking forward to your Etsy shop.

  4. nanacathy2 says:

    Trust Tialys! I think the toilet duck bottle idea is genius, and I shall certainly be keeping the empties! Not certain I know where to get lavender water either. I reckon we could all do as the Romans did with a sponge on a stick!

  5. I had to zoom in to see what ‘serged’ meant. Now I know. Thank you. I’ve used old knackered flannels and handtowels cut into small pieces for number ones for years. Have drawn the line at using for number twos so far though. hugs

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s the same as overlocking, the way they finish the seams inside garments. None of the cloths actually deal with anything mucky, as it all gets sluiced off by Mr Toilet Duck first, so in theory they’re no dirtier than your actual undies.

  6. Great tips, but I’m still eyeing up all the bits of paper in my house that are a damn sight softer than that Izal stuff my parents used to expect us to use to deal with our dags and dingleberries.

    • katechiconi says:

      You do know you can still buy Izal…? Apparently it’s not quite as penitential (not to mention totally useless) as it used to be. They had it in my very first school, 50+ years ago! Do watch out with flushing anything other than purpose designed TP. Even tissues don’t disperse quickly enough, apparently.

      • I wonder who buys it?
        I did think about that, as we have a septic tank – especially printer ink being a problem – but given the tank sits there for months without being empty, the tissue issue might not be such a problem as it won’t be racing through the sewage system.

      • katechiconi says:

        Probably the entire supply is bought up by Masochists United.
        I’m really not sure I find the idea of wiping printer ink on my bum on a regular basis very safe. But to each her own. I’ll stick with Mr Toilet Duck and the retired face flannels!

      • 🙂
        No, I’m wiping the side that isn’t printed on in my to print on the unused side box under my desk. But before I get to that I still have loo roll and probably other more pleasant things like tissues.

  7. Brilliant Kate! I actually buy my TP from ‘Who gives a Crap’ and it is delivered at regular intervals. A bit dearer than the supermarket stuff but there is no plastic packaging and half the profits go to build toilets in places where there are none. However I love your idea and when … er … WHEN I build the compost loo on the veg patch I will use it – TP goes soggy with damp in such places.

    • katechiconi says:

      You could try keeping the TP in a plastic lunch box, but I do think my solution is nice and simple, and the test run I’ve given it so far seems to be working nicely. Certainly my rear end is quite happy!

  8. may I share your post with my permaculture friends?

    • katechiconi says:

      Please do! I think it’s an excellent way to recycle Toilet Ducks, old towels and worn out flannel sheets, too! And once the cloths are just too daggy, you can just fling them down the pit!

  9. Brilliantly said … to a person who always has a bucket and mug in the toilet it’s not a time for me to be worried about no TP… another day in the life of this Indian 😄

  10. kathyreeves says:

    This is quite useful and hilarious, what a great way to wake up on a Friday morning! While we are set for TP (DH was an Eagle Scout🙂), I don’t have any of those handy toilet cleaner containers to repurpose since I started to make my own toilet “cookies” so I’ll be on the look out. No doubt the neighbor’s have them. That will be quite a conversation!

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s always fun when information is both useful and hilarious! The toilet cleaner container is the perfect shape, but a squeezy mustard or ketchup bottle might also work in achieving the right sort of jet of water. It’s a question of volume + aperture divided by pressure. Or something. You could always tell the neighbours you want it for watering some high-up plant or other…

  11. About a month ago I stocked up my loo roll stash, so we have plenty, but I also have plenty of old towels and fabric, so will remember your suggestions just in case. Actually, it’s something we could almost all do to reduce resource use under ‘normal’ circumstances.

    • katechiconi says:

      If our hoarders and panic buyers continue in the same mad way, there will still only be very limited supplies in half a year’s time. I hope your supply holds out! And you know, this is actually much cleaner, puts less strain on the sewage system, costs less and recycles old fabrics very effectively. Of course, you can compost the cloths when they become too raggedy. It doesn’t even need a flush toilet…

  12. kymlucas says:

    Very nice explanation! In the interest of cutting down on paper waste, we bought a bidet seat attachment back in December. Chose a basic one – no heat, music or lights – and I did wonder how the cold water would be as I’m a bit of a freezebaby myself.
    It’s fine, and has really cut down on paper usage.
    Not sure how many rolls we have left, but if we get too low, I may borrow the rest of your solution.
    If anyone’s on the fence (seat?) about choosing this as an answer to the problem, my advice is go for it if you can get one. Even in December, DIY stores had nothing. I had to order online.
    Here’s the one we got:

  13. Sharon says:

    Hilarious but so useful and spot on!

  14. Marty K says:

    I will definitely be on the lookout for a suitable Bottom Buddy (that just doesn’t sound right, now does it?). I have lots of old washcloths that I’m planning on repurposing anyway plus a hand-held in the shower, so we should be good even if the current TP shortage continues.

    Well, I’m off to the loo (the power of suggestion is strong). Please give Mouse some lovin’ from us!

    • katechiconi says:

      No that sounds a bit… well, call it Toilet Duck or Lysol bottle, or whatever your local variant is. I have now tested the system under several conditions and it continues to work just fine. I even got it right when mostly asleep in the middle of the night. Mouse wants to know what the fuss is about. Just get the Staff to pick up after you!

  15. Dayphoto says:

    Here I am joining the crowd to tell you to thank you. I’m sending your link around to family members.

  16. anne54 says:

    I was a bit taken aback when I read “she was able to dislodge a large lump of very sticky peanut butter…..” and very relieved to read on for “from an apple”! In wartime people came up with all sorts of solutions for problems they faced, which is exactly what you are doing. Well done!

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m beginning to be particular about how full the bottle is, as the pressure is better on a full one. Bring on the Travel Bidet! And I expect once I get that, I’ll be wanting my plumbed-in hand squirter! It’s basically taken me 24 hours to become a connoisseur and convert!

  17. Two years ago in Cape Town, when our water shortage made international headlines, people had to discuss hygiene issues and ways of using toilets with minimal use of grey water (specially saved from your washing-up or 5-second shower), in very clear language. Also ways of dealing with one’s waste products without toilets altogether…!

    • katechiconi says:

      That last isn’t strange to Australians. So many of our country highway facilities feature a ‘long drop’, a composting toilet where the only water available is to wash your hands and is non-potable. It’s scary to many visitors, but it’s designed and works well.
      Mr Toilet Duck bottle is working well and already I’m getting more efficient 😉 To the point where we’ve actually ordered the hand spray to be plumbed in beside the toilet…
      A 5 second shower is harsh! If I only had that long I think I’d take a bucket bath instead, using the same amount of water.

  18. Joanne S says:

    I learn something everyday. . . and with a snicker. However, kidding aside, these are actually good ideas and solutions.

    • katechiconi says:

      The snicker is entirely understandable, and even the effect I was after in the post, but the solution is working well for us both, to the point where we’ve now actually ordered a hand-held narrow triggered shower head (aka the ‘Bum Gun’) to be plumbed in beside the toilet as a permanent fixture.

  19. Omg Kate you have me laughing. Fortuitously we shopped pre-covid19 craziness and with usage moderation i.e. 2 x 2 sheets have a decent supply. That becoming exhausted, there are plenty of tobacco bush leaves out the back… a tried and true solution according to the G.O. You are a generous soul… for the duration of social distancing we’ll not be receiving visitors, negating the need to accommodate their possible TP usage.

    • katechiconi says:

      I see it as almost a public service now! Because we’re not flushing paper, we’re hopefully slightly mitigating the effect of others’ use of inappropriate materials… I have to say, I’m very happy with the new process, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of our shiny stainless steel ‘bum gun’…

  20. We are on the same page here, Kate. I dug out a bundle of inexpensive white terry cloth I was going to line bibs with years ago and also made some towel covers for my acupuncturist. It’s been languishing and yesterday I decided to make paper towels, and toilet wipes with it. They charged $7 a roll for my regular paper towels. I paid $15 for 8 of them last month. I have plenty still so I didn’t buy them but darn it all, I’m not going to stand for being robbed. I know they have probably closed all the factories making this stuff so it will be awhile before we get any more. I like you personal bidet idea. I’m with the husband. I want warm water. I have the serger pulled out to re-thread in the morning when I can see better and will start cutting the toweling. Maybe I’ll use some of my multiple yards of flannel to back them. My poor daughter has never had to go to these extremes but it’s about time the younger generation learned how we ‘make do’. I was using a lot of paper towels because my coughs are rather blustery and tissue doesn’t get it. Mine can survive a wash in a pocket but I handed my daughter a hand towel and said ‘here’s your new paper towel’ No more throw away. I’m working on making face masks too because I need them when air quality is poor. I have had quite a good supply for a long time and only use them on days when someone is burning a fire or air is bad. There are those filters built into one someone gave me but I haven’t figured out how to attach them or even get the right ones ordered. What a world we are living in. But it’s not been easy for many over the generations so I’m not complaining. Just a new test to see how creative we can be. I think you win the prize. 😉

    • katechiconi says:

      I can point you at a mask pattern that includes a pocket for sliding a surgical mask into it, or a suggestion for alternative filter material. Let me know if you’d like it and I’ll send the link. And the Husband is coming round to the cold water routine!

      • I like the idea of a pocket in the mask. I’m searching all options. I’d appreciate the links. The rains start tonight so I’ll be sewing most of tomorrow or as long as the eyes hold out. 😉 I will never like cold water there. 😉 😉

      • katechiconi says:

        Here’s the link to the post about the mask and how to make it (scroll all the way to the end to see the version with a pocket for an insert, it’s the red mask). I’ll email you the pattern separately so you don’t need to download it. Read the process carefully, you need to add various seam allowances for the different parts and also for the version with the pocket.

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