The Toilet Paper Dilemma: Why Do Americans Prefer It?

Toilet paper – it’s something most of us use every day, but have you ever wondered why Americans, in particular, seem to have an enduring love affair with it? In this exploration, we’ll delve into the cultural and historical factors that have made toilet paper a staple in American bathrooms and compare it to the bidet, a popular alternative in many parts of the world.

We’ll also discuss the hygiene debate surrounding toilet paper versus water, take a global tour of bathroom practices, and even touch on some other curious American habits like wearing shoes indoors and using Fahrenheit. Let’s embark on this enlightening journey through the world of toilet paper and beyond.

Toilet Paper vs. Bidet: Cultural Preferences

here’s a simple comparison table between toilet paper and bidets:

AspectToilet PaperBidet
HygieneEffective with proper techniqueHighly effective at thorough cleaning
ComfortMay not provide the same freshnessOften considered more comfortable
Environmental ImpactConventional production can be harmfulCan be more eco-friendly with less paper
ConvenienceEasily accessible and requires no installationMay require plumbing and installation
CostTypically lower initial costMay involve higher upfront expense
MaintenanceMinimal maintenance requiredRequires some maintenance and cleaning
Cultural NormsPrevalent in some Western countriesCommon in many Asian and European countries
Global AdoptionWidespread usage in the U.S. and parts of EuropeMore common in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East
Personal PreferenceVaries by individual preferenceVaries by individual preference
This table highlights key aspects of comparison between toilet paper and bidets, allowing for a quick overview of the differences and considerations associated with each option. Keep in mind that personal preferences and regional norms play a significant role in the choice between these two methods of personal hygiene.

Why do Americans use toilet paper and not bidet?

Americans’ preference for toilet paper over bidets can be traced back to a combination of historical, cultural, and practical factors.

  1. Historical Factors: In the early days of American plumbing and bathroom design, bidets were not commonly found in American homes. Bidets have historically been more prevalent in European and Asian countries, whereas American bathroom fixtures have been oriented toward the use of toilet paper for cleaning. This historical lack of exposure to bidets contributed to the establishment of toilet paper as the primary cleansing method in the United States.
  1. Cultural Norms: Cultural norms play a significant role in shaping bathroom habits. In the United States, the use of toilet paper has become deeply ingrained in daily life. Americans are accustomed to this method of cleaning, and it is considered the norm. The absence of bidets in American homes has reinforced the cultural acceptance of toilet paper as the default option.
  1. Practicality and Convenience: Toilet paper is seen as a practical and convenient option for many Americans. It is readily available, easy to use, and requires minimal maintenance. Bidets, on the other hand, involve additional plumbing and installation costs, and they may be perceived as less straightforward to use. The familiarity and simplicity of toilet paper make it a go-to choice for those who have grown up using it.

Do Koreans use toilet paper or water?

Korean bathroom habits offer an interesting contrast to those of Americans. Traditionally, Koreans have favored water-based cleansing methods, which involve using water to clean themselves after using the toilet. This practice reflects several cultural and practical considerations:

  • Cultural Tradition: Water-based cleansing methods have a long history in Korea and many other Asian countries. The use of water, whether through bidets or handheld sprays, is deeply ingrained in Korean culture and is considered a more thorough and hygienic way to clean after using the toilet.
  • Shift in Preferences: While traditional water-based cleansing methods have been prevalent in Korea, the introduction of bidets and advanced toilet technology has led to a shift in preferences. Many modern Korean homes now feature bidet-equipped toilets, offering both water-based and toilet paper options to cater to individual preferences.
In summary, the choice between toilet paper and bidet in the United States and Korea is influenced by historical practices, cultural norms, and practical considerations. Americans have a long-standing tradition of using toilet paper due to historical factors and cultural norms, while Koreans traditionally favor water-based cleansing methods but are also adapting to the availability of bidet technology. These differences in bathroom habits reflect the diversity of cultural practices and preferences around the world.

Hygiene Concerns: Toilet Paper or Water?

Is toilet paper or water more hygienic?

The hygiene debate between toilet paper and water-based cleaning methods is a topic that continues to spark discussions. Both options have their merits and considerations, and the choice ultimately depends on personal preference and cultural influences. Here, we’ll delve deeper into the hygiene aspects of both methods.

Toilet Paper Hygiene:

  • Convenience: Toilet paper is widely recognized for its convenience. It is readily available, easy to use, and requires no additional equipment or plumbing.
  • Effectiveness: While toilet paper may not provide the same sense of freshness as water, it can effectively remove fecal matter and other residues from the skin. The key is using it correctly and ensuring thorough cleaning.

Water-Based Cleaning Hygiene:

  • Thorough Cleaning: Water-based cleaning methods, such as bidets or handheld sprays, are often lauded for their thoroughness. The use of water can wash away debris more effectively than wiping with paper.
  • Hydration and Freshness: Water-based methods can leave the user feeling cleaner and fresher due to the use of water, especially in regions with hot and humid climates.
  • Scientific Perspective: From a scientific standpoint, water is a more effective cleansing agent than dry paper. It can remove particles more efficiently and reduce the chances of residue remaining on the skin. However, proper technique is crucial for effective cleaning with either method.
  • Cultural Perspectives: The perception of hygiene is also influenced by cultural factors. In many cultures where water-based methods are prevalent, they are considered superior for cleanliness. Conversely, in regions where toilet paper is the norm, it is perceived as a hygienic choice.

Does toilet paper clean properly?

There are common misconceptions about the effectiveness of toilet paper in cleaning. Let’s address some of these misconceptions and emphasize the importance of proper technique:

  • Misconception 1: Toilet Paper Leaves Residue: While it’s true that toilet paper may leave some residue if not used correctly, it can be highly effective when used in the right way. Folding the paper, using multiple sheets, and ensuring thorough wiping can reduce the chances of residue.
  • Misconception 2: Toilet Paper Doesn’t Clean Thoroughly: Toilet paper is designed for effective cleaning when used properly. It can remove fecal matter and other contaminants from the skin, but the key is to avoid excessive friction that can cause irritation.
  • Proper Technique: To ensure proper cleaning with toilet paper, it’s important to use gentle but thorough wiping motions. Avoid excessive rubbing, which can lead to discomfort and irritation. Additionally, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after using toilet paper or any other cleaning method.
In conclusion, the debate between toilet paper and water-based cleaning methods hinges on individual preferences, cultural influences, and practical considerations. Both methods can be hygienic when used correctly. The key is to choose the method that makes you feel the cleanest and most comfortable while practicing good hygiene habits. Proper technique, regardless of the method chosen, is essential for maintaining cleanliness and reducing the risk of irritation or infection.

Global Toilet Paper Trends

Which countries use toilet paper instead of water?

Toilet paper has indeed gained global popularity, and its preference is notably strong in certain regions. While it’s challenging to provide an exhaustive list of countries that primarily use toilet paper, some regions where toilet paper is the preferred choice include:

  • North America: In the United States and Canada, toilet paper is the dominant choice for personal hygiene in the bathroom. This preference is deeply rooted in cultural norms and historical practices.
  • Western Europe: Many Western European countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Spain, predominantly use toilet paper. Although bidets are more common in parts of Europe, toilet paper remains a widely accepted choice.
  • Australia and New Zealand: In these countries, toilet paper is the go-to option for personal hygiene. It is readily available and commonly used in households and public restrooms.
  • Certain Asian Countries: While bidets and water-based methods are prevalent in several Asian countries, toilet paper is also widely used alongside these alternatives, especially in urban areas and among younger generations.

What countries don’t use toilet paper?

Many countries have traditionally relied on alternatives to toilet paper, such as water, bidets, or washlets. These alternatives are deeply rooted in cultural practices and may offer unique insights into the preferences of these regions:

  • Japan: Japan is known for its advanced toilet technology, including washlets (high-tech bidet toilets). While toilet paper is used, washlets with water spray functions are extremely popular and offer a high level of cleanliness.
  • South Korea: In South Korea, water-based cleansing methods, including bidets and handheld sprays, have long been the norm. However, modern Korean homes often feature bidet-equipped toilets that offer both options.
  • Middle Eastern and Islamic Countries: In many Middle Eastern and Islamic countries, water-based cleansing methods, such as bidets or the use of a water jug (known as a “lota”), are prevalent. These practices are influenced by Islamic hygiene traditions.
  • South and Southeast Asia: In countries like India, Indonesia, and Thailand, water is commonly used for cleansing after using the toilet. The use of water may involve bidets, handheld sprays, or simply a bucket and scoop.
  • Parts of Africa: In various African countries, water-based cleansing methods are prevalent, with the use of water and a jug or bucket being a common practice. This aligns with traditional hygiene practices in many African cultures.
  • Some European and Latin American Countries: Bidets are more commonly found in parts of Southern Europe, such as Italy and Portugal, as well as in some Latin American countries like Argentina and Brazil. However, toilet paper is also used alongside bidets in these regions.
It's important to note that bathroom hygiene practices can vary within countries and may be influenced by urbanization, access to resources, and generational shifts in preferences. The choice between toilet paper and water-based methods reflects the diversity of cultural practices and preferences around the world, making it a fascinating aspect of global cultural diversity.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Toilet Paper

Benefits of using toilet paper

Toilet paper offers several benefits, which contribute to its widespread use worldwide:

  • Convenience: One of the primary advantages of using toilet paper is its convenience. It is easy to use, requires no special equipment or plumbing, and is readily available in most places. This makes it a practical choice for many individuals and households.
  • Portability: Toilet paper’s compact and lightweight nature makes it highly portable. Whether you’re at home, in the office, or traveling, it’s easy to carry a small roll of toilet paper for personal use.
  • Accessibility: Toilet paper is accessible to people of all ages and physical abilities. Its use doesn’t require the same level of dexterity or mobility as water-based cleaning methods, making it suitable for a wide range of individuals.
  • Minimal Maintenance: Unlike bidets and other water-based cleaning systems that may require installation and maintenance, toilet paper requires no special upkeep. Simply replace the roll when it’s empty, and you’re good to go.

Toilet Paper or Water: Which is Better?

The choice between toilet paper and water-based cleaning methods is a matter of personal preference, and both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed decision:

Toilet Paper:


  • Convenience: Toilet paper is readily available and easy to use.
  • Familiarity: Many people are accustomed to using toilet paper and feel comfortable with it.
  • Minimal Maintenance: No additional plumbing or equipment is required.


  • Environmental Impact: Traditional toilet paper production can have adverse effects on the environment, including deforestation and water usage.

Water-Based Cleaning Methods (Bidets, Washlets, Water Sprays):


Hygiene: Water-based methods are often considered more hygienic and effective at cleaning.

Environmental Benefits: These methods can be more environmentally friendly, especially bidets with adjustable water pressure and temperature settings.

Comfort: Many users find water-based methods more comfortable and refreshing.


Installation and Cost: Bidets and washlets may require installation and additional expense.

Learning Curve: Some people may initially find water-based methods less familiar and take time to adapt.

Water Usage: High-pressure bidets can consume significant amounts of water, potentially impacting water conservation efforts.

Ultimately, the choice between toilet paper and water-based cleaning methods depends on individual preferences, cultural influences, and personal values. Some individuals prefer the convenience and familiarity of toilet paper, while others prioritize the perceived hygiene and environmental benefits of water-based methods. Consider your own priorities and comfort when making this decision, and be open to exploring different options to find what works best for you.

Beyond Toilets: American Habits

Why do Americans wear shoes in the house?

The practice of wearing shoes indoors in the United States is influenced by a combination of cultural norms, convenience, and individual preferences:

  • Cultural Norms: In some American households, it is considered customary to wear shoes indoors. This practice can be attributed to cultural norms and regional differences. For instance, in areas with cold or wet climates, people may wear shoes indoors to keep their feet warm and dry. In contrast, in some Asian and European cultures, it’s customary to remove shoes before entering a home to maintain cleanliness.
  • Convenience: Wearing shoes indoors can be convenient, especially in homes with busy lifestyles. People may wear shoes to save time and effort, as taking them off and putting them back on can be seen as an additional task. This is particularly common in urban areas where people are constantly in and out of their homes.
  • Hygiene Considerations: While some individuals believe that wearing shoes indoors helps keep their feet clean, it’s important to note that shoes can carry dirt, bacteria, and allergens from the outside environment into the home. This can have implications for indoor air quality and overall cleanliness.
  • Personal Preferences: Some Americans simply prefer the comfort and support that shoes provide, even indoors. This preference varies from person to person and may be influenced by individual habits and lifestyle choices.
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the potential hygiene and health concerns associated with wearing shoes indoors. Many households are adopting the practice of removing shoes at the door to maintain cleaner living spaces and reduce the risk of bringing contaminants indoors. Ultimately, the choice to wear shoes indoors or remove them is a matter of personal preference and cultural norms, and it can vary widely across the United States.

Why do Americans use Fahrenheit?

The use of Fahrenheit for temperature measurements in the United States is a historical legacy that sets the country apart from most of the world, which predominantly uses the Celsius (Centigrade) scale. Here’s a brief exploration of the historical context behind this choice:

  • Historical Origin: The Fahrenheit scale was developed by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, a German physicist, in the early 18th century. Fahrenheit designed his temperature scale with a focus on the freezing and boiling points of water and the human experience of temperature. He set 32 degrees as the freezing point of water and 212 degrees as the boiling point at standard atmospheric pressure.
  • Early Adoption: When the Fahrenheit scale was first introduced in the United States, it gained popularity and became the standard for measuring temperature. This adoption was largely due to the influence of American scientists and engineers who used the Fahrenheit scale in their work.
  • Continued Usage: Despite the global adoption of the Celsius scale in most countries, the United States has retained the Fahrenheit scale for everyday temperature measurement. This historical continuity has led to a situation where the Fahrenheit scale is deeply ingrained in American culture.
  • Global Disparities: The use of Fahrenheit in the U.S. creates disparities when communicating temperature with the rest of the world, where the Celsius scale is the norm. This can lead to confusion, especially in international contexts.
Efforts to transition to the Celsius scale in the United States have been made but have not gained widespread traction. The use of Fahrenheit remains a distinctive feature of American culture and daily life, even as the global scientific community predominantly employs the Celsius scale.


In conclusion, the preference for toilet paper in America is deeply rooted in culture and history, but it’s just one piece of the global bathroom puzzle. By understanding the factors that influence our choices and embracing diverse cultural practices, we can gain a more comprehensive perspective on this seemingly mundane yet essential aspect of our lives.

Whether you’re Team Toilet Paper or Team Bidet, it’s clear that there’s more to this debate than meets the eye, and it’s a conversation worth having as we continue to navigate the intricacies of modern life.

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