Prof. Dr. med. Alexander Herold is firmly of the belief that water is the only way to ensure a really thorough cleaning. In this interview, he explains the risks of cleaning yourself incorrectly and why most people in Central Europe still favour toilet paper.
Prof. Dr. med. Alexander Herold is a specialist in coloproctology at the internationally renowned colorectal clinic edz Mannheim.
As an expert in this field, he advocates the use of water in toilet hygiene and advises against opting for treated toilet paper or wet wipes.
“My recommendation is always the same: whenever possible, you should only clean yourself with water.”
It is completely natural to use water for general personal hygiene. So why is it not equally natural when it comes to toilet hygiene?
Water is just as important for keeping your bottom clean as it is for cleansing the rest of your body. In the past, people didn’t use as much water in their personal hygiene. This is scarcely conceivable nowadays, when people shower almost on a daily basis – and yet we are lagging behind when it comes to hygiene for our bottom.
What cleaning method would you recommend?
I’m very clear on this: pure water, either warm or cold, is always the most thorough and gentle cleaning method. People should steer clear of bleached, perfumed or coloured paper due to the risk of allergic reactions. I would also advise against using wet wipes. Some people can have allergic reactions to the chemicals that give wet wipes their long shelf lives or the substances that keep them moist.
What are the dangers of incorrect rectal hygiene?
Incorrect rectal hygiene can cause allergies, skin irritations as well as eczema, with sometimes unbearable itching. The same applies to inadequate or incorrect cleaning. Particularly in the case of softer stools, residual faecal matter in the anal folds cannot be cleaned satisfactorily with paper, which increases the risk of the aforementioned problems occurring.
What disadvantages are there to cleaning with water?
There aren’t any. With water, your bottom is cleaned thoroughly, and the cleaning is also gentle to your skin. So water is by far the most hygienic cleaning agent.
Do you have a theory as to why most people in Central Europe use toilet paper?
I believe it has to do with the historical development of the toilet. In the past, toilets had no flushing mechanism and as a result, there was no water in the toilet. Consequently, people couldn’t clean themselves with water, so it seems that old newspapers were the only option. This is how the use of toilet paper became established and survived to this day, even though it isn’t the most thorough method.
What do you advise for rectal hygiene when you are travelling away from home?
Cleaning with water is still the best method, even if you are on the move. If this isn’t possible, I recommend a compromise: moisten paper tissues under the tap and clean your bottom with them, then dry by dabbing with a dry tissue.
Have you ever tried a shower toilet? What do you think of them?
I have already tried shower toilets and I am totally won over – I can definitely recommend them.