Butt-Wiping - A History Unrolled: What Did People Use Before Toilet Roll?

Butt-Wiping - A History Unrolled: What Did People Use Before Toilet Roll?

Written by Eli Khrapko

Follow us on an illustrated journey through the history of butt-wiping, from stones to toilet paper

When you look at it, the evolution of mankind is absolutely fascinating. Sure, it’s been a lengthy process but look how far we have come from our apelike ancestors. You could say the same about the history of butt wiping, it too has come a long way. 

The Stone Age: The First Wipe

We’re going to start with the Stone Age (about a million years ago for all you Gen Z’s reading). Butt wiping in the Stone Age started off on a rocky road, as yes, you may have guessed it for thousands of years stones were the go-to wiping method. Wiping your rear with a stone and throwing it in the river sounds painful and we would advise against it but at least it was sustainable, right? 

How did people wipe their bum in Ancient Greece?

We next move over to Ancient Greece, where despite boasting much more advanced literature and art, people still used stones which they called “pessoi” or fragments of ceramic "ostraka". Bizarrely, it has been recorded that the Greeks used to inscribe the names of their nemeses on the ceramic wiping instruments. It’s harder to do this with permanent marker on toilet paper as it just tends to smudge, but definitely worth giving it a thought. 

What about Ancient Rome? What did they use as toilet paper?

In around 800 BC, Ancient Rome seemed to be heading the right direction with a stone-free method of wiping. You may be thinking “finally” but after reading on, you’ll probably be asking for a pessoi or two. The Roman go-to wiping instrument was something they called a “tersorium” or as we would call it “a sponge on a stick”. A step in the right direction for comfort perhaps, but not hygiene. The tersorium was in fact communal (unless you were wealthy enough to own your own) and was washed in a bucket with water and salt or vinegar after each use. As you can imagine, this became a hotspot for breeding bacteria. Disgusting right? Well isn’t this why you’re here…

As well as a huge proportion of manufactured goods in this day and age, it’s said that toilet paper was first developed in China. The exact date remains a mystery but in around 851 AD, an Arab traveller exploring China noted that the Chinese were using paper as opposed to water.

However, before we dive into the soft luxurious toilet paper as we know and love today, we must first explore arguably the most bizarre wiping methods of all by our friends across the pond - corn on the cob (without the corn obviously, that would be unhygienic). The early Americans used to use leaves, straw and dried out cobs for wiping. Fortunately, as many years passed, they thankfully turned to newspapers, catalogues and magazines. Another unmistakeable way of leaving a two-star review for that disappointing matinee.

We’ve come a long way,  but finally reached what the majority of us are most comfortable with, regular toilet paper. Interesting to note that it still wasn’t widely available until the early 1900’s! Now you can buy it in all different colours and patterns to match your bathroom and even different textures to make sure you have the best wipe possible.

BUTT, we haven’t finished our journey, because is there such a thing as too clean down there? Some countries supplement their hygiene routine down there with water. Our co-founder Giorgia for example, is Italian and extremely fond of her bidet. When she moved to the UK she didn’t know what to do! She kept wondering, how do you feel clean down there?

That is where Wype comes in. Wype has gone that extra bit further to ensure that your personal bathroom hygiene is even more enjoyable, without flushing nasty wet wipes down the drain, and without the butt-hurt of additional plumbing.

Find out more here.

Leave questionable hygiene in the past, head over to our shop and upgrade your bathroom routine.



What were some of the most surprising or unusual methods used for butt-wiping throughout history??
Throughout history, various civilizations have employed surprising and unusual methods for butt-wiping. In the Stone Age, for example, stones were used for thousands of years, a method that may seem uncomfortable to modern sensibilities. Ancient Greeks utilized "pessoi" or ceramic fragments, sometimes inscribed with the names of adversaries, while Romans employed communal sponge sticks called "tersorium," which were washed after each use but posed hygiene concerns due to their communal nature. Early Americans relied on natural materials like leaves, straw, and dried corn cobs, later transitioning to newspapers, catalogues, and magazines. These methods reflect the evolution of hygiene practices and cultural norms over time.
How did the evolution of butt-wiping methods reflect advancements in civilization and hygiene practices?
The evolution of butt-wiping methods parallels advancements in civilization and hygiene practices. From the rudimentary and potentially painful stone wiping of the Stone Age to more comfortable methods like the Roman sponge on a stick, there has been a progression toward greater comfort and hygiene. The development of paper-based wiping methods, leading eventually to modern toilet paper, marks a significant milestone in this evolution. Additionally, cultural preferences, such as the use of water in some countries, have influenced modern hygiene products like bidets and Wype, catering to diverse cultural practices and preferences.
Why did certain cultures, like Ancient Greeks and Romans, inscribe names on their wiping instruments?
The inscribing of names on wiping instruments by Ancient Greeks and Romans likely served various purposes, including personalization or identification. It's possible that inscribing names, especially those of enemies, held symbolic or superstitious significance. Alternatively, it could have been a means of humiliation or mockery, using the wiping instrument as a form of symbolic revenge or dominance.
What were the challenges and drawbacks associated with early wiping methods, such as using stones or communal sponge sticks?
Early wiping methods presented several challenges and drawbacks. Stone wiping, for instance, could cause discomfort and even pain due to its rough nature. Communal wiping instruments like the Roman tersorium raised hygiene concerns, as they were shared among individuals and required washing after each use. The use of natural materials like leaves and straw posed environmental and sanitation issues. Moreover, inadequate sanitation practices with these early methods could lead to infections and other health problems.
How does the cultural preference for butt hygiene, such as the use of bidets in some countries, influence modern bathroom hygiene products like Wype?
The cultural preference for butt hygiene influences modern bathroom hygiene products like Wype in several ways. It underscores the importance of cleanliness and comfort in personal hygiene routines. Innovations such as Wype address cultural differences in hygiene practices, offering alternatives to wet wipes without compromising on hygiene or plumbing. By providing customizable solutions that accommodate diverse cultural practices, products like Wype acknowledge and respect the varied preferences of individuals worldwide..

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published