A reader, AnnaJoy G, recently wrote me:
I’m a ciswoman and looking for bidet advice for folks with vaginas. Conventional bidet methods seem to involve dirty water trickling down the butt and towards the vulva, the perfect recipe for a UTI. Online advice columns presume the hiker is a cisman and seem oblivious to the unique considerations of female bodies. I start backpacking the PCT in May and would love to make sure I have my poop game on-lock and no UTIs on the trail.
The guide team has discussed this matter internally, so that in the field we can nuance our tutorials for those with male and female parts. But to date I’ve never put something online, and it’s time. So I checked in with a few of the ciswomen guides for their advice.
I use the bidet daily. The beginning of the process is the same as the male-oriented instructions that have been shared online. But after washing my dirty hand with soap, so that my hand is clean again, I rinse generously from front-to-back with enough water to ensure that no fecal water could remain. Then I clean my hands again. Also, I make sure to squat low enough so that water is flowing backwards, not forwards.
I’ve never had a UTI that I blame on a bidet gone wrong.
In addition to the bidet, I stay clean by rinsing and rotating my underwear daily or almost daily.
I have used the bidet everyday outside for over eight years and have never had a UTI. I think it has prevented UTI’s for my long trips.
The trick is to sluice water from the front, for both pee and poop.
- Use your hand as the ‘funnel’: right hand is my clean hand, which handles the water bottle and soap dropper bottle.
- Drop 1-2 drops of soap into cupped left hand, then pour some water into it.
- Rub around the back, and replenish left hand with fresh water until all soap is gone: water, splash/rub, water, splash/rub, etc.
- Repeat if needed for vulva area.
Before pulling up pants, switch hands and soap/rinse right hand. Pull up pants and enjoy being clean and fresh outside everyday 🙂
At first I was really nervous about the backcountry bidet method for the exact reasons you described. I will try anything once and ended up really liking the bidet. Now I use it daily in the backcountry. The biggest adjustment that I made was getting a specific tool, the CuloClean Bidet, to help me be more specific with the direction of the water rather than just splashing around with my hand. I still use my hand and wash with water and soap, but this tool helps with accuracy.
I have had many UTI’s, but none that I could blame on using a bidet. The bidet has helped improve my backcountry cleanliness. I think more likely than a UTI, you could end up with a yeast infection if you aren’t deliberate. I use biodegradable soap and water and that has solved all of my challenges with keeping bacteria out of my system while I’m doing extended outdoor activities.
Additionally I use a Kula cloth for urine only.
Your concerns are very valid and I personally haven’t mastered the bidet method. And I have received UTIs because of it on more than one occasion.
I use a wysi wipe instead. It only takes a few drops of water.
Doctors in the Netherlands always give the advise only to clean your ladyparts with water. The use of soap can give infections, irritations and small wounds will heal slower if treated with soap.
I’m thinking this is potable (treated) water only? Any of the pros here able to comment?
The cooties in the water that we’re most concerned about typically take a fecal-to-oral path, i.e. the poop of an infected carrier gets into the water, and then a soon-to-be infected carrier drinks that water.
So, water with which you’re cleaning your butt need not be potable, since there’s rarely anything in the water that could get you sick by coming into contact with your butt. The female anatomy is probably more vulnerable than an anus, but think about this way: If you would swim in the water, why are you concerned about washing with it?
There are a few exceptions that I can think of, like flesh-eating viruses. But if a water source was known to have, or suspected or having, such things, that “would you go swimming” rule wouldn’t apply and purifying it first would be a good move.
My 92 year old mother loves this little attachment she uses it every day at home. My wife who hails from Malaysia also swears by it, we bring it on all of our travels. With a little water your left hand and some optional soap your as clean as a whistle. Malaysians are very fastidious with hygene, my wife has never had a UTI. Of course we always wash our hands afterward.