The Great Potty Debate: Which Way Do You Wipe?

Let’s deal with a serious issue for a change. There is a debate raging in our household over how to educate our children when it comes to potty training.

Everyone knows that you wipe from front to back, but from which side of your body do you reach? I mean, when you put your hand down there, is your arm reaching in front of you, or reaching around behind you?

My wife believes in the frontal assault while I prefer the reach-around.

Oh, stop it. This is a family blog. If it makes you happier, I’ll use the terms anterior and posterior.

She cites anatomical differences, which I will not detail here, for her "obvious" conclusion that women approach from the front while men approach from the rear.

Oh yeah? Then tell me why this girl in the It’s Potty Time: Wipe, Flush, Wash video (shown below) wipes from behind. And her teddy bear does too! Don’t listen to the songs though unless you desire permanent ear damage.

In Japan, they avoid the issue entirely by showing the parent wiping the kid…

We haven’t quizzed our relatives, but this issue could be a matter of
family honor. How many generations have my forebears been
wiping from behind? How did I ever get hooked up with a family of front
wipers? Oh, the shame!

Cast your vote and post commentary below, if you dare. And no, you don’t get to straddle the fence and claim you’ll teach boys one way and girls another.

How did you, or will you, teach your kid to wipe?
Frontal approach (I’m a Dad)
Frontal approach (I’m a Mom)
Rear approach (I’m a Dad)
Rear approach (I’m a Mom)
Free polls from


40 Responses to “The Great Potty Debate: Which Way Do You Wipe?”

  1. Jen L says:

    This debate has been killing me! When I brought it up at a playdate, I thought the other moms were going to take me by the throat when I said I was teaching my daughter the frontal approach (still wiping front to back). Some of the moms were outraged that I was taught that way from my mom. I remember being completely surprised as a child the first time I saw another girl wipe from behind. How awkward! And isn’t potty training difficult enough without teaching them the difficult reach around??? The frontal approach is definitely for me, but it is true that you need to be more careful.

    May 16th, 2008 at 3:51 am

  2. cj says:

    Did anyone else notice that in both of these videos the wiping appears to happen multiple times with the same piece of tissue? What’s the point of wiping front to back if you use the same tissue again & again for the front areas after using it for the back areas? Sheesh.

    We do frontal–just how I grew up–but I recently learned that my mother-in-law is a rear-approacher. Creepy. ;)

    But as a practical matter, when reaching from the back isn’t it just more likely to accidentally wipe back to front? Whereas with the frontal approach there is only one motion and no chance of accidental premature tissue contamination.

    May 16th, 2008 at 4:17 am

  3. PsychMamma says:

    OK – - This might be more info than you want, BUT, if “# 1″ has occurred, the frontal approach is used with a full “swipe” from front to back. If “# 2″ has occurred, a reach-around maneuver is used, but just to wipe the “back 40″ (from front to back) for more focused cleaning of that area, and that’s followed by the usual frontal approach with another full swipe from front to back. All followed by thorough handwashing, of course. :-)

    I agree with your wife on the anatomical differences theory. Prepare for possible gross-out, but, my wonderful husband does not wipe after #1. Can I say YUCK loudly enough?? He claims it’s unnecessary BECAUSE of the anatomical differences. I beg to differ. And wash all of his underwear in very hot water. Anyway, that means wiping only occurs with “# 2″ in his case, and he approaches from the rear, which makes more sense, since that’s the area that needs the most focus.

    Sorry to all of you at there screaming, “EEWWW!”

    May 16th, 2008 at 5:01 am

  4. brandy says:

    Really, I did not even know that the rear-approach existed beyond childhood. I have just let my kids do what was most comfortable for them. Right now, because they are tiny people on huge potties, hopping off and wiping from the back is typical. When they are bigger and able to balance themselves on the throne, I’ll encourage (but not force) them to stay on and wipe from the front (which seems easier from a seated position). So, um…FRONT WIPERS UNITE!

    May 16th, 2008 at 5:59 am

  5. Nathan says:

    Our daughter wound up going anterior because her arms were not coordinated enough to reach around.

    May 16th, 2008 at 6:39 am

  6. Christy says:

    PsychMama, thanks. I was going to write the same thing, but now I don’t!

    I’m still trying to teach my daughter. She hates to take the time to wipe, unless she has poop on her bottom.

    May 16th, 2008 at 7:45 am

  7. Allison (CodeCrafter) says:

    Ah, I didn’t even know a frontal-approach was an option. every one I know of does the rear-approach but I must admit it hasn’t ever come up in conversation. I will have to ask my husband about this. I have no idea what he does but I guess we should agree an approach before we start potty training the boy…

    May 16th, 2008 at 8:05 am

  8. summer says:

    OK so here is my analysis. First and foremost its hard to do the rear approach if you don’t have very long arms. Below is my take on it:

    For females:

    First wipe (or two) should be done frontal approach, mainly because its easier to go front to back starting in the front. You can wipe the frontal portion better.

    Second or third wipe should be handled on the rear end (still reaching front to back).

    This way you get the most coverage on the front end first, then you get the “finishing up” wip from the rear.

    Males: I’d say it probably is always rear approach for you all eh?

    Other things to consider: The side wipe.
    - Anyone else know what I am talking about? This is where you wipe from one side to the other starting in the front and heading towards the back. What about that?

    As far as paper usage goes, you can use the same bit of toilet paper as long as you use the other side or fold it over IMHO. But nothing wrong with getting a second handfull of paper to be sure.

    Who knew potty talk could be so interesting?

    And why may I ask do men not wipe when they pee? My husband says a shake takes care of it all! Ugh… not even gonna go there but thats disgusting.

    May 16th, 2008 at 9:05 am

  9. D says:

    Um… you’ll be hard pressed to find a man who wipes after urinating. Find any public restroom and there is never tissue near the urinals. For better or worse, no one ever teaches it that way. I’m completely surprised at the suggestion.

    May 16th, 2008 at 9:55 am

  10. Jennifer says:

    I agree with D. I have never seen a man use toilet paper for #1.

    I think the rear approach makes more sense becuase pulling is easier than pushing. With the rear, you start at the front and pull your way back. If you went from the front, you’re end up pulling things forward (and we don’t want that).

    I am, however, all about each child figuring out what works best for them; as long as they get the direction right, I’m okay with either one.

    I’m also okay with folding over the toilet paper and using it again.

    May 16th, 2008 at 10:41 am

  11. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Isn’t it interesting what people can argue about? I didn’t know there was any other way.

    And you do NOT pull things forward. Start in the front, push the tissue to the back. Drop it in the toilet, drop your arm and move forward to grab another piece of paper.

    May 16th, 2008 at 11:34 am

  12. Erica says:

    I voted frontal, and then realized that to me it matters what I’m wiping. If there’s posterior action involved, it’s a rear-wiping job. Anterior wiping jobs take a frontal approach. Am I strange that way?

    May 16th, 2008 at 1:58 pm

  13. Cindi says:

    As a young girl, I was taught to wipe from front to back to keep bacteria away and causing an infection! I am not quite sure what you mean about the reach around approach because I only know the frontal approach. I voted and I am totally on your wife’s side. Cindi

    May 16th, 2008 at 2:15 pm

  14. twinsanity says:

    I’m with Erica. It depends on what I’m wiping. Urine clearly only needs a frontal approach, but anything else is most definitely from behind. I can’t imagine getting clean by reaching through my legs to the back. Much easier to reach around.

    May 16th, 2008 at 5:17 pm

  15. Darby says:

    I was inclined to vote for the rear approach, but I think in all actuality, I’m a side-wiper. Meaning, after I do my duties I lean to one side, lifting the other side up off the toilet, and from there I wipe front to back (always!). So, it’s sort of the reach-around method, but I don’t have to reach as far. I just have to lift my leg and bottom up off the toilet on one side and wipe. Hmmm…is that weird?

    When I assist my toilet-trained 2 1/2 year-old with wiping, I wipe her from behind, front to back. So, she has picked up on that and does the same.

    May 16th, 2008 at 7:29 pm

  16. gertie says:

    Frontal assault is easier for girls to do (from personal experience, anyway) BUT the reach-around approach is probably better for teaching front-to-back wiping.

    It’s much easier to get lazy and wipe back-to-front with the frontal assault.

    May 16th, 2008 at 11:19 pm

  17. Jenn says:

    I personally start from the front after #1, not wiping necessarily, but I sort of use a patting motion. The reach around is used for #2 with a separate flushable wet wipe. My 4yo daughter also pats herself in the front after #1 with toilet paper while sitting and then stands up if she went #2 and uses a flushable wet wipe to do the reach around. I don’t think I really taught her to do this, she just watched me do it enough times to do it on her own that way.

    May 17th, 2008 at 7:32 am

  18. Matt says:

    As a guy, this is the first time I’ve even heard the suggestion that a man should wipe a #1. I’ve never known a man who does.

    A little shake really does take care of any extra drops. And if not, there’s not anything unsanitary about a drop of urine in the britches.

    May 17th, 2008 at 8:34 am

  19. Chris Frazier says:

    Regarding men wiping after urinating, there is a reason for the old rhyme:

    “However you shake and however you dance, it’s always the last drop that ends in your pants.”

    Regarding which side you make your approach from, I’ve noticed it’s very easy for my 2.5 year-old daughter to accidentally wipe back to front when approaching from the front. She obviously can’t reach around, but if she could I’d suggest it.

    May 17th, 2008 at 4:55 pm

  20. 3fc says:

    Wow, I am amazed… I actually don’t even understand HOW you would wipe front to back, from the front?! Wouldn’t that be like pushing then? That seems extremely awkward, but apparently not, since a large portion of those who posted seem to wipe from the front.

    Personally I wipe seperately… from the front for #1… but I don’t wipe front to back as I’m not reaching that far back at all. And I reach around for #2, wiping front to back.

    I don’t have any memory of being taught, but I remember seeing my mother when I was younger doing the same… not sure if she taught me that way or I just picked it up, but it works for me and I would most likely teach my child the same… wiping everything from the back would be difficult… wiping everything from the front seems extremely difficult.

    May 17th, 2008 at 6:22 pm

  21. Julie Anne says:

    Oh my goodness, great laughter happening here!! First time to this site and it was very educational!! I agree with Psychmamma. It depends for girls

    and agree that men for some strange reason don’t see the need ?!!?! I grew up in a house with only sisters and was quite shocked when I got married, but have gotten used to it now.

    May 17th, 2008 at 7:57 pm

  22. n. says:

    Ha! What a funny debate!

    Here’s my approach: front wipe for #1, back wipe (well, sort of from the side) for #2.

    And I married a guy who does wipe for #1. Not that he’d ever talk about it/admit to it. But I’m pretty sure this is why he won’t use urinals. He’s otherwise mostly normal.

    May 18th, 2008 at 9:33 am

  23. lindsey says:

    My DH and I are exactly the opposite as you and your wife. He prefers the front attack while I like the reach around….and it’s because of the “anatomical differences” that I reach around. Don’t need anything where it isn’t supposed to be.

    Oddly enough, I’ve never posted anything this….personal on a blog but I feel strangely candid. ;)

    May 18th, 2008 at 7:17 pm

  24. ysteb says:

    I always approached it from the front until I was about 6 months pregnant with my son. I was complaining to my also pregnant friend about how difficult it was to wipe when shen looked at me quizzically and asked why I was wiping from the front. Until then it had never occurred to me to wipe from behind

    May 19th, 2008 at 10:16 am

  25. Jed G says:

    Men wiping pee: in healthy individuals pee is sterile and a drop or two isn’t going to hurt. I’ve never even thought of wiping.

    And, honestly, never thought about wiping patterns until now [potty training on our first hasn't started yet].

    May 19th, 2008 at 10:54 am

  26. kath says:

    okay…here’s another question…

    Do you wipe sitting or standing?
    I’m a stander. I’ve learned that dh is a sitter (note to self: if the bathroom door is partially closed -knock **shudder**)
    I can’t imagine sitting or lifting a leg to wipe–I’d fall off the can!

    May 19th, 2008 at 8:20 pm

  27. Mama Peach says:

    I do the reach-behind method. My mom taught me the frontal method but it didn’t work for me. The reason I am teaching my daughter the from behind method (wiping front to back of course) is the same reason I do it…you don’t have to stick your hand inside the toilet!! I am a but-cheek lifter…when I wipe one cheek is completely off of the toilet. So I guess it’s not even a completely from behind method as much as a ‘along the side’ method. Goodness I can not believe I am actually writing this.

    I also always felt that you’d be more inclined to do the wrong direction when going from the front – it seems more natural to want to pull instead of push…

    May 22nd, 2008 at 3:33 pm

  28. dalilu says:

    Dear God! I wish I was so flexible and with long arms! I would say the correct way is the most confortable to the doer. The important thing is to get it clean without contaminating other areas. I an a front reacher, but as a female I am VERY careful of not bringing it to the front.
    I do not think standing would be good. When the “cheeks” get together standing you can end up with a great mess. Don’t know how my boys do it now they are adults. Hubby uses back approach.
    On the other side, my mother always washes after with soap and water. Wet wipes are really good on this!

    May 22nd, 2008 at 7:14 pm

  29. Denae says:

    Frontal for pee pee, back for poo poo.

    I mean I’m a full grown female adult and it’s difficult for me to wipe my behind front to back from the front….

    I just went and experimened.

    May 22nd, 2008 at 9:22 pm

  30. Amber says:

    Im not raising a kid or anything close, but I came across this because I want to know the “correct” way to wipe. I’ve always done back to front with the frontal approach after peeing and front to back using the rear approach after pooing. But now I know that you can get an infection from doing back to front EVEN after just peeing from the traces of fecal matter.. But I still find it hard to wipe front to back after peeing.. it feels uncomfortable and doesnt really dry eveyrthing off. hahha am I weird or what?!!!

    August 31st, 2008 at 9:27 am

  31. daniel says:

    what, praytell, do you expect men to wipe after a #1? A 1/8″ long slit??? Unless your man has micropenis (an actual medical affliction) it should be obvious why men would not have an issue with residue urine clinging to them as women do- especially after a good shake (one shake is good enough, two becomes masturbation, FYI.)

    September 1st, 2008 at 12:57 am

  32. jen says:

    frontal all the way. i tried the reach around once and couldnt reach! lol. i do have short arms tho! i dont go front to back … i kinda wipe in all directions, but i dont bring anything too far front, eww.

    and, if i was a guy, i would totally dab after #1

    January 10th, 2009 at 3:47 pm

  33. Brittny says:

    I was looking for the answear to my question and I found it !
    Now i wont get a blatter infection or germs in my eurethra !
    YEAH !
    thank you (:

    January 13th, 2009 at 10:57 am

  34. Rob says:

    As long as you don’t leave streak-marks on your undergarments and don’t wipe in a way that would give you a UTI. It’s ultimately how you’ve been taught. Just relax, just be glad you’re continent.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 11:09 am

  35. Susan says:

    First, thank you for addressing this issue! I’m about to start potty training my daughter. All of the training materials I’ve found say to teach her to wipe from front to back (I know that already because I’m a woman), but I’ve found nothing until now that addresses from which side to begin.

    It’s awkward asking a friend, but that’s what I resorted to. She had just potty trained her daughter, and she and I were of a like mind: approach from the front, but only wipe toward the back.

    These posts are eye opening, though. It seems to come down to personal preference, but since part of potty training is modeling, why not go with what the parent who will do the most modeling is used to (as long as that approach is hygienic)? Perhaps I’ll choose how to train our daughter and my husband will choose how to train our soon-to-be-born son. He’ll probably do more modeling for our son.

    March 4th, 2009 at 1:32 pm

  36. EJI says:

    Oh my gosh, are you serious? it does NOT require long arms to reach from the back. I’m 5’2 with short arms and I’ve always reached from the back since i was a little kid. My mom reaches from the front, but my dad pottytrained my sister and i, so I guess it’s no wonder we reach from the back. Reaching from the front seems gross, who wants to put their hand that far into the toilet? Ive never had problems with reaching from behind, never even had to lift a cheek haha. and for guys, who wipes with pee? srsly thats ridiculous in my mind. well, this was cool. here’s my tips: Females: do what feels comfortable and won’t give you any infections, Males: Dont wipe in public unless you want the guys giving you funny looks. w/e you do in private is ur business tho. peace.

    April 20th, 2009 at 10:17 pm

  37. Jessica says:

    This is so funny! I’m a front wiper for #1 & a reach around for #2, DH is also a reacher (TMI, we don’t shut doors in our house). Our 3yr old daughters wipe from the front for #1 & for #2 I get the privledge of wiping their behinds from behind. DD #3 will occasionally attempt to wipe a poo from the front but she’s never satisfied with the job & wants me to do it for her.
    As for boys wiping for #1- I’ve never met a guy who did (or at least none that would admit it).

    May 20th, 2009 at 9:46 am

  38. Angel says:

    Amber! I do the same thing..
    Wipe from back to front in the frontal position for #1, and front to back reach around position for #2 !! Now i’m kinda worried that ive been doing it wrong all these years.. I just tried the front to back method & it feels weird.

    November 25th, 2010 at 4:20 am

  39. Jamie says:

    I’m a back to front wiper from the front for #1 and front to back reach around position for #2 too. But when I do the back to front wiping, I just make sure it doesn’t start from too far back same with the other. I’m 30 and have never had a problem so I must be o.k. I’ve tried the front to back approach and can’t quite do it and get everything dry. I’m trying to reteach my daughter how to wipe so I wanted someone to explain how in the world do you wipe from front to back after going pee cuz I just can’t seem to do it..

    February 28th, 2011 at 4:29 pm

  40. Ava says:

    I’m really glad I found this thread, and I’m excited to show all of your responses to my husband. He LOVES to give me a hard time for “pushing” from the front after #1 and #2. He proudly “reaches around” and cannot fathom how I can get the job done correctly from the front. I was taught to wipe from the front between my legs, and I remember seeing my Mom do it that way when I was growing up. As a child, my closest friend was a front wiper for #1 and a rear wiper for #2. I thought that was odd, but I never felt inclined to try it. As I got older, many of my friends were rear wipers too. It’s something I never really have much thought to, and I’ve never had an issue beig cleanly. My husband is the one with the issue about my approach, in fact he gave me such a hard time about it, I decided to try the “reach around” method and I must say, I was a little akward at first, but I quickly got the hang of it. It gets te job done too, but if you ask me either way works. However, at my husband’s request we will teach our child the “reach around” approach when she is wiping on her own. In order to avoid confusion, I will also be exemplifying this method for her.

    April 27th, 2011 at 10:24 pm

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