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In Naples, Florida, a woodcraft shop displays a giant replica of a toilet paper raised above two trees by pulleys with the name of the business, Who Wood Wonder, painted on the paper roll. The sight shows the woodcarving skill that customers can expect from the proprietor, Donald Ryan. At the same time, it’s a sign of the times.

When the coronavirus pandemic triggered panic buying among Americans and Britons in February, supermarket shelves were emptied in wave after wave of hoarding. Strangely, toilet paper was among the sold-out products.

Katharina Wittgens, a psychologist at customer behavior consultant Innovationbubble, explained the phenomenon. She said people got scared of losing the means to clean themselves.

For Americans, toilet hygiene is based on wiping their butts dry using toilet paper. The culture started with the invention of the perforated toilet paper roll by Albany, New York businessman Seth Wheeler in 1891. Another American, John Harvey Kellogg, introduced his version of the bidet in 1928, but the French idea did not get enough attention. The American Bidet Co. reintroduced the bidet in the United States in 1965, but the bulky and expensive contraption again failed to become mainstream.

The toilet paper hoarding, however, revived consumer interest on the bidet. In fact, Tushy, a bidet startup, sold 10 times more of the product last week than before as Americans left with empty toilet paper shelves in supermarkets had to find alternatives.

Switching to a wash culture is not only more hygienic but also sewer-friendly and environment-friendly. It can eliminate toilet paper and wet wipes clogging sewers and spare the oceans from more solid waste. But in case bidet hoarding causes a shortage of the device, Americans still have an option. They can try the Filipino version of a butt washer which comes in either the simple washing can model or the plastic dipper edition called the tabo.

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