Sorry for taking a while to get back to you.
I'm afraid there's no correct answer. Particularly for men - men can wipe however they want without any consequences other than social ill will from smelling bad. It's alleged that women should wipe front-to-back to avoid urinary tract infection. This certainly seems reasonable as it makes sense that keeping feces away from the female urethra would keep the area sterile (urine itself is sterile, after all). Unfortunately, there are no randomized, placebo-controlled studies looking into this that I am aware of.
In researching your question, I did come across some interesting facts about the history of toilet paper (there's a Wikipedia entry). Also, I enjoyed the humorous website http://howtowipeyourbutt.com/ in researching this piece. It almost looks like something from http://theoatmeal.com/, but it's not.
Anyway, hope this helps. As a gastroenterologist, believe it or not, it's a question that no patient has ever, ever asked me.
On Fri, May 20, 2011 at 6:49 PM, [removed] <[removed]@lifehacker.com> wrote:
Hi [commander flatus],
Thanks for emailing in to volunteer your expertise. We're starting up a section next week called "Am I Doing This Right" (title not yet finalized), that takes basic stuff that you and I and everyone else does on a daily basis, and asks an expert if we are, in fact, doing it correctly.
Here's the question/activity I'm concentrating on first: wiping your butt. Silly topic, but one that's pretty interesting. How many people are doing it the "wrong" way? We'll find out.
So my question to you, as a medical professional, what is the "correct" way of wiping? Front to back, or back to front? And what are the medical reasons why and why not?
Feel free to write as much as you like, giving opinions, examples or even previous cases where you've encountered this. (No names necessary.)
Thanks for helping out Lifehacker! Don't forget to include any websites or links or info you'd like us to credit you under.
[removed contact info]