If you’ve ever traveled Europe (or much of the world for that matter) you might have noticed the wide use of bidets. In the U.S. they often illicit a giggle followed by some curiosity because for one reason or another, they aren’t so widely accepted. But that might be changing and the increased use is, by all accounts, a good thing. Here's the toilet talk.
What is a Bidet?
A bidet is a plumbing feature typically installed in the bathroom that’s used to clean the genitalia and buttocks. While they often sit next to the toilet, they’re actually much more like a sink than a toilet. They can also be installed as attachments to toilets. As the name alludes to, the bidet is a French invention (and word) that came along in the 17th century. It was first invented by French furniture makers and today’s modern electronic version most closely resembles a chamber pot. The term actually means “small horse” because the original bidets required that users straddle the basin while cleaning up. Today, the term bidet can be used to describe any range of hygiene devices that clean after using the bathroom, from bidet fixtures to integrated toilet/bidet combinations, non-electric bidets, and hand-held bidet sprayers.
Which Countries Commonly Use Bidets?
“Almost all non-English speaking countries have some sort of bidet usage. In Europe/France, the traditional fixture type bidet is prevalent,” says James Lin, a spokesmen for BidetKing.com. “In Middle Eastern countries, they use hand held bidet sprayers (like a kitchen sprayer next to the toilet). In poorer countries, people just use water + hand to cleanse after the toilet. The U.S. is by far the most dependent upon toilet paper.”
According to Lin, Asian countries are leading the charge with Japan in particular at the forefront. Korea, Taiwan, and China are also very committed to their use.
Why is Bidet Use in the U.S on the Rise?
Lin contends that the U.S., while late to the party, is also becoming more accepting of bidet use. While it’s still not widely accepted, there is a growing awareness. The largest hindrance to bidet use is the fact that potty talk is still something we giggle about in the U.S. In other countries bathroom use is much more in line with overall health and hygiene, and as a result, it’s fine to talk about it. While in the U.S. no one wants to discuss what goes on downtown even though it’s something we all experience.
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In the U.S., baby boomers who have traveled abroad and widely used bidets are much more likely to install them at home. This is especially true for the elderly prone to endure infections caused by poor hygiene because their immune health isn’t as strong.
What are the Benefits of Using a Bidet?
While bidet use may at first seem strange, especially if it’s something you’re not used to using, it actually makes a lot of sense for your health. According to Lin, using a bidet is much cleaner than wiping with toilet paper. This results in a reduced chance of urinary tract infections, for example, and better overall hygiene. It’s also helpful for women during menstruation.
What’s more, it reduces toilet paper use by some 75 percent. According to National Geographic, 270,000 trees are flushed down the toilet everyday. And while bidets do use water, they use much less than it takes to produce toilet paper. To create the 34 million rolls of toilet paper that we use each day, it takes 255 million gallons of water. If you want to eliminate toilet paper use completely you can buy a bidet with a built-in dryer.
What Should You Look for in a Bidet?
While choosing a bidet might still seem somewhat intimidating, this guide can help. Choose from fully featured models to more minimal bidets or bidet attachments. Start small, and if you love the bidet you can consider a fully featured electronic bidet with everything from a heated seat to a night light and automatic seat cover. Lin says that there are a number of models to fit various needs:
- Fully featured electronic bidet seats are the best overall experience with all the functionality controlled via buttons on a remote control.
- At the very high end, you have the bidet/toilet combinations. These are one piece toilets and bidets integrated into a single unit. They can cost $2,000 to $6,000 and are more for luxury bathrooms.
- Look for bonus features like warm water, warm air dryer, heated seat, and maybe even a night light. The luxury versions have a range of features like adjustable nozzles that can be sprayed in all directions. Deodorizers that can help control odor in the bathroom. There are even “enema” functions to help relieve constipation and a child mode with reduced pressure designed specifically for kids. Some include lids similar to toilet seats that can even open and close automatically.
- At the lower end of the scale, there are non-electric bidet attachments. As low as $20, they are simple plastic attachments that fit between your toilet seat and toilet bowl that work off your home's water pressure. The spray is typically cold water only, but still very effective for cleansing. If you don't want to invest a whole lot of money but you want the experience of a bidet, this might be a good choice.
- Choose a bidet with a tankless water heating system for the most energy efficiency. Unlike other systems, they do not keep a large reservoir of stored water. Instead, the system has a built in unit that heats up the water as you need it. This means that less energy is used in keeping water warm.
Do you use a bidet? What do you like about it? Or does the use of bidets still either gross you out or make you giggle? We want to know! Drop us a line via Twitter @OrganicAuthorit.