Bidets have been around since before the days of modern toilets; they date back to the 17th Century, when the French would use a porcelain basin with a water faucet as a means of washing up after using the bathroom.
Bidets can be found in a number of different styles:
- Toilet bidet combo – These are toilets that have washlets built into them. They are very common in Europe and the more modern parts of Asia. The bidet is integrated into the toilet design.
- Bidet toilet seat attachment – This is a small attachment that is designed to be connected to your existing toilet and seat. Think of it as the hose and “sprayer” part that you install on your seat and connect to a water supply.
- Bidet toilet seat – This is an entire seat, complete with hinges, lid, and washlet parts. These can be used to turn any regular toilet into a bidet, and are used to replace regular toilet seats. They have their own built-in water tanks to store and warm water, connecting the tank to your toilet’s water source.
- Travel bidet – Also known as a portable bidet, these are screw-on nozzles, hoses, and pouches that hold your water. They’re designed to be used in toilets that have no bidet—you simply fill the pouch, attach the nozzle, and spray as desired.
- Handheld sprayer – Think of this like a garden hose that connects either to the toilet itself or your external water source. When you’re done doing your business, you reach the sprayer around and wash the areas that need cleaning. These tend to be only cold water, though you can find some that connect to a warm water line.
Each type of bidet comes at a differing price, and you’ll find the price ranges from very cheap to surprisingly pricey! For example, a travel bidet will run you anywhere from $15 to $60, while a bidet toilet attachment or handheld sprayer will start closer to $20 or $25. A bidet toilet seat (or washlet) will go from $200 to $1,000, while a full bidet (toilet with bidet features) will start at $1,000 and go as high as $3,500.
How to Use a Bidet Toilet Seat
Washing up with a bidet is very easy, especially if you have the bidet built into your toilet or toilet seat. It can take a bit of practice to get used to it—after all, most of us aren’t accustomed to having our “downstairs parts” washed after we use the bathroom—but once you do, you may just find it makes your bathroom trip a lot more convenient and hygenic (see the next section, Benefits of a Bidet Toilet Seat).
To use your bidet:
- Do your toilet business. Once you’re sure you’re done, it’s time to move on to the washing up.
- Lean forward slightly. This ensures that the stream of water has the best angle for washing all the important and delicate parts that need washing after you use the bathroom.
- Turn on the jets. Set the nozzle on the lowest velocity, so you don’t give yourself a shock of high-powered water shooting at your delicates. Once you’re comfortable with the power, turn it up until you’re certain the water is doing a thorough job of cleaning everything. Always make sure to use warm water—nothing more shocking than a blast of cold water down there.
- Move to clean up. You’ll need to shift your position on the seat so the jet can get at all the areas that need cleaning.
- Clean the bowl. Use the jets of the bidet toilet seat to clean out the toilet bowl and any particles that might have gotten splashed around.
- Dry off. Toilet paper and paper towels work wonders to dry off, but you may want to consider having a special towel handy for a more thorough drying. Or, if you’re willing to spend a bit more, consider buying a toilet seat that comes with a blow-drying fan to air-dry you.
Benefits of a Bidet Toilet Seat
Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons you should consider buying a bidet or bidet toilet seat to use at home:
Less toilet paper used – This is eco-consciousness 101, and you’ll find that using your bidet will drastically cut down on your toilet paper use. You will use a bit more water to clean up, but it’s not a significant increase in water output (5 to 10% per year).
No paper residue or bacteria – Bacteria accumulates from the air, previous flushes, your clothing, and so much more. Every time you wipe with toilet paper, you leave bacteria behind, along with residue from the toilet paper. That includes any chemicals or fragrances used to make the toilet paper “scented”. Washing up using fresh, clean water is less likely to leave paper residue or bacteria of any sort.
Less irritation – Unless you’re spending good money on very soft toilet paper, you may find that repeated bathroom use and wiping can leave your butt a little sore and irritated. Not so with a bidet or bidet toilet seat! The washing won’t cause any irritation, but can actually soothe your butt.
Easier for those with disabilities – Reaching around behind you to wipe your butt can be surprisingly difficult with a broken arm, arthritis, lower back problems, and other mobility issues. The angle required to get a good wipe is not easy on your wrists and arms, which means a lot of people with disabilities and limited mobility struggle to get clean on their own. With a bidet, there’s no hassle or discomfort. The water does all the work of cleaning, and all they have to do is shift around or adjust the controls to ensure the water does a thorough job.
Cleaner hands – How many times in the last year have you gone to wipe, only to have the toilet paper break mid-wipe? Even if your toilet paper doesn’t break, tiny poop particles can pass through the paper, where they cling to your fingers. With a bidet, you never have to worry about dirty hands—your hands never go anywhere near your butt!
Better anal and genital hygiene – A 2005 study confirmed it: washing up using a bidet toilet seat can lead to a decrease in bacteria and better hygiene on your “downstairs parts”. Those with hemorrhoids will find that a bidet is far gentler on their butts, and the warm-to-hot water can actually help to decrease inflammation.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to consider using a bidet!
Common Bidet Misconceptions
The fact that bidets are so uncommon in the U.S. means most of us are fairly unfamiliar with them, their operation, and the benefits of using them. Below are a few misconceptions, as well as the truth about bidets that you need to know:
Misconception #1: Bidets are unsanitary and messy, with all that spraying water.
Truth: Yes, water is being sprayed around, but we’re not talking hyper-powered jet streams. The jet stream is gentle enough that it won’t shoot out of the toilet bowl, yet strong enough to do a good job cleaning. You have control over the direction so you can prevent it from causing a mess or splashing around. As for being unsanitary, you’ll find water does a better job cleaning than wiping with toilet paper, and your hands stay far away from anything messy or dirty, thereby keeping them much cleaner.
Misconception #2: I don’t have space in my bathroom or budget for a bidet.
Truth: Bidet toilets are pricey (see above), but a bidet toilet seat or portable bidet doesn’t have to be. In fact, you’ll find many cost less than $100! Even if your bathroom isn’t big enough for a proper bidet toilet, you can install a bidet toilet seat or a toilet seat attachment to turn any regular toilet into a bidet—all at a fairly inexpensive price tag.
Misconception #3: Bidets are weird and uncomfortable.
Truth: Yes, in the beginning, it might feel a bit strange to wash your genitals and anus every time you use the bathroom. After all, it’s not something you’re used to, and it can take some time to grow accustomed to it. However, once you realize that washing up using a bidet makes you cleaner at a far lower cost and does a more effective job, you’ll start to get used to the idea. With just a few washes, you may find you get over the “weirdness” and come to enjoy the sensations of being extra clean.
Misconception #4: Bidets are for women only.
Truth: While bidets are commonly made available in women’s bathrooms, men can use them just as effectively. Bidet toilet sets are designed for both men and women—some with separate pre-programmed user profiles that adjust according to the gender of their user—and they can work for both with ease.
Bidet Toilet Seat Buying Guide
If you’re shopping around for a bidet, here’s what you need to know:
Sizing matters – Toilet seats come in typically one of two sizes: the elongated 18-inch size, and the round 16-inch size. This is determined according to the toilet bowl, which will adhere to one of these two sizes. Older toilets are typically rounder, while newer toilets tend to use the elongated design.
Always check the size and shape of your toilet before buying a bidet toilet seat. Even if you don’t have the manual for your toilet (who keeps these?), you can still find out what type of seat you need first by looking at it (the sizing differences will be pretty visible) and by using a measuring tape.
- Round toilets will usually be 16.5 to 17.75 inches long
- Elongated toilets will usually be 18 to 19.5 inches long
Know your water source – Bidet toilet seats come in two different styles: tankless and reservoir.
Tankless bidet toilet seats typically connect directly to the water source that feeds into your toilet tank, and it comes with its own built-in heater to warm up the water as it passes through. They tend to be more compact and provide a more reliable stream of hot water, but they tend to be significantly pricier.
Reservoir toilet seats, however, contain a water tank that stores water supplied from the water source, heating it up as it fills. It heats more slowly, which means using the toilet right after someone else could lead to a cold water splash when it comes time to wash up. They’re also bulkier and occupy more room in your bathroom. However, their price is typically much lower and more affordable.
Price matters – Just as with any other appliance, it’s important to buy a bidet toilet seat worth the price. Going too cheap means you could end up with an unreliable heater, a poor design, and low-pressure water jets that do a rubbish job of washing you up. Consider spending a bit more for higher quality.
Power is a must – In order for your bidet to heat up water, it needs electricity, which means it needs to be plugged in. You’ll need a power outlet no less than three feet from the toilet in order to install the bidet toilet seat.
Important features – Here are the most important features for you to consider:
- Well-designed control panel. It should be easy to use, placed in an easy-to-reach location, and comfortable for even those with limited mobility. The buttons should light up in the dark, give you a clear idea of what each does, and provide you with all the washing features you want.
- Heated water. This is an absolute must when looking into a bidet toilet seat. Cold water on your butt is NOT pleasant!
- Stream options. Being able to control the direction, strength, and duration of the water stream ensures you have total control over your wash.
- Remote control. This is handy for those who have limited mobility and can’t easily reach the buttons on the toilet seat itself.
- Drying. This is nice if you want to make sure everything is cool and dry after you wash, reducing the need for toilet paper or towels to dry off. Not an absolute “must”, but a very pleasant addition to have.
While there are other functions—UV light to clean the toilet, deodorizer to reduce smells, “feminine wash”, pre-mist functions, enema options—the five listed above are the most critical.
Who Needs a Bidet or Bidet Toilet Seat?
While bidets and bidet toilet seats are ideal for cleanliness and eco-friendliness, they can actually be very good for your health—particularly if you have certain health problems that make using the bathroom more painful.
For example, people with IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis often end up using the bathroom more frequently than “normal”. If they wiped with toilet paper after every use, they could end up in a great deal of discomfort, suffering from rectal itching or even bleeding. With a bidet, however, they can use warm water to wash up after every use, reducing the risk of irritation and actually helping to relax the rectum.
Those with hemorrhoids will find that using a bidet can soothe the inflamed area around the rectum, decreasing pain and the chance of bleeding. Bidets can help those with rectal prolapses, anal fistula, and anal pruritis.
How to Solve Common Bidet Problems
If your bidet or bidet toilet seat is giving you trouble, here are a few of the more common problems with their solutions:
Problem: My bidet doesn’t spray.
Solution: This could be a number of things. It could be that the water tank needs a minute or two to fill, as it emptied after the previous user and hasn’t yet had time to refill. All you have to do is wait before trying again.
If that doesn’t work, check the shut-off valve. It may have closed and simply needs to be opened.
If the room is very cold (in winter, for example), the water in the unit or the water supply hoses may have frozen. NEVER try to operate the bidet when the parts are frozen, as they will break. Heat the room first before using.
Problem: My bidet is leaking water.
Solution: Check the hose and connectors to make sure they’re properly connected. Tighten the screws and check the gaskets. Consider using plumber’s tape if that doesn’t work. If the main unit is leaking, you’ll need to replace it.
Problem: My bidet isn’t turning on.
Solution: Check the power cord first—it may simply be unplugged, or the power in your house isn’t on. Next, center your body on the seat. You may not be in the right position, so the built-in sensor isn’t being triggered. Finally, if you’re trying to use the remote but it’s not working, try changing the batteries.