What is a Bidet and why is it superior to the American toilet?

God bless Americans. We certainly get many things right but some things we do makes the rest of the world scratch their head in confusion. One particular confusing aspect is our bathroom experience. All Americans are familiar with the American Standard toilet and the usual protocol. You simply sit down to do your business, wipe, and flush. Sounds good right? Well, it seems only we think so.

Most other regions of the world use what is called a Bidet. This is quite simply an efficient method of washing yourself with water after you go number 2 or number 1 if you’re female. To most Americans the Bidet is a foreign alien object best kept at safe distance. That is, until they travel and experience the Bidet first hand (no pun intended.)

History of the Bidet

bidet history
Early Bidets were strictly used by the elite and were an inspiration for many artists and painters of the period.

The Bidet is a French invention dating back to the 1700’s. Early designs were simple bowls of water you straddled over to clean yourself after doing your business. “Bidet” is a French word for “small horse.” The Bidet is likened to a pony which you can easily step over and straddle. The idea with these early Bidets was to fill the bowl with water and then clean yourself with your hands. Don’t worry, designs have come a long way since then! Bidets were reserved for the upper class and elite due to the extra expense of the Bidet. Many of the early Bidets were intricate marvels of design and required a servant to haul water to and from the bowl. This was simply out of reach for most people during those times.

These first Bidets were initially located in the bedroom but when modern plumbing entered the scene the Bidet was installed in the washroom right alongside the toilet as a separate bowl and included its own fixtures.

After World War 2 the Japanese took the American toilet design and integrated it with the European idea of using water to clean yourself. The Japanese liked the idea of comfortably sitting down while using the bathroom but refused the thought of using paper to clean ones self. This gave rise to what we know as the modern Bidet. The first versions of the Japanese Bidet were American style toilets with a separate fixture used to spray water through a hand held attachment. High end Bidets are now designed in many different form factors and include heated seats, drying technology, adjustable jet streams and water temperature, and are completely self cleaning.

Americans who have experience with Bidets praise them to the high heavens and never go back to regular old TP. So why has the rest of America not caught on? Why so much resistance to the Bidet? There are a number of interesting theories many of which are deeply entrenched in the taboo nature of sexuality. How? When American GIs ravaged the brothels of Europe during WW2 they noticed these curious wash bins used by the women. The Bidet was of course very foreign to them but from then on they associated the Bidet with the sinful nature of the brothel. Bidets in their early development were also used as a primitive method of contraception by women. From the very beginning America has seen the Bidet as a symbol of sin and hedonism rather than what it really is – a far superior method of cleaning yourself after using the bathroom.

How does a Bidet work?

toto washlet s350 electronic bidet
Electronic Bidet seats include features like heated seats, controlled water temperature, controlled pressure, drying capabilities, and self cleaning functions. Kiss your toilet paper goodbye!

So how does a Bidet work exactly? At the core of the Bidet is the principle of using water to clean yourself instead of toilet paper. With early Bidets this was as simple as straddling a separate wash bowl and using your hands to clean yourself over the water. Modern Bidets now come as handheld devices that attach to your toilet or attachable toilet seats fitted with jet streams which spray water into your backside for a thorough clean. Electronic Bidet seats allow you to control water pressure/direction/temperature and can even dry you completely similar to a car wash!

Are bidets better than toilet paper?

Think about this: If a bird flew over your head and pooped all over you, how would you clean yourself? Would you simply wipe yourself down with paper or would you use water? Chances are you’d head straight for the nearest sink to wash with water. If your driveway was covered in mud would you grab a bunch of newspaper to clean it up or would you use the hose? Water is a proven method of cleaning yet we do not extend this same logic to the bathroom. The rest of the world has seen (and felt) the clear advantages of the Bidet but Americans are still behind in the dark ages.

If a bird pooped on your head would you clean it with paper or water? If your driveway was muddy would you wash it with paper alone? Water is a proven method of cleaning yet we do not extend this same logic to the bathroom.

There’s multiple advantages to choosing a Bidet over toilet paper aside from the cleanliness reasons. Using less toilet paper means your overall impact on the environment is greatly reduced. Now some people might say, “well, aren’t you just using extra water which is also a natural resource?” Yes, that is true but your overall environmental impact is still greatly reduced. Once you become efficient with the Bidet the little amount of water you’ll need will impress even the most granola munching hippies.

Bidets also make sense if your house has old plumbing and flushing toilet paper always raises the question of “will it flush??”

Installing a Bidet in your house doesn’t mean you completely ditch the toilet paper. Of course you’ll always have guests over who no doubt want the option of having a traditional bathroom experience. You’ll still need a bit of toilet paper to dry yourself if your Bidet model doesn’t have a drying feature. At the end of the day you’re saving countless dollars on toilet paper alone not to mention getting a superior clean down in your nether regions.

Types of Bidets

Bidets come in multiple form factors and include different features. Below are the different types of Bidets you will no doubt come across if you travel abroad or when you begin your search for an in home Bidet.

The original Bidet – The original Bidet is a separate wash bowl apart from your main toilet. After you’re finished using the bathroom you head straight over to the Bidet to straddle over the water and clean yourself using warm water and liquid soap. Afterwards you pat yourself down with a fresh towel and you’re done.

modern contemporary bidet
The classic Bidet experience brought to the modern home.

Pros:

  • Full spectrum and complete cleaning
  • No jet stream shooting into your tender regions

Cons

  • Requires extra toilet fixtures
  • Requires more space in the bathroom
  • Time intensive
    Handheld Bidet – Perhaps the most approachable (and affordable) Bidet is the handheld attachment. This is a separate fixture that attaches right alongside your toilet. It uses a splitter to use the same water connection used to fill your toilet tank. The handheld device is essentially a hose used to spray water in your tender regions after using the bathroom. They have adjustable water pressure controls to control the pressure and an easy on/off switch when you’re done cleaning.handheld bidet attachement

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Uses your existing water connection
  • Easy to use
  • Attaches right next to the toilet tank
  • Fast method of cleaning

Cons:

  • Cannot adjust water temperature
  • Some are very cheap and easily break

Electronic Bidet seat – The Electronic Bidet seat sits right on top of your regular toilet seat and provides an impressive amount of controls. With some of these seats you feel like you’re captain of the Starshship Enterprise. It’s quite an experience if you’re not used to it. They include everything you could possibly want including built in jet streams with pressure control, water temperature controls, seat warming features, and self cleaning capabilities. Once you get everything dialed in it takes only the press of a button to experience the deep cleaning only a Bidet can offer!

bb 600 bidet with electronic controls
Electronic Bidet seats offer an impressive selection of controls and functionality

Pros:

  • Hands free cleaning
  • Seat warmers
  • Adjustable water temperature and pressure
  • Self cleaning
  • Attaches directly to existing toilet

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Requires electrical outlet

Taking the plunge

The Bidet is a unique experience especially your first time. The sudden jet stream of water blasted straight into your nether regions will surely stir up some initial doubts. With time however you begin to take note of the superior clean feeling. You start to actually enjoy going to the Bidet. With no time at all you will become a complete Bidet snob and will scoff at primitive humans who still use paper to wipe themselves. Your friends will ask what has happened to you. Introducing them to the Bidet lifestyle will bring you tidings and joy. You will look back and think about all the years you lived like a wild beast, without the Bidet.

Pick up an inexpensive hand held Bidet if you want an affordable way to test the waters (pun intended.) If you absolutely can’t stand the Bidet you still have an effective hose to clean the toilet with. However, if you’re like most people you will no doubt fall in love with this new bathroom accessory and will consider upgrading to an electronic seat. In winter time it’s not uncommon to sit on the heated Bidet for long stretches of time.

Don’t you deserve this level of class and comfort?