Bidets are a great way to improve your health and help the planet. If that last sentence shocked you, you’re not alone. That’s because most Americans don’t know very much about bidet technology.
Let’s start with what you do know: I think I heard a bunch of people talking about bidets at the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic when no one could get TP because so many people were hoarding it. That’s right! Bidets saw a massive surge in sales in 2020 due to the pandemic because bidets are a terrific alternative to toilet paper. In fact, if you buy one, you might be able to stop using toilet paper. Forever! Let’s cover the bidet basics to get you up to speed.
What do bidets look like?
Most modern bidets are essentially fancy toilet seats that need to be plugged in. They look like regular toilet seats, though perhaps a bit sleeker, and they’re meant to be swapped out with your current toilet seat. They are taller in the back than your basic toilet seat because the back of the bidet seat is where all the technology is housed. Side note – you know how when you buy a toilet seat, you have to pay attention to details like “round” or “elongated?” It’s the same with bidets. You need to do your research to make sure the bidet model you’re interested in fits on your particular toilet bowl.
Okay, fine, bidets look like toilet seats, but how the heck do they work?!
Let’s simplify it as much as possible: you sit down and use the restroom. Then, instead of grabbing toilet paper when you’re finished, you press a button on your bidet. A nozzle will appear that sprays water at your genitals, and when you’re clean, the water stops. You either pat yourself dry with a few sheets of toilet paper, or if your bidet offers it, you press a second button for a warm air dry. It’s as easy as that.
Now, keep in mind that bidet technology has improved lightyears since bidets were first invented in the 1600’s. That means bidets like the Brondell Swash 1400 and other bidets have all sorts of options when you buy a bidet today.
- Would you like a heated toilet seat?
- A slow-closing automatic lid?
- A nightlight?
- A remote control that memorizes your preferred user settings?
- Instantly heated warm water?
- A strong wash or a gentle wash?
- A warm-air dryer?
- A built-in air deodorizer?
- Self-cleaning stainless-steel nozzles?
These are just a sampling of the options available to you. Obviously, the rule for buying bidets is the more money you spend, the more luxurious options your bidet will offer. This is the case with the TOTO S550e bidet seat, which offers a large selection of options for it’s users. The most basic models spray cold water from your pipes at you. The highest-end models give you all the aforementioned bells and whistles and then some.
Got it. Bidets are a shower for my butt. Why is that healthier?
Okay, let’s talk about bacteria. Washing your rear end with water helps remove more fecal bacteria – which can then help prevent you from spreading that fecal bacteria to objects in your home or workplace, or to other people. Wait? Don’t people wash their hands after they wipe? Yes, they do, but it’s still possible for residual bacteria to make its way out into the world. That’s how restaurant employees can accidentally get loads of people sick. They wash their hands, but not well enough. However, this simply cannot happen if you use a bidet because your hands literally never come in contact with your waste.
Besides eliminating the hand/waste point of contact, bidets are better at washing away residual E.coli bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections in women and bacterial prostatitis in men. They also are more effective at keeping yourself clean, which in turn helps prevent colorectal issues for both men and women. Although bidet use hasn’t been studied at great length here in the U.S., one 2005 study at a nursing home showed residents’ urine bacteria declined after using them.
If all that information doesn’t convince you of the superior hygiene offered by bidets, consider this: if you were cleaning up dog poop and some accidentally got on your hands, would you pat it with dry paper and go on with your day? So why do you pat your anus with dry paper and consider it clean? Bidet washes offer much better hygiene, which is why most of the world uses them. In fact, the United States lags behind the rest of the civilized world on this front, and the reason that seems to be is because Americans are afraid or embarrassed to accept the truth that toilet paper wiping is just plain not as effective as water washing.
What about the environment? How do bidets help it?
You probably didn’t know that it takes about 384 trees to manufacture the average toilet paper used by one human in a lifetime. That’s a lot of trees to kill for a product that you literally flush down the toilet. And just think about the 8 billion people on the planet. If everyone used bidets, we’d be saving billions and billions of trees. We’d also be saving water. That probably sounds confusing because bidets use water. But it turns out manufacturing toilet paper uses more water. That’s because converting trees into paper that’s soft enough that we can use it on our genitals requires about 255 million gallons of water. Per day. So it’s easy to see that we save trees and water by using bidets. Trees and water are two important natural resources, so why not make a big impact on our planet simply by changing your bathroom behavior?
I get it – bidets are healthy and good for the environment. Anything else?
Yes! Most people who convert to using bidets wonder why they didn’t make the change a long time ago. Bidets are comfortable to use, and even better, they offer bathroom independence. So what? Just think if you injure your wrist, your arm, your shoulder, or your back – suddenly the prospect of going to the bathroom and wiping is a problem. But not if you have a bidet! You only need one finger to press a button and you can use the bathroom on your own. Likewise, if you have older people in your life, they will be able to use the restroom without your assistance thanks to a good quality bidet. People with hemorrhoids and anal fissures also report bidets help them heal quicker because they are not further injuring their anuses by wiping with abrasive paper.
All in all, you can’t go wrong by purchasing a bidet. And who knows, you just might love it so much that you’ll want to be like Italy and start mandating that every household get one!
Jensen Lee is the Founder and Managing Member of bidetsPLUS, an online retail store specializing in bidet toilet seats. Prior to bidetsPLUS, Jensen held management positions in technology-related fields, in both the U.S. and Europe. He has held the position of Product Manager of Global Network Services for British Telecom. Most recently, he held the position of Executive Director of Product Marketing at AT&T Interactive, AT&T’s internet advertising division.