Why Don’t Americans Use Bidets?

Sarah H. asks: Why do Americans only use toilet paper and not bidets?

bidetA mini-shower for your nether region, bidets are a popular way worldwide to keep said regions tidy, and there are plenty of extremely inexpensive options for easily outfitting any standard toilet with one. So why has this popular bathroom fixture not caught on in the United States? Old prejudices, (surprisingly new) habit, and comfort-level. (Note: Toilet paper wasn’t commonly used in the United States until the 20th century)

Believed to have originated in France, the first bidets were simply a bowl of water over which, after relieving herself, a person would squat and then use a hand to splash and wipe away any messes that remained.

Eventually, a short narrow stool with a bowl inset was developed that could be sat astride for easier cleaning. As a person who is mounted on this contraption resembles one sitting on the small, stout pony, a “bidet” in French, the name was soon adopted for the bathroom fixture.

Christophe des Rosiers is credited with inventing the bidet, although the first written record of one appears in a 1710 account of the Marquis d’Argenson, who noted that he had an audience with one Mademoiselle de Prie “as she sat astride her bidet.”

In 1750, an upward sprayer powered by a hand-pump was added, and thus, bidet á seringue, (bidet with syringe) was born.

The modern bidet that resembles a toilet was developed in the 19th century, and the very popular bidet seat came about in the 1960s, with one of the most popular invented by an American, Arnold Cohen.

In the 1980s, the modern seat was improved with the creation of the “washlet.” Using remote-controlled wands that spout water jets and finish with a warm-air dryer, the washlet is hugely popular, particularly in Japan.

So why don’t Americans use them?  After all, if fecal matter got on just about anywhere else on your body, you wouldn’t just wipe it off with toilet paper and call it good. Why should your derrière be any different?

Although there is no definitive answer in each and every case as to why Americans eschew a bidet, there are a few major contributing factors.

To begin with, there is the historical disdain that 18th century Britons had for the French aristocracy and its decadent and hedonistic lifestyle. As the early American colonists were heavily influenced by their British heritage, it is thought that this sentiment came with them to America, too.

Another theory notes that during World War II, the first (and often only) experience many Americans had with a bidet was when soldiers saw them in French brothels, which “perpetuat[ed] the idea that bidets were somehow associated with immorality.”

A third theory, perhaps most plausible, looks to the classical process of bidet-ing. Unlike the use of a paper shield between hand and butt, traditionally with the bidet (though not so much anymore), the bare hand was used to splash, wipe and generally clean both the junk and the trunk. As Americans traditionally have been extremely conservative about such things (the first toilet flushing didn’t even show up in cinema until 1960 in the film, Psycho, partially because of this), it is thought this may have influenced the rejection of the bidet as indoor plumbing became more and more common.

The continued rejection today is then, perhaps, more about habit and tradition, rather than based on any rational idea- the classic, “that’s how we’ve always done it” line of thinking. Even for those that use them in America, the general notion of it being slightly uncouth to talk about one’s bathroom hygienic practices (which is also partially why it’s called a “bathroom, restroom, lavatory, latrine, washroom, etc.” instead of referencing what actually goes on in said rooms most of the time- peeing and pooping) also lends itself to not spreading the word about the drastically superior cleaning experience with bidets over toilet paper alone. So even for those who aren’t nearly so prudish today, they simply stick with what they know, namely toilet paper.

Why The Switch Should Be Made

It’s dirt cheap (starting at around $25 for a basic model) and ridiculously easy to install toilet seat variety bidets, with the cost quickly being offset by the savings on toilet paper. You see, unsurprisingly, bidet use drastically reduces the need for toilet paper, of which in North America over 36 billion rolls are used each year.

In addition, bidets (particularly those with heated seats) offer comfort and greater hygiene, as the jets ensure your tush is thoroughly cleaned (as opposed to the dingleberries and skid marks that can result from using only toilet paper). This added comfort factor is particularly beneficial to those suffering from a sensitive backside at a given time, such as via swollen hemorrhoids or rash. (Note, contrary to popular belief, everyone has hemorrhoids, all the time. Yes, even you.)

Third, using too much paper, or even just the thicker high-end kind, can lead to clogged toilets and sometimes clogged septic systems or clogged public sewer systems that require a lot of money be spent to fix them. (This is particularly the case when people use so called “flushable wipes” for cleaning, which help create something known in the sewer industry as “fatbergs” that clog the pipes.) Since little-to-no paper is used when a bidet is employed, such blockages are much less common in bidet-loving countries. For reference as to the expense, in San Francisco alone, the city spends about four million dollars annually just cleaning out fatbergs according to Tyrone Jue of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Fourth, older people, among others, often benefit from the bidet as the sprayer reduces or eliminates the need for hand wiping – something that can be difficult for those with arthritis, or who, just due to advanced age, disability, or injury, are less mobile.

Fifth, women who suffer from frequent urinary tract infections may benefit from washing with bidets, as opposed to only cleaning the area during the once-a-day shower. By washing away the specific pesky microbes responsible, there is less chance that some will enter the urethra and cause problems. There are also significant cleaning benefits during menstruation, which can be more easily taken care of with relatively inexpensive dual sprayer units that have a feminine hygiene setting.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Bonus Facts:

  • In 19th century London, people’s home sewage was retained in their backyards in cesspools. For those who couldn’t afford a cleaning service, they simply dumped the contents of their cesspools into the Thames River. The smell was so horrific by 1858, the resulting “Great Stink” goaded London’s Parliament to pass legislation directing the building of sewers throughout the city. See our article on: The Great Stink of 1858.
  • Today, over 2.6 billion people have no access to a toilet – this is about 40% of the world’s population. In India alone, hundreds of millions of people have no toilet access, with the result that “open defecation” is common on the streets of many towns and cities. About 600,000 people in India die each year from sewage-related diseases like cholera and diarrhea.
  • Open defecation causes additional problems for women, who are frequently attacked when they go alone. To avoid harassment, women in India often go in groups, and because modesty is preserved when they go when it’s dark, they typically arise very early in the morning, and then wait for sunset at night. Of course, the cover of darkness also hides anyone who has designs on attacking or harassing the women. Despite these hardships, some Indians disdain indoor toilets as unsanitary, and believe that “feces don’t belong under the same roof as where we eat and sleep.” In fact, despite the government’s recent initiative to install millions of toilets in people’s homes, it is estimated that in some regions, over half will not use them and will continue to go outside.
  • The British word for the toilet, “loo,” derives from the French “guardez l’eau,” meaning “watch out for the water.”  This comes from the fact that, in medieval Europe, people simply threw the contents of their chamber pots out the window onto the streets. The term “guardez l’eau” first came to English as “gardy-loo” and then shortened to “loo,” which eventually came to mean the toilet itself.
  • The toilet is also sometimes known as the “head.”  This was originally a maritime euphemism.  This came from the fact that, classically, the toilet (or at least where people expelled their bodily fluids) on a marine vessel was located at the front of the ship (the head).  This was so that water from the sea that splashed up on the front of the boat would wash the waste away.  This term is thought to have been used as early as the 17th century. The first known documented occurrence of the term, however, was from 1708 by Woodes Rogers, Governor of the Bahamas; he used the word to refer to a ship’s toilet in the book “Cruising Voyage Around the World.”
  • The term “toilet” itself comes from the French “toilette”, which meant “dressing room.”  This “toilette” in turn derived from the French “toile,” meaning “cloth”; specifically, referring to the cloth draped over someone’s shoulders while their hair was being groomed.  During the 17th century, the toilet was simply the process of getting dressed, fixing your hair, and applying makeup and the like, more or less grooming one’s self.  This gradually began to refer to the items around where someone was groomed, such as the table, powder bottles, and other items.  Around the 1800s in America, this term began being used to refer to both the room itself where people got dressed and ready for the day, as well as the device now most commonly known as the toilet.
  • The term “latrine” comes from the Latin “lavare,” which means “to wash.”  The earliest references to this term being used in English go all the way back to the mid-17th century.
  • The term “restroom” has American roots, first appearing in the early 20th century.  It comes from the notion of “rest” referring to “refreshing” one’s self.  Around the same time “restroom” began popping up, the British term “retiring room,” deriving from more or less the same notion, began being used among the upper class in Great Britain.
  • The term “lavatory” also derives from the Latin “lavare,” although this time through the Middle Latin variation “lavatorium,” meaning “washbasin.”  This popped up in English around the late 19th century.
  • The term “crapper” derives from the company name “Thomas Crapper & Co Ltd,” which made toilets in Britain. See: Why are Toilets Called “The Crapper” and Why are Toilets Sometimes Called “The John.”
  • Unlike the English, Americans, and many other peoples around the world, who prefer a variety of euphemisms to refer to the toilet, the French often simply call it the “pissoir,” which just means “place to piss.”  The English and Americans have a similar term, “shit house,” but it is obviously not a term typically found in polite conversation.
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  • For the author of this column. Would you go to ANY food establishment where the sole method of wiping your ASS is to use your hand? REALLY? It is bad enough kids who work at McD’s and can’t keep their own bedroom clean and I am SURE they all wash their hands thoroughly before manhandling that McD Deluxe but after shoving their hand up their dirty ass? Are you out of your MIND?

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Jake Lakota: “After shoving their hand up their dirty ass?” I don’t think that’s how bidet’s work. 😉

    • It is not near as bad as where you put your mouth when you have sex.

      It is people like you that don’t have any common sense, that think bidets are used the way you described

      • This is not how it’s used. I have one and I live in Southern California. The first time I used one was at a friend’s house near the Greek Theatre..I just had to try it Lol,,so during the remodeling of our bathroom I asked my husband for one…Love mine:) and I don’t clean my butt with my hands either Lol,, people that come to visit even want to try it,,and not even having to poop either Lol,,

      • Thank you!!!

    • This may come as a shock to you, but when you get crap (literally in this case) on your hands, you wash them with soap and water. If you’re so worried about those kids at McDonald’s not properly washing their hands after using the toilet, then you shouldn’t eat there in the first place! I sure don’t.

      The way I look at it, is just the same as mentioned in the article. You don’t wash your hands with just paper, so why would you for your ass, which is even nastier? You’re not cleaning anything when you use toilet paper, you’re just wiping off the visible mess.

      I think these should be required, by law, in all public restrooms for sanitation purposes. Like all changes in life, there will be people who with make a fuss over it, but it will slowly catch on as people realize how much better it is.

    • It’s a stream of warm water, Mr. Genius (not). My doctor suggested one for me while I was having a problem with hemorrhoids. The hemorrhoids are long gone but my handheld buttwasher remains a most-welcome standard fixture in my bathroom. I don’t understand why Americans (I am one) are so resistant to such a common sense approach to personal hygiene.

      • The hoi polloi will resist it with a vengeance and swear by their rolls of toilet paper. This barbarian method of cleaning has survived up to the 21st century and public obstinancy knows no bounds. Just like the crazy bathroom dividers here that allow to see what color socks your neighbor is wearing while you try to have a private bodily function. The US may have high tech in other areas but in personal hygiene it is still in the Middle Ages.

  • Do you know how many people I see leave the restroom without washing their hands? Non! It would require a massive cultural shift, we can’t even get everyone to recycle. lol

  • My theory as why bidets have never taken off the US has to do with Americans’ aversion to bodily pleasure and non-sexual touching. Bidets are, when you come down to it, awfully nice. Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of warm water on their nethers? But we’re weird about sex in this country, and even though washing yourself on a bidet is mighty far from intercourse, there are enough similarities (crotch, hand, pleasant sensations) that it makes us uncomfortable and feels vaguely wrong.

  • Oh, and Jake … if using a bidet involves shoving your hand up your ass, I think you may be doing it wrong. And a bidet is a supplement to a toilet, not a replacement, so any one who wishes to clean themselves with toilet paper instead of soap and water would always be welcome to do so. As for the manhandling issue, it is customary to wash one’s hands after using the bidet … just because someone prefers to wash their bum instead of wiping doesn’t mean they’re filthy. In fact, our American penchant for dabbing our bums with a few squares of paper instead of actually washing after doing our business is considered repulsive by large swaths of the world. Oh, and even if bidets did take off in this country, I can’t see fast food establishments (or any food-service joint, for that matter) installing them. They’re more of a private home kind of deal.

  • Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you plunge your bare hand into a bucket full of shit. Now, upon taking it out, you would not be content with just wiping the shit off your hand with a tissue, right? No, you would wash it, and scrub it, and cleanse thoroughly and most scrupulously, using every manmade means to make sure not a speck of feces is left on your skin. Now, why would you not extend the same courtesy to your ass, which happens to be the spot shit actually comes out of? Enter the bidet…

    • so, what are you saying? that you eat with your anus? or off of your anus? you shake hands with your anus? you stroke your face with your anus? i’m not getting your point, if you even have one. honestly, i’m really not. all i for sure get is that like EVERY SINGLE BIDET USER you like warm water massaging your anus. which is fine! it’s fine to use a bidet as a masturbation tool. let’s not be silly–you ARE using it for that on occasion; open secret among users here. and that’s fine, too. masturbation is crucial to quality of life. but stop pretending that using a bidet to wash your anus is somehow healthier than cleaning it with paper. it’s not. it removes natural oils and friendly flora. using a bidet now and then is fine. (though the correct place to clean your anus with water is in a shower–which is why bidets are not popular in north america; they are anachronistic and redundant. nothing to do with anything in this article)

      • I found this article while researching the bidet. Nancy’s comment is disturbing. How did washing yourself become masterbating? I wash my body in the shower..and I don’t use a cloth, just my hand and soap. And it sure does feel good! Warm slippery soapy water …everywhere..and I mean everywhere! Have I been masterbating all this time when I thought I was simply showering?! Should I tell my children not to enjoy their showers? LOL….. My goodness Nancy, lighten up will ya… It feels good to be clean…

  • Okay, here’s my Midwestern take on why not use a bidet-it rinses filth off our vaginas and our anal areas. I see the drain so obviously the dirt goes down the drain, but if my dad used one right before me, where do the germs go? Does it rinse its self out with disinfectants every time it’s used? Not from what I read. I don’t want someone else’s filth being sprayed on my delicate areas. That’s about the same as using someone else’s used tp on my privates. Show me and I could easily change my mind if it’s sanitary.

    • Rissa, There is no residue left on the nozzle(s) from previous uses. The nozzlel(s) retract out of the way and are protected by the bidet housing until they’re needed. Then they extend under the user for use. Most bidet seats flush (and some sanitize) the nozzle before and after each use.

  • The idea of a bidet kind of grosses me out, since there could be residue left from another person in there. However, simply dry wiping your butt is disgusting, too. In my house, we have sprayers attached to the toilet so you can just spray off everything, then dry off. It is a $40 attachment from Home Depot; same thing as a “diaper sprayer” if you use cloth diapers. Honestly, the idea of any intimacy with someone with poop and pee residue down there makes me shudder. If you dropped cow poop on yourself, you would not just wipe it, so why do the same with human poop?

    America prides itself on being a modern country, but I feel like in this regard, we are much behind. Try using water before wiping for a week; I’m sure you will emerge a changed person and will keep it as a habit for life!!

  • Americans remain in the Middle Ages in terms of toilet hygiene and partly to blame is the macho notion that bidets are for sissies. Also quirky is the refusal to give some privacy in public toilets with stalls where you can see and hear your next door neighbor – no wonder so many people can’t poop in the public toilets.
    Get off the macho trip and break out of the Middle ages start using spray toilets!!!

    • Jeeze people, relax! Americans wash more than any other culture I have encountered,and smell just fine. Many foreigners who come here have to step up their hygiene game, not the other way. I agree there should be better option than paper, but it’s not as nasty as you think. In California we don’t use bidets mostly because of the problems with water supply. Gray water use has only just become legal here. I believe solutions will come from that direction.// Please be aware that Chinese allow there young kids to pee and poo right out on the street anywhere. They are trying to get away with this when they come to the U.S.! The majority of Indians do not use toilets at all and just go in rivers and woods throughout the land. Let’s focus on getting that problem resolved first, huh? 3rd world citizens are moving to the first and bringing their lack of hygiene with them. Diseases eradicated in the U.S. are being brought back by illegals, not loo paper.


      • And bears are pooing in the woods too .. oh and deer .. and raccoons .. wait .. most.. no ALL animals $#!t in the woods .. it’s where the question came from.. does a bear $#!t in the woods … nooooo it comes inside a house and craps in a bathroom in the states .. and then uses toilet paper to clean itself … I get it .. crapping in public is disgusting .. and we are humans but we’ve been $#!tting in the woods longer than we’ve been sitting on toilets.

        • It took humans 5 million years to reach a population of 1 billion. Then it took 100 years to 7 billion.

    • It has nothing to do with macho bullshit and more to do with no one bothers to explain how any of this can possibly be sanitary and it sounds disgusting to most of us who have never seen or used one before. I’d prefer not to shoot bacteria up my ass thanks.

      • Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

      • Mate, any bacteria is the bidet ALREADY COME from your arse. It’s absolutely chock-full of them! And it’s fine. They’re supposed to be up there.

        Secondly, that’s not how bidets work. They don’t shoot water actually up your hole. It’s just like a little personal shower, that’s all. A little wash. After all, if you got shit on your hand, you wouldn’t just wipe it off, would you?


  • My father grew up in poor white trash town of Columbia, South Carolina. He was incredibly OCD about substances that came out of his body. Never in my life did I hear him use terms like “crap”, “butt”, “bum”, “pee” or “poo”. It was always feces, urine, defecate and urinate.
    I think a bidet would have been a wonderful improvement in his comfort level and personal hygiene. No matter what, he would not defecate until just before he took his shower. Yes, he could go through half a roll of paper after said “dump”, but he would jump right into the shower and apply a proper amount of hot water, soap and washcloth. He would only use the washcloth that he had cleaned “the rest of his body” with during the prior shower. After the “bottom shampoo” that washcloth would be ejected from the shower and a fresh, clean one used for the rest of his body.
    He insisted on being cremated after his death so he wouldn’t spend time underground with skid marks.

    • I’m exactly the same way! Literally everything you said I do; I couldn’t believe what I was reading. XD

  • Sorry, I guess I’m in the minority here. The idea of warm water spraying up my backside has ZERO appeal. Sounds mighty uncomfortable. I think I’ll just stick with paper and a thorough hand-washing after.

    • And then all day you will be scratching your dirty anus and shaking hands, no thank you, stay away from me!!! Not to mention having sex. I guess it’s a turn on for American girls to smell shit while having sex with you. And you probably love wiping them with your nose or chin while giving them oral sex…

  • Julia’s explanation is fine and Sidra’s explanation is, too. There is no sexual enjoyment with a bidet! It is simply a matter of cleanliness. What the imagination of those opposed to what is an obvious necessity is beyond my comprehension. Those who have not used a bidet, hand-held, or, an ‘out of sight’ under the seat model need to have an explanation as to how it is used, which is very simple to say the least.

    • I don’t need an explanation to how it’s used just an explanation to how it can possibly be sanitary. I keep going to different sites to read up but none address this issue and the comments are frequently full of pretentious pricks insulting americans. I’m usually turned off by the entire idea by the time I give up my search. Why is it an obvious necessity anyways? I live in a country where I have known no one who has one and I see no problems with health or hygiene or even skid marks like everyone seems to assume. In what way is it a necessity instead of a luxury?

      • Hygiene – which is obvious in parts abroad (USA non-inclusive) Moreover, why be a damn slave to the toilet paper companies? Now, it’s even worse. As Americans are getting used to a bit more anal hygiene with the wet wipes, this causes horrible blockages of sewage lines. All from the same damn companies who’ve slowly (unless your brain-dead you should’ve noticed this) short-sheeted their own customers (bread and butter!) by making the rolls narrower (those new rolls seem to have a big gap!) A bidet is the ultimate way to be free from (for the most part) all the paper waste and clogging. Go figure, Jak it’s the same thing over and over… Pseudo-patriotic person whose bigoted attitude prevents them from experiencing something which is commonplace in other parts of the world. The same offered mentality as those who say, “USA is the best country in the world” when they’ve never stepped foot out of their own home-state, let alone parts abroad. Bottom line (no bum intended) Hey, life’s too short, use the f’ing good silverware….

  • Those of you without a bidet try fingering your butthole when you wake up and you will always smell the poo. Since having a bidet there is NEVER any poo smell around my butthole and underwear is always clean. Just having a clean butthole when I wake up everyday was worth the price of the bidet but it has many more advantages than just that.

    Think toilet paper is doing the job for you? Then wipe with paper first, then use a baby wipe after that and you will see that there is still fudge in there. The next morning, finger your own butthole, smell the poo, and then admit you can still do better. Baby wipes are a huge improvement over toilet paper but even that doesn’t do it or come close to how clean your butthole will be with a bidet. no more stains, no more smell, no more itchy butthole blues. Get one!

    • Well those of us who aren’t fingering our own ass all the time might not have the same concerns. And if you’re getting skids in your underwear you’re just not wiping well enough, also eat more fiber.

  • Fast food restaurants here in Finland have a portable bidet in the stall AND a sink and soap with which to wash hands.
    Furthermore, there are numerous stations for washing hands outside the stall.
    Even the toilet paper here is unbleached.
    Health and hygiene are not high on the priority lists of North Americans.

  • The bidet seat, available from Toto, BioBidet and others, is a step above a bidet. They are the way to go. You don’t have to leave the toilet. Just push the button and you have a sparkling clean butt hole in no time. Toilet paper is so 20th century. I don’t anyone uses it any longer.

  • Bidets have a problem: you have to get OFF the toilet with your pants down, or skirt hiked, and waddle, possibly dripping, to a separate appliance for the clean up. Not practical. We in Egypt don’t use a bidet proper; all toilets have a spout built into the bowl. You turn a knob on the side of the bowl and get a wash. Sit normally to rinse the anus, lean forward slightly to clean the pee-producing parts. The stream can be made gentle or strong. Using a strong spray on the anus will cause the water to enter an inch or two, for a deep cleaning experience, which is not uncomfortable at all, and can aid the constipated. Toilet paper or a small towel is used only to dry the now pristine parts.

  • I live in Australia and NO ONE uses a biget. I never heard of it till I went to the USA. It is a pointless invention toilet paper is there for a reason

    • No one uses a bidet YET. There are some companies starting to sell them.

      Australia is behind is many ways, just look at our transport system and compare that to countries like Japan, Hongkong. Do I need to bring up our crappy internet?

      Bidet offers so much more. Australia is known for its shortage of water, do you know how much water goes into producing toilet paper?

      I haven’t try a bidet but my dad who suffers from constipation gave it a big thumb-up when he tried one in Asia.

    • Guys I’m in Australia and yes it’s truth no one uses it which I found a bit weird when I arrived. In Europe, bidets are part of your bathroom and you use it not only when you do some kind of relief and well when you want or need to refresh yourself down there. We stil use toilet paper like everyone else! The bidet use comes after you have clean your self with toilet paper!!!! Hope this clarifies the confusion!

    • You are so incorrect. Toilet paper is an invention from the past. Paper just improved over many years but it is paper. Your skin has ridges and creases and paper cannot get it clean. People suffering from hemmoroids , bowel syndromes, old people with less muscle tone , menstruating females and frequent UTI sufferers (because ecoli gets in the urinary track), pregnant women ( high incidence of UTIs) could greatly benefit of any type of bidet to clean themselves properly and avoid potential issues.

      Please reconsider

  • Why not wipe and wash with soap as well? I do. i always use the hadicapped stall in public bathrooms since you can wash your ass at the private sink as well as wash your hands. If there is liquid soap and paper towels you are good to go!

    • not so sure about that. wet paper towels don’t really hold up well wiping, then the hands you just used to wipe it are touching the faucet knobs, which the next person will have to then touch. 🙁 I appreciate the attempt, my husband does this as well, but it find it just plain awkward.

  • Going to have to agree with jim above. Bidet seats are certainly the way to go.

  • Wow. Prior to this, the most comments on a post was, what, 5? This is already up to 23. (And, Dana, I haven’t laughed that hard in a LONG time).

    Was it the Jetsons that had a little rotating brush for said purpose? Probably, I’m misremembering.

    I’m convinced there is no process that isn’t really freaking weird. Paper, water, sand? I’d rather just not go… if only that was an option.

    And then there’s the TP company with the new slogan “Enjoy the go. ” God save us.

    • Didn’t the jetsons have that mammoth? Wait, that was the Flintstones kitchen. How long was that trunk?

  • American, here, and I have questions:

    1. Is the water cold? (Cold water would be a huge turnoff, esp in Winter)
    2. If the water is warm do you have to wait for it to be heated?
    3. I hear you saying that there’s no residue from the previous user, but how can one be sure s/he didn’t accidentally get too close and touch their butt with the bidet?
    4. Does the spray tend to splash water outside of the bowl?
    5. If you don’t use toilet paper what do you dry with afterwards?
    6. Do you ever have to clean a bidet? If so, how often?

    I’ve always been intrigued by bidets, but have also had reservations about most of the above. Americans might be inclined to use them if we actually saw them being used (unlikely) and could have our questions answered not only in print but by demonstration. When you don’t grow up seeing people use them or having them used on you as a child, it’s hard to imagine how it’s done. Toilet paper, on the other hand, we know how to use and we know how to properly clean afterwards so, naturally, we’re more comfortable.

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Laura: 1) It can be, depends on the model. However, you’ll very likely find that that area of your body really isn’t that sensitive to cold and hot. From personal experience, it’s good to have the hot water hooked up in particularly cold winters, however. That way, the water starts out normal tap-water temperature and gradually warms up, rather than gradually becomes icy. In the summer, it really doesn’t matter one bit. (How close your toilet is to your hot water heater tends to determine how quickly it warms up.) But even the latter “icyness” really isn’t that big of a deal as it’s a slow shift you have time to get used to, but the former is nicer. They also have more expensive units that have hot water heaters built in if you’ve got the money. But really, try the relatively cheap units like this one first. I think you’ll find the hot water heater feature of the expensive units pointless once you try this.

      2) Yes if it’s hooked up via your hot water heater line. No if it’s got a built in hot water heater. In the former case, you can also just turn on your hot water on your bathroom sink first (you hook up the hot water tube to your sink’s hot water line- much easier than it might sound; it takes about 15-ish minutes to install one of these seat-style ones, requiring only a screwdriver and a wrench, sometimes even those two tools are included with the bidet). In any event, turning on the hot water on the sink first will get the hot water right to the bidet hot water tube, making it warm right away without waiting. But, again, I’d very much bet you’ll quickly find your backside just isn’t that sensitive to cold water, so it’s fine cold.

      3) The designs of these always have the water dispenser wands embedded in a sealed protective cover. There’s also often a second cover outside of this tightly sealed one for further protection of even the inner sealed protective cover. The wand only pops out when the water is on. If you’re really nervous about it, you can always put it on the self cleaning cycle first before use.

      4) Not as long as you are sitting on it. 🙂 It’s quite directed right where it needs to go rather than spraying all over your backside. If you aren’t on the toilet, it will spray up like a giant water fountain spray if you turn it on. 🙂

      5) Just a very small bit of toilet paper is all that’s needed for drying, which accounts for the significant annual savings on toilet paper. Or you can just drip dry for a minute if you’ve got none handy.

      6) There’s generally a self cleaning setting which will flush the wand and cover out. But, as mentioned, the wand is generally tightly sealed inside its little housing to make sure it doesn’t get dirty when not in use. Fresh water is also always being brought into it internally through your house pipes. So there is little need to clean that part of the bidet. As for the rest, like any toilet seat or the like, it may need the occasional wipe down.

  • My concerns about bidets have always centered around sanitation (like @laura and @rissa). It’s strange that bidet sellers never mention the sanitation features on their websites (I know because I’ve looked for that particular info). If sellers want to sell more bidets in the US, they should sell to women and address the issue of sanitation.

    Now that I know how the water spouts are kept sanitary, I can see myself having one in my next home. My current home’s bathrooms are too small for a separate unit and I’m too squeamish about sanitation to have a sprayer installed in the toilet bowl. Thanks for finally answering the question of sanitation.

  • Every time I read about these things I see that most people don’t understand how bacteria works, at all , and then there’s different kinds of bidets and I think that adds to the confusion. Humans don’t typically watch each other on the toilet either so we just assume that our own ritual is the only way. There are many ways to be clean… and unclean.

    First of all poop particles and microbes are everywhere, and you can’t avoid it. The point is to keep stuff like butt germs from vulnerable areas like orifices and broken skin, and to not contaminate objects and surfaces that come in contact with those vulnerable areas so that we are less likely to encounter filth and disease.

    The worst place to have butt germs is on your hands, and I think rather than fighting about bidets versus paper it’s more important that people fight to get people to wash their freaking hands with soap and warm water, making sure to scrub under their fingernails as well. After all we don’t greet people by sniffing or touching their butt holes (we’d be dogs).

    If you wipe with paper until there is no more to be wiped off, it’s sufficient until you are able to wash. The idea of “crusty butts”, “poop smell”, and “skid marks” is something I’ve never encountered in a nation that doesn’t use bidets, but instead a shower as the omni-tool for bodily messes like muddy butts.

    I’ve never had the problem myself, and I have done laundry for several partners and have not noticed the mystical skid mark. I’m sure it’s out there, but I’m sure those people aren’t the type to wipe properly and then get in the shower when they make an exceptional mess from not eating enough fibre!

    I’m also quite sure that someone who doesn’t wipe properly would also be too lazy to use a bidet in a sanitary manner. I don’t have a habit of checking people’s underwear or getting my face real close to their butt, and I’m sure you don’t either – so how do we know that people from bidet using nations who are not very thorough don’t have the same problems as paper wipers?

    So what about bidets? I’ve researched them quite a bit as I wanted to use less toilet paper in my home and have that clean feeling every time. It also seems fancy and high tech which I like, but is it really practical?

    There’s washlets that are either attached to a conventional toilet or the whole toilet is the unit – and these seem the most modern and practical kind of bidet. I have an issue with these ones if they have an air drying feature as the last thing I want is a fine mist of butt water flying all over my bathroom. (Same reason I hate those air dryers in public bathrooms – people don’t wash their hands well enough with soap and warm water and then their hand water gets sprayed all over for people to breathe in.) I also have an issue in that even if the wand is self rinsing after use, the washlet is only using water which doesn’t remove microbes. Last thing I need is cross contamination from back to front as a female. If you’re not familiar with female anatomy I’ll spell it out for you: the holes are quite close together. I don’t see how every model of washlet could precisely target everyone’s butt hole or other hole perfectly every time.

    The other style of bidet, the ones you straddle, seem to come in two types: the ones with a tap or hose like a sink and the ones that spray up from the basin. I would never use one that sprays from below having reviewed how they work, as the water coming from the spout is being continuously contaminated by butt water. The one with the tap or hose seems to be the most sanitary as you splash fresh water coming out the spout on yourself, and then the dirty water drains away – just like a shower. I would not however, want guests using the family bidet… I’d only have it in a private en suite.

    In conclusion I see the tap/hose bidet as the only sanitary option between the three, but it is a single function appliance which functions the same as a shower and therefore takes up unnecessary space in a bathroom. If you have the room, why not? But I’d rather use the space for a flushing urinal for my SO, than a bidet which is the same as stepping into the shower and using the hose or taps.

    TL;DNR: It’s the people more than the method that makes for an unsanitary behind.

  • Re: bidets. I’m American but I live in Europe. Bidets are a way of life here and after reading the comments, it seems there are a lot of misconceptions. The bidet nostle never gets close to a user’s body. There is virually no problem with sanitation. ..certainly no more (and most likely, less) than using a public toilet. Everyone keeps a personal towel available next to the bidet. It isn’t used by anyone other than that person and it’s changed daily. Having a bidet prevents the need to shower daily while still remaining sparkling clean…a bidet and a wash from the sink does the trick without over use of water & heating. When I visit the States now, I don’t feel clean after using the bathroom…I miss using the bidet for my own level of personal hygiene. I want to emphasize that bidets are clean, brilliant, cost-effective, and pleasant to use…no downside in my opinion.

    • Electromechanicaldissonance

      Okay, you had me up to this point: “Having a bidet prevents the need to shower daily while still remaining sparkling clean” … a bidet now also washes your hair, your armpits and everywhere else on your body where you sweat and develop body odor? Please, don’t be so absurd. A bidet does not in any way, shape or form replace a shower. A shower is for cleansing the entire body, not just your anus or genitals.

      • Americans tend to shower too frequently, thus not only drying out our skin but wasting water (and the energy used to heat it). Technically, one does not need to wash the whole body in a shower on a daily basis, unless you spend your days wallowing in dirt.

  • I am absolutely disgusted that some people don’t wash their backsides. So much that I even think twice when I have to shake hands with westerners. Not to be offensive, but that’s how it is.

    • So not washing your ass equals not washing your hands now? Are you an idiot?

      • That was rude. Obviously, he means that when people are using their hands to wipe their bum, they may not wash their hands well enough afterwards, and that IS a sanitary issue when shaking hands.

  • Templeton the Rat

    The concept of a bidet seems logical but it’s no substitute for hot water, soap and a wash cloth.

    And using it without toilet paper seems pretty silly. Using it with toilet paper makes a lot more sense.

    I’m a westerner and trust me, most people seem to think that toilet paper is more than enough.
    Personally I hate to take a dump anywhere that I cannot wash my butt following the event.

  • Thanks for bringing to my attention that having a bidet saves you money in the long run. I haven’t heard much about bidets, but it sounds like it could be nice to not have to worry about buying bathroom tissue all the time. Perhaps it would be a good idea to switch over so I can save money in the long run.

  • I mean, there are basically 3 things for the bidet: icing the face, washing lingerie and cleaning up intimate parts.

  • Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you were to plunge your bare hand in a bucket full of shit. Upon taking it out, would you be content with merely wiping the shit off with a tissue? Or would you rather wash it and scrub it most scrupulously with water, and soap, and every single product designed for cleaning messes? Now, why would you not extend the same courtesy to your bum, which is the exact spot from which shit actually comes from, and where it is more likely to stick to? Enter the bidet…

  • I’m an american that was born and raised overseas until moving to the states for college. We always had bidets, I miss them now, they really are way easier than the numerous wads required to get the same absolutely clean finish, especially if you have one of those uh… messier poos.

    Some of these replies here are so naive and embarrassing to me as a fellow American.

    I plan to install one when we finally decide where to buy a house

  • I always take a shower afterwards which is preferable to using a bidet.

  • bobo_exterminator

    For the 4 years that I’ve been staying in America I’ve always tried to find a way to have a bidet. I’ve had a bidet installed at home (as part of the toilet), and I bought a portable bidet (you can find it on Amazon) for when I’m outdoors. I also bring wipes with me for whenever I don’t have access to any bidets, or as a supplement to my portable bidet therefore ensuring that my butt smells nice and is sufficiently clean (for my standards).

    Worst case scenario where I don’t have a bidet or some wipes with me, I just get a cup of water to dip the tissue paper in before wiping my butt with it. If I don’t have a cup or a bottle, then I’ll wet some pieces of tissue paper before entering the cubicle.

    I ride the train every day to work and a lot of times I find myself unintentionally smelling other people’s possibly poop-smeared butts while climbing up staircases at train stations. It’s at those times that I’m thankful to be as meticulous as I am in terms of butt hygiene.

    I know that to each, their own; but I’m hoping at least that America could be kind enough to have bidets accessible in public restrooms for those people that can’t stand just using tissue paper.

  • I think the author of this article doesn’t get the bidet usage correctly. It’s not that bidet is used INSTEAD OF toilet paper: it is used AFTER YOU HAVE CLEANED YOURSELF WITH TOILET PAPER. So, “using the bidet” means: first you clean yourself with paper “American style”, and right then you wash the interested zones in the bidet (and you dry yourself). At least, this is how it works in Italy, I can’t speak for France or other Countries

    • This is the rule in almost the entire planet. Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Albanian, Greek, Turkish, Middle Eastern, Asia, Japan, Korea…We all use toilet paper and water. Only America, Australia and the UK have problems using a bidet, because they think washing your butt with your hands will get your hands dirty, while not considering you are washing with water and liquid soap, and washing your hands again afterwards. I hope Germany, and other northern European countries get accustomed with this method as soon as possible. Meanwhile I’m not ever shaking hands with Americans…disgusting!!

  • Whoa I can’t imagine how american women clean their butt when they are having period. You only wipe your dirty blood with toilet paper? Without water? Ewh, disgusting.

  • You don’t even need to have such fancy thing in your house. The shower or tub faucet will do. We wipe off residue and then wash. Plain wiping is just disgusting! Ended up doing it in public restroom? Wipe, wash hands thoroughly, then just wash when you get home. No big deal.

  • Tip : Practice it WITHOUT POOPING.

    First time bidet user should practice few times to catch the correct height, distance and the angle on how you hold the spray nozzle from your right hand.


    01. You should not spread water outside or on the seat.
    02. You are holding the bidet above the level of your back in 45 degrees angle and about 6in distance.
    03. You should bend forward little bit while sitting, which gives the perfect angle for spray water.
    04. You are constantly spraying water and SLOWLY rubbing that small area with left hand FINGERS.
    05 Never use hand. Only LEFT hand middle three fingers.
    06 Never rub fast.
    07 You continue and you feel the area is totally clean but NEVER TAKE YOUR LEFT HAND OUT !!!
    08. Continue washing left hand while in the same position.
    09. Place the bidet on the holder and and take your hands out.
    10. You are now 90% clean.
    11. Stand up, Flush the toilet with right hand finger.
    12. Wash you hands with hand wash or soap.

    If you feel that you did it perfectly, check the under side of the toilet seat. There should be zero water drops.

    Adjust the angle valve of the bidet water supply to gentle for a controlled water pressure.

    xxx Practice it WITHOUT POOPING. It will give you a perfect idea on how its done.

  • Well I have finally gotten tired of the slander of how stupid Americans are apparently no one did their research yet again every study ever done on the flushing of a toilet indicates that fecal matter flies away from the toilet every time it is flushed this will also happen when the water is jetted up your butt crack which means you’re pushing twice the amount of fecal matter into the air so really at the end of the day you’re blowing more fecal matter around your bathroom which is also where a lot of people store their tooth brush are you seeing where I’m going with this I think you have it a little bit backwards wash your butt in the shower like everyone else wipe it clean on the toilet close the with before you flush to keep fecal matter off of your toothbrushes apparently no 1 does research anymore additionally I believe no 1 uses their d*** brain

  • I’m 64 and, like many Americans, not an intercontinental traveller. Today I used a toilet seat incorporating a bidet system. I installed it yesterday (simple, impressive) and my almost regular morning BM was followed by the inaugural use. After many years of interest this is the first time using a bidet. I didn’t realize that such an inexpensive, non-obtrusive solution was available. I thought those clunky separate fixtures were it. My bidet is the Genie.

    Before this, I was not comfortable with a paper only approach. I graduated to baby wipes, but wasn’t okay with the sewer and environmental impact. Then I thought up something which is still valid for traveling. I saw a spray bottle of perineal / skin cleaner while a patient in the hospital and the concept became an excellent and satisfying “portable bidet” experience. I found the same product offered by the brand “Aloe Vesta” on Amazon and began to purchase the spray bottles in quantity. How to use? Wipe as usual until “clean”, spray toilet paper with the cleanser, wipe, and use a final bit of paper to pat dry. Not so perfect? Repeat with the cleanser,

    Now when you must leave your fixture friend behind , just bring a bottle with you on extended visits, vacations, camping, etc.

    A clean bottom is a happy bottom.

  • A baker shits and uses a bidet and cleans his bum with his bare hands. Once done with his business he goes into the kitchen and prepares a dough with his bare hands.
    If i knew what he did, i would think again before eating his bread.
    I prefer toilet paper. Wipe till there’s nothing left.

  • Now here we are in March of 2020 and all the stores have sold out of Toilet Paper due to a social panic caused by a Word Pandemic brought on by the Coronavirus COVID-19 and $35.00 bidet add-on sellers are making a fortune, it sometime takes a 2×4 to wake up the masses.