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by Leslie Farin
Have you used a bidet toilet seat?
I recently received a request from a weekend guest to add a bidet to the master bathroom in my vacation rental. When designing the ensuite, I took great care to ensure adequate space around the toilet for accessibility for those who might need it, but honestly never thought about a bidet. This particular guest had multiple sclerosis, and chose my home specifically for the accessibility features, a rare find in vacation rentals. She loved most everything about the home, especially the large wheelchair friendly roll-in shower, however gently suggested a bidet to make the bathroom even more user friendly for someone with a disability.
As I never before used a bidet myself, I decided to ask some friends for their thoughts. Many had no experience with them, but one well-traveled friend, who spent time in Japan where bidets are common in both homes and commercial buildings, told me she loved using them. She explained she not only felt very clean and refreshed after doing her business, but that “it felt really good to have warm water sprayed on my tush”. Obviously bidets provide a variety of benefits, with or without a disability. Intrigued, I wanted to know more. Here’s what I learned.
What exactly is a bidet?
Before we start talking about bidets, I need to warn you I am going to speak frankly about poop and other bathroom happenings. A bidet is a specialized bathroom fixture that uses a targeted stream of water to wash your genitals, perineum, and anus. It is the primary way many people around the world clean themselves after using the toilet, particularly in Europe, Japan and South Korea. Slowly but surely, it seems bidets are becoming essential parts of modern American bathrooms as well. If you are someone who, like me, enjoys reading through real estate listings, perhaps at some point you noticed a listing boasting of a master ensuite complete with a luxury bidet toilet?
There are two types of modern bidets. One is a porcelain-type bidet that is a separate fixture placed next to the toilet. The other is an accessory designed to attach to your existing toilet. The first requires a plumber, but the second does not as you can attach it yourself using existing plumbing. You do need an electrical outlet though, so if you don’t have one near the commode you may need to bring in an electrician.
If you picture in your mind an old-school setup when you hear the word bidet, such as you might see in an old building in Europe, don’t worry. We don’t recommend you install a toilet and bidet that are completely separate. While interesting looking, this system takes too much space, is expensive, and most notably, is awkward to use. You first need to use the toilet, then hoist yourself onto the bidet to clean up. No thank you, not interested.
The benefits of bidets
Bidets are more sanitary
Using a bidet is cleaner and more hygienic than wiping with toilet paper which often leaves fecal residue behind. A stream of water sprayed exactly where needed cleans up even your worst messes gently and easily. In addition, bidets are hands-free, and the fewer germs you get on your hands the better; hands carry and spread more germs than any other body part, and let’s be honest – we know not everyone washes their hands well after using the toilet.
Bidets provide health benefits
The health benefits of bidets directly relate to their hygienic qualities. When we dry-wipe with toilet paper, we generally leave bacteria behind which causes infections and certain conditions. For example, according to the National Kidney Foundation, 80-90% of UTI infections are caused by E. coli that live in your feces. A bidet leaves your bottom much cleaner than toilet paper, which decreases the incidence of bladder infections. In addition, many people report relief from itching, bleeding, and hemorrhoids after changing from conventional toilet seats to bidet seats.
Bidets promote independence
Bidet seats make toileting easier for people who have conditions that hinder their ability to clean themselves after using the toilet. Those who find bidets particularly helpful include elderly family members and people with disabilities. Self-toileting is as good for self-esteem as it is for hygiene. Who wants to have to ask for help to use the bathroom? And they are also good for small grandchildren! Modern bidets have a knob on the side of the toilet that you easily turn on and off.
Bidets are eco-friendly
With a bidet seat, you reduce or even eliminate the need for toilet paper. Did you know that it takes 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water to manufacture a ton of tissue? You can save trees and conserve water at the same time.
Bidets replace flushable wipes
The water stream provided by a bidet is better than a wipe. Some people like to use wipes to get cleaner, but did you know many contain drying agents like alcohol that can cause itchiness?
Bidets lead to fewer toilet clogs
Using water alone to clean your bottom means less toilet paper and flushable wipes. As a result, your toilets will not clog nearly as often.
Bidets are cost effective
Though you will pay for the bidet accessory up front, you will certainly save money later on toilet paper and wipes.
Bidets lead to feeling cleaner
It’s nice to feel fresh after using the toilet – every time. Even after an illness with a bad case of diarrhea, when it’s really hard to feel clean, you’ll walk out of the bathroom feeling cleansed and refreshed. The bidet even takes care of odors you may worry about.
What do bidets cost?
Fortunately, bidets are available in a wide range of prices that work with any budget. At the high end of the spectrum, integrated bidet toilets (a bidet combined with the whole toilet fixture, not just the seat) often cost thousands of dollars.
For the budget conscious, bidet attachments and sprayers are a very affordable way to try a bidet. Powered by water pressure, bidet attachments install underneath your toilet seat. You control the nozzle spray with a dial on the attachment arm. A basic bidet attachment cost about $35, or you could try a dual-temperature version for somewhere around $60. Is a handheld bidet more your style? Try an ergonomic bidet sprayer for about the same price. The handheld version, usually stored in a holster on the wall or toilet tank is similar to a kitchen sprayer or garden hose; you simply hold it in your hand and aim in the desired direction. You may spray a little water around the room at first, but after using for a little while you’ll have better control.
For an excellent bidet experience without breaking the bank, go with a bidet toilet seat. Fully-featured warm water models range in price from under $300 for entry-level models to just over $600 for luxury models with all the bells and whistles. Here’s a variety to look at on amazon.
The bottom line (no pun intended!)
A bidet is a fantastic alternative to wiping and makes a world of difference in how you feel after using the toilet. After switching to a bidet seat, many people report they feel cleaner, fresher and healthier. It’s a bonus that bidets are also eco-friendly, cost-effective and promote independence for those who have difficulty toileting themselves. And modern bidets look nice and won’t necessarily detract from your bathroom decor. Let us know if you decide to add one in your home and join the others who prefer to wash instead of wipe!
originally posted 8/16/2021
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