“Booty fountain is strange.” “Water everywhere, soaking [the] bathroom and possibly my clothes.” “I'm not even sure what one is.”
If you grew up pooping in America, you’re probably just as confused about bidets as the 400 people we surveyed.
But it’s not your fault. You can blame America's Puritan past for why we’re all super confused, not installing bidets, wiping our butts till it hurts with 150 million trees every year.
We’re here to rectify that confusion.
Bidet Usage In America.
Americans overwhelming “clean” their butts with paper products.
Of the 400 toileters surveyed a minuscule 3.75% owned a bidet. But boy are those bidet owners happy (which should tell you something) — when asked about their bidet-related concerns, one respondent said “Nothing! They are fantastic! Everyone should have one!”
Have you ever said that about toilet paper? Almost certainly not. In the words of one respondent, “Wiping works fine.”
That’s just the thing, though — it’s easy to be content with a substandard practice if you don’t know that a better alternative exists. For instance, how many of you have been oblivious to how uncomfortable your feet were until you finally tried on a new pair of shoes? So much support!
That’s exactly what’s happening with Americans’ butts. We all wipe with toilet paper, and we’re all oblivious to (or scared of) the better alternative, bidets.
On top of the exceedingly small level of bidet ownership, we learned from our survey that a solid 23.25% of respondents had no idea what a bidet even was. So we’ll begin there.
What is a Bidet?
If you don’t know what a bidet is, you’re in good company — most people don’t. A bidet (pronounced bee-dey or bih-det) is a bathroom fixture that sprays a focused stream of water at your butt (or vagina) to thoroughly clean yourself after you’ve done your business. Think of it like a tiny shower for your butt.
The word “bidet” itself is French for “pony” and its Old French root word, “bider,” meant “to trot.” The prevailing theory here is that to use a traditional-style bidet — the types that look like floor-mounted sinks — you have to kind of… mount it, like you would a pony.
Though nobody knows for sure who invented the bidet or when they did it, the current best guess is that it was developed by a person or persons of the French furniture industry sometime in the late 1600s.
This traditional style of bidet is one of three commonly used types of bidet. There’s also the bidet shower, a handheld sprayer, similar to that on your kitchen sink. And the third style is a sleek, unobtrusive device mounted directly to a toilet, eliminating the awkward pants-around-the-ankles shuffle and balance-testing squatting that traditional ones require.
The mounted bidet, also referred to as a bidet attachment, comes in two varieties of its own: a pricier electric version that replaces your toilet seat and has lots of buttons and settings, and the simple to use, affordable, water-powered version that attaches right under your toilet seat like Whisper.
How do Bidets Work?
“Water everywhere, soaking [the] bathroom and possibly my clothes.”
That’s how one survey respondent imagined using a bidet would turn out. It’s a common idea, one that was mirrored by quite a few respondents: “You might get your clothes wet”; “Spray gets everywhere”; “Getting clothes wet”; “Where does the water go after use? [Can you] guarantee it does not end up on clothes or floor?”
Bidets are not fire hoses. They’re not ornate fountains in public parks. They’re not demonically possessed lawn sprinklers gone mad. They’re controlled streams of slightly pressurized clean water, highly engineered to go precisely where they’re needed and nowhere else.
In short, the answer is “yes”. Provided that you can guarantee you remain seated while using a bidet, we can guarantee that the water stays exactly where it belongs — on your butt and in the bowl.
Mounted bidets draw fresh, clean water directly from the water supply with an adapter. Once installed, cleaning yourself is a simple procedure. Activate the water — again, while seated, please — and a small pressurized stream aimed at the ol’ rear end will rinse away all the dirty bits left (in your) behind. Angle your body as needed to get every nook and cranny. After 5 to 15 seconds, turn the water off, dab-dry with a couple squares of toilet paper (thus solving another survey respondent concern: having a squishy wet tush), and you’re good to go.
Benefits of the Bidet.
Survey respondents expressed concerns (misconceptions) about hygiene, excess water use, and cost. One survey respondent doesn’t think bidets offer any benefits over wiping with paper at all.
When all you’ve ever known is wiping, it’s easy to overlook how crappy wiping actually is.
Bidets eliminate endless wiping: As just one example, do you remember the last time you were stuck on the toilet wiping for eternity because the paper just would not come up clean? It’s a huge pain in the ass you’ll never experience again with a bidet.
Bidets improve hygiene and soothe below the belt discomforts: Wiping, wet or dry, is friction. Friction irritates the skin, creates micro cuts, and is outright painful. If you have discomforts like hemorrhoids or anal fissures, wiping can further aggravate the situation. And wet wipes, even some of the “all natural” ones, use softeners, preservatives, and perfumes that do your butt no favors. Repeated exposure can lead to contact dermatitis. Simply put, there’s a chance you’ll develop a rash in your anus.
Wiping with toilet paper does not remove all the bacteria from your behind and actually spreads it around. This leftover bacterial residue is easily transferred to other areas of the body and can lead to, among other unpleasantries, UTIs. A targeted stream of fresh water from a bidet rinses away the infectious bacteria left over from feces. It’s like taking a shower after you poop.
There’s also the fact that wiping is a hands-on job, increasing your hand-to-feces exposure.
Bidets save you money: The average American uses 57 squares of toilet paper per day (even more for those never-ending wipe situations). That’s nearly an entire roll of standard 2-ply toilet paper per day for a household of four. Bidets, on the other hand, leave you feeling fresh and clean requiring only a few squares to dab-dry. You’ll see a reduction of 50% to 90% in your toilet paper needs.
More and more Americans are adding pricey wet wipes to their post-poop cleanup routine as well. This ongoing poop expense outs your plumbing at risk for costly cogs. And when flushed, even the “flushable” kind, create a serious issue for municipal sewer systems (ever heard of a fatberg? They’re exactly as horrible as you’re imagining). New York City spent $18 million in tax dollars from 2010 to 2015 on wipe-related equipment problems. A growing issue for countless other cities throughout the country. How about that for flushing tax dollars down the drain.
Bidets reduce needless deforestation: We in the United States are wadding up something in the ballpark of 150 million trees worth of toilet paper and rubbing them on their butts. That’s 150,000,000 trees. Made into toilet paper. Annually. In the US alone.
Bidets conserve water: While you should be concerned with “excess water use,” as one survey respondent was — fresh water is a limited resource and we’re running out of it at an alarming rate — bidets are the wrong target. The toilet paper industrial complex is among the most water-intensive of industries that exist. A single roll of toilet paper requires about 37 gallons of water during the production process. Cleaning your butt with a Whisper bidet uses about 8 ounces of water.
Roughly calculated, you’ll poop 592 times before your Whisper uses the amount of water it takes to manufacture a single roll of toilet paper.
Bidet Usage Around The World.
Though the concept of a bidet is a foreign one to many Americans, the fact is bidets are widely used across the globe. Bidets are commonplace across great swaths of Europe, particularly southern Europe where you will find over 90% of bathrooms in Spain, Italy, and Greece have bidets installed. Italy and Portugal believe in bidets so emphatically they both enacted laws in 1975 mandating the bathroom fixture.
Bidets are also fairly common in central and eastern European countries, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hungary, and so on.
Bidets are used outside of Europe, of course. For example, 81.2% of Japanese households have them installed. Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil have caught on to the better booty cleaning habit as well.
With such a huge chunk of the world loving their bidets, you might be wondering: what memo did we miss?!
Why Aren’t We Using Bidets in America?
“It’s weird.” If you asked someone on the street today, they’d probably respond just as one of our survey respondents did. But why? Where does the stigma stem from?
Unfortunately, we can’t answer that definitively — like the invention of the bidet, the precise reasons why they never caught on in America are somewhat a mystery. Nobody knows for sure, but there’s a pretty strong prevailing theory. It’s got deep roots in our Puritan past when this country was founded.
During the 1700s the buttoned-up English viewed the sexually progressive French to be a nation of debauchery—those freaky French were having sex and using their bidet invention to clean up afterward. Blasphemy! As such, the practice of using a bidet began to be linked to the practice of hedonism and sexual depravity (as defined in 18th-century terms, at any rate).
As the theory goes — and it’s a pretty solid one, so far as theories are concerned — the English, and in particular the more puritanical English, carried these misconceptions with them to the colonies. They didn’t install bidets, so the next generation didn’t install bidets, and so on. Here we are, 300+ years later, super confused, not installing bidets, endlessly wiping our butts with 150,000,000 trees every year.
What’s the Big Deal?
Well that’s the question, isn’t it, dear reader. What’s the big deal with bidets? What’s the big deal that we don’t use them in America?
In short, the big deal is that the failure to use bidets — in other words, our reliance on toilet paper as the primary rump-cleaning method — is ineffective as far as hygiene, it’s financially wasteful, and environmentally harmful.
So, yea… American’s habitual but factually baseless disdain of bidets is a big deal. A really big one.
But it’s in your power to start changing the conversation about toilet paper and bidets in America.
It all starts with an open mind and a clean butt.
Written by Andrew Tobia
Illustration by Meia
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