To bidet, or not to bidet...that is the question on a lot of Americans' minds these days, as sales of these toilet alternatives have sky-rocketed since the pandemic began, and toilet paper became scarce.
Thankfully we are no longer product-mongering at grocery stores, and supply chains have stabilized; however, interest has continued to rise and so have sales.
Stocks had even diminished for a time, so even if you wanted one, you couldn't get one. That's no longer a problem, either, so if you're considering an improvement to your bathroom regime, here are the pros and cons of installing a bidet.
What Is a Bidet?
Bidet is a French word that loosely translates to riding a small pony. How it evolved into a bathroom fixture is another article altogether, but just like a toilet, the idea is that you straddle a bidet so that it can clean your private parts with a gentle spray of water after you've done your business.
The stand-alone bidet was originally brought out in France in the 1600s in the form of a simple wash basin with the specific intent of being used after the chamber pot. These stand-alone units are similar in height and look to a porcelain toilet.
There will be a water spigot or sometimes warm and cold water taps to create a comfortable temperature that can be squirted towards the rear end of an individual to wash the area.
This idea has evolved over centuries where we still have the stand-alone bidet, but also a few different types and options to suit just about anyone's specific needs or home space.
Some bidets are already built into toilet systems, alleviating the need to use or add two different units. This can be a lot more convenient than having to get up and use a bidet after having been on the toilet, but we'll get into the different options later on in the article.
Main Pro: Keeps You Feeling Clean
The main benefit that sells people on bidets (especially after they've used one) is that it undoubtedly leaves you cleaner in your nether regions after having used the toilet, mainly for #2.
Wiping only does so much, whereas a gentle, warm, spray of water can wash away everything that needs to be rid of.
You can use a bidet to get a clean feeling even if you haven't used the toilet, eliminating the need to shower every time you want to freshen up.
Health experts agree on this part, and will say that when bidets are used properly, bathroom hygiene is elevated in comparison to using toilet paper.
There's also the uncomfortable feeling and even medical problems that come with "over-wiping". Skin can easily become irritated and sometimes lead to infection, or even hemorrhoids.
Saves on Toilet Paper
This one is particularly important if we are ever in a pandemic or another situation where supply chains are disrupted again.
Since there was such pandemonium that led to hoarding toilet paper, it may be reassuring to some folks who live with the fear of toilet paper shortages happening again.
For others, simply reducing their spending on toilet paper may be enough to consider a bidet. For a large family, the savings could justify the amount of installing a bidet in one or all of their bathrooms.
In terms of the waste created by toilet paper use, Americans flush an estimated 30 pounds of toilet paper each year as individuals, totaling about 85 rolls used per person annually.
Times that by the total population of approximately 332 million and you've got around 10 billion pounds of toilet paper literally going down the drain every year.
Helps with Mobility Issues
Bidets can be useful for people with injuries or certain mobility issues, as well. With automated control options, using a bidet may be easier for someone who doesn't have full use of their arms, but still has some hand function.
The bidet can also help anyone with back problems, or any injury that prevents them from precariously squatting over the toilet to wipe.
They are often recommended for anyone with hemorrhoids, since wiping can exacerbate an already irritated area, while helping to get rid of problem-solving bacteria.
They can also be a lot more comfortable for anyone recovering from childbirth, or other surgeries that may require a more gentle approach to cleaning private parts.
Elderly folks who struggle with keeping themselves clean after using the toilet may also find a bidet to be of great assistance without needing anyone else like a nurse or family member to help clean them up after bathroom use.
As already mentioned, there are a few different options for installing a bidet in your bathroom, but one of the most economical and easiest options to install is a bidet attachment.
You can get a simple unit for about $50, or even less if you find one on sale. These are a great option if you want to try out the bidet feeling without breaking the bank or doing any major renovations.
These slim attachments are placed underneath your existing standard toilet seat and hook up to the incoming water supply that's already feeding the toilet tank.
At more expensive prices you can find attachments with various controls and knobs for water pressure and direction, but most of these under-seat attachments won't have adjustable water temperature.
If they do, options for hot water will either need to hook up to a hot water line, usually under the sink (since only cold goes to the toilet tank), or from an electrical outlet.
Note that any attachment that uses the cold water from the toilet supply circumvents using the water that's in the tank by using a t-valve, just in case you were worried that gross toilet water would be shooting at your bum.
Changing out your existing toilet seat with a bidet seat attachment is one of the most popular choices for Americans. These will be a bit more expensive than basic attachments, but will offer a lot more in regard to function and ease of use.
They come in different sizes, round or elongated, so you can fit the bidet seat perfectly to any standard toilet. They come with various knobs and controls for direction and pressure control of the water spray, and many also offer have water temperature control.
Some will heat the water through an electrical connection to an outlet somewhere, and this may also warm the seat itself, offer an air-dryer, or even lights.
Non-electric types would utilize the warm water connection from under the sink to provide both hot and cold water to the water supply of the bidet.
These seats also offer remote control options which can be a great option for those will mobility issues, or just to suit your personal preference.
These bidets are the classic bidets that most people imagine. They're more popular in Europe and Asia, and as their name suggests, they are placed separately from the toilet, usually next to it.
They are either mounted on the wall or floor, and need to be connected to water lines and have a drain.
These would be the only kind of bidets that would require a professional to install.
While toilet and bidet installation isn't difficult itself, roughing in the specific plumbing would require someone with a license, and you may need to demo the wall or floor for the water lines to be run.
Stand-alone bidets come with all of the various modern features that the other ones do, and offer a more elegant look to your bathroom. Some people prefer to have their toilet and bidet separate, as is with the traditional style of their use.
Prices are going to be a lot more expensive than the previous two mentioned, but they have come down in price to be more competitive.
The built-in bidet and toilet combo takes the best of each to create one place to do everything without the need for attachments or two different units. It's a toilet and bidet all in one.
These combination units will be the most expensive option of them all, but if you are renovating or designing a new bathroom, it's something to consider having one space allotted for both functions.
These toilet-bidets will also have all of the various functions and controls you could want, with a sleeker, more integrated overall design.
Having the same manufacturer for both your toilet and bidet can also have its advantages in case of any problems, or need for parts.
Portable bidets won't need to be installed in your home, but it's good to mention them in case you're wondering how you would go about life anywhere else after getting used to a bidet regime.
These are simply small bottles that will contain water that you fill up from a source, with a tube and nozzle so that you can clean yourself when traveling or away from home.
There are both manual and electric options but that's only to help with the spraying action - any water temperature depends on the water you fill it with. Electric ones will run on batteries or a USB charger.
These can also be an easy option to invest in to see if the bidet feeling is right for you.
Handheld bidets are another option that has a water sprayer that's attached to a long hose, similar to a handheld showerhead so that you can have more control over washing yourself.
These make another good in-between option that isn't expensive and can be easily installed onto an existing toilet through a t-valve and a hook for the sprayer to hang off of, usually from the top of the tank or side of the toilet.
These simple units will give you more control over where the water is going with options to increase or decrease water pressure as needed. There aren't many models that allow for both hot and cold water hookups, however.
- Portable Bidets: $10-$40. No installation needed.
- Bidet Attachments: $40-$120. Simple DIY installation under your existing toilet seat with a t-valve connection to the tank.
- Handheld Bidets: $30-$80. Simple connection to the tank through a t-valve and hangs from the side of the toilet.
- Bidet Seats (non-electric): $100-$150. Easy to install, just replace existing toilet seat with bidet seat of similar size and connect to the tank through a t-valve.
- Bidet Seats (electric): $200-$1200. Similar installation to non-electric, except will need a dedicated GFCI-rated outlet to connect to. Hot water can connect under a sink for water temperature control.
- Stand-alone Bidets: $300-$1000. Installation will require a professional to hook up water lines, connect the drain, and create a sturdy floor or wall base to attach to.
- Bidet Toilets: $650-$8000. Installation needs similar 12-inch rough-in and plumbing connections that regular toilets do, electrical options will require a GFCI-rated outlet.
Major Con: the Cost
The main disadvantage of stand-alone bidets is that they require extra space and possible bathroom demolition to install them correctly which could be costly.
They will also need their own separate plumbing including water lines and a drain which is more complicated than simply using a bidet attachment, bidet seat, or opting for the bidet toilet.
The cost may be a detractor for some people who are looking at either stand-alone units or combos.
If you are replacing an old toilet anyway, it might justify the high cost of a bidet toilet, since buying them separately can cost around $300 each, and that's not including any renovations to make room for a stand-alone bidet.
It can be difficult to spend around $1000 for something you may not like, so if you aren't sure whether a bidet is right for you but are interested, opt for the cheaper options like a bidet attachment or simple bidet seat to find out whether you like it, and furthermore, what kind of options you might be looking for in a bidet toilet.
Must Be Used and Cleaned Properly
All types of bidets need to be cleaned properly as there is a chance that the nozzle and sprayer will become a haven for bacteria after a certain amount of usage.
You'll have to clean them more often than toilets since bidet sprayers essentially come in contact with your body through the water.
For anyone with a vagina, positioning the spray so that water is not pushed forward from the rear is important, as infection can be spread this way. When wiping with toilet paper, it's more hygienic to wipe front to back and the same applies to a bidet spray.
It's also important to use this practice to avoid urinary tract infections to keep germs from transferring from one area to another. As long as all areas are cleaned thoroughly it doesn't pose a great risk, but it's something to keep in mind.
Handheld bidets are particularly prone to gathering bacteria, especially with multiple users. The handle should be disinfected after each use.
Still Need (Some) Toilet Paper
Unless you have an air dryer on your bidet, you'll still need to wipe away water and moisture after cleaning your private areas.
Not wiping or drying risks getting your underwear wet, and creating a moist environment in your nether-regions which is not good for bodily hygiene, and can promote bacteria.
Individuals could use a single towel for only post-bidet use, but making sure others don't use it may be a problem in larger households, or when guests are over.
Wet wipes are another option, but you will need something to dry off the area before putting your clothes back on, and the easiest thing to use is a little bit of toilet paper each time.
Increased Water and Energy Usage
A spray here and there isn't going to substantially up your water bill each month, and the savings in toilet paper will outweigh any small increase.
Also, it takes a lot of water to make a roll of toilet paper: 6 gallons to be exact. So, even if you're using a small amount of water every day to stay clean, you're likely making a better environmentally-conscious choice.
Bidet toilets, seats, and attachments that use electricity to heat up the seat and water will also consume energy. Look for energy-efficient models as they can offset monthly costs from $20/month to $2/month, which may justify higher initial prices.
With so many different types of bidets to use, the pros and cons of installing a bidet depend on many factors.
Try a portable or bidet attachment first to see if you like the feeling, and if you're into it (and your bum is, too), then you can start thinking about a larger investment into your bathroom routine.