Here’s all you need to know about the clean tush movement.
Ever feel like wiping your bum with toilet paper just isn’t doing the job? It may be time to rethink how you’re cleaning your backside and consider the bidet, or washlet, which is reported to be more hygienic and ultimately better for the environment.
“A good quality bidet, when used and maintained properly, will deliver superior hygiene care,” says Christine Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. “Toilet paper hygiene can have consequences — from not wiping clean to those being overzealous in wiping.” Wiping too hard can cause red, itchy, dry skin. Even worse is wiping with sharp or broken fingernails, which can cut the skin and also cause stool to be trapped under nail surfaces, Dr. Lee explains.
Lee adds that bidets may be especially helpful for women. “Bidets can prevent bacteria from entering the urethra,” she says. “This can prevent some urinary tract infections caused by stool soiling in the undergarments from inadequate post defecation wiping and cross-contamination to urethra or to the urinary bladder.”
A study published in December 2021 in the Journal of Water and Health compared the microbes on the hands of people who wiped after using a bidet with those who did not use one. The bidet group had only a fraction of the fecal microbes on their hands compared with the only wiping group.
Wet wipes are not a reliable solution either. They often contain an allergen that may lead to rashes and anal itching, according to a case study report published in the Archives of Dermatology. They also aren’t meant for narrow pipes of plumbing systems and may lead to clogs.
The bidet dates back to the 1600s, when it was a wash basin next to the chamber pot. It has since evolved and become a staple in bathrooms throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America — but Americans have yet to embrace the water-based tush cleaner. The reason why it never caught on isn’t exactly clear, but some think it’s because Americans just aren’t used to bidets and are used to using toilet paper. Bidets have also gotten a bad rap historically; U.S. troops during WWII first noticed bidets oveseas in brothels and associated bidets with sex work. And then there’s the fact that American bathrooms just aren’t designed for bidets. But, shifting morals, increased tourism abroad, and COVID-related toilet paper shortages have ushered in a seismic shift in America’s view of the bidet.
A full-sized bidet is a stand-alone unit that you straddle — bidet is French for "pony." It looks like a sink-toilet hybrid. Chances are you won’t spring for a contraption that’s expensive and requires space and additional plumbing. But bidet attachments, or washlets, what you install between your existing toilet seat and toilet, are gaining some traction in American bathrooms as alternatives that connect to your toilet’s waterline. They serve the same purpose as a full-sized bidet.
Whether you install a handheld sprayer that hangs off your toilet tank or a washlet that sprays you from inside the bowl, the set up requires a few simple connections to tap into the toilet water line. If you want to take it up a notch, adding features like heated seats or settings for water control, all you need is an electrical outlet.
Switching to a bidet may also cut your toilet paper use, which is great for the environment and a lot of trees. A 2021 report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that popular brands like Quilted Northern, Charmin, and Cottonelle, are responsible for felling forests that pull carbon from the atmosphere. The NRDC notes that over one million acres of a critical Canadian forest are logged each year, in part to feed Americans’ demand for toilet paper.
Not only does toilet paper clog pipes and tax municipal sewer systems, it also takes a lot of water to manufacture toilet paper. Though research on the exact number is lacking, one estimate reported by Scientific American said it takes nearly 40 gallons of water to make a single roll. That doesn’t include its packaging and shipping. Even toilet paper made from recycled paper must go through an intensive, chemical-filled and energy-consuming process to be usable.
On the other hand, a spritz from the bidet uses a small amount of water, no chemicals, and no trees. And, future toilet paper shortages due to supply chain disruptions won’t bother you when you have a bidet.
“We need to completely retrain people on how to properly clean themselves with a bidet and why it's important from a health and hygiene standpoint, a sustainability standpoint, and a cultural standpoint,” says Miki Agrawal, founder and chief creative officer at Tushy, a toilet-bidet manufacturer.
Installing a bidet will likely make you a convert for life, but with so many on the market, it’s hard to know what to choose. And, a bad experience like too much water pressure or water spraying all over your toilet seat might just turn you off. When considering a bidet, it’s worth thinking about ease of installation, water temperature, and pressure as well as the nozzle’s reach if you require a front and rear wash for feminine care.
“Bidets come in all shapes and sizes and a wide range of quality,” says Lee. “You want to read the reviews of the manufacturer and make sure you read through the instruction manual on how to install properly and how to maintain proper care to ensure high sanitation standards.”
Bidet attachments range in price anywhere from $20 for a simple sprayer to nearly $1,000 for fancier features like a heated toilet seat. Ready to throw out the toilet paper and try the bidet? Here are four worth checking out:
Making bathroom fixtures in Japan since 1917, Toto’s bidets vary in price and features, but they tend to run on the expensive side. The Washlet C5 model ($780), for example, can be programmed for different family members. It features a heated seat, a remote control, and a self-washing toilet seat that cleans after each use. It allows the user to control the stream’s pressure, temperature, and movement — pulsing or oscillating.
If the C5 is out of your price range, the C2 ($675) is a slightly less expensive option. It has the control panel attached, as opposed to a sleek remote control. The C2 also has fewer temperature controls and is not programmable.
If you’re new to bidets, Tushy may be worth considering since it's both affordable and easy to install. “Tushy’s bidet attachments are designed to be easily installed by the customer in eight minutes, simply clipping onto any standard toilet and turning it into a bidet,” says Ms. Agrawal.
Tushy’s base model ($99), the Classic 3.0, is a cold-water bidet that allows you to control the angle of the wand. The Classic is solidly built for the toilet. The Spa 3.0 ($119) allows you to use warm or cold water, while the pricier Ace ($499) features water temperature and pressure control, a heated seat, and an air dryer all turned on and off by a wall-mounted remote control.
The Brondell Swash 300 ($269) is a budget-friendly electric bidet. It’s not as sleek looking as Toto’s line or the Tushy Ace, but it has a remote control, which is a feature usually reserved for the more expensive bidets. It also has a heated seat with three settings, six water pressure and temperature settings, a front and rear wash, a slow closing lid, and dual antibacterial self-cleaning nozzles. You won’t get warm drying or a deodorizer, which you will find with some of the pricier models.
If you just want a single nozzle and don’t care about water temperature or other features, the Brondell SimpleSpa Thinline Attachment ($49.99) is easy to install and does not require an electrical outlet or replacing your toilet seat. It simply attaches to the right side of the seat to allow you to control the water pressure.
The Bio Bidet Bliss BB-2000 ($699) has a bunch of features that makes it one of the most versatile on the market. That includes a massage-wash function, an enema button that is a drill-like spray, an auto wash, a kids’ wash, a bubble infusion, and a wide spray. It also has a heated seat, and a continuous warm water stream that comes out of a stainless-steel nozzle for rear and feminine front cleaning. It also sports an air deodorizer and an adjustable warm-air dry. While they may sound attractive, the bidet may not be worth the cost if the extra settings are rarely used.
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