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Bidets: A Complete Guide

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
Oct 20, 2021

Bidets have been around for centuries, but many people remain unfamiliar with them despite their benefits and usage. Although bidets are popular in Europe and Asia, they are not as widely used in other parts of the world. However, more people are discovering bidets' environmental and hygiene benefits, which are becoming increasingly popular. This article will provide a comprehensive guide to bidets, including their history, benefits, usage, and maintenance. Whether you're new to bidets or an experienced user, this article will help you better understand this important bathroom fixture.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is A Bidet?
  2. How Do You Pronounce Bidet?
  3. Who Invented The Bidet?
  4. Are Bidets Popular?
  5. How Do You Use A Bidet?
  6. How Do You Use A Bidet Hose?
  7. Can You Add a Bidet to an Existing Toilet?
  8. Is a Bidets Sustainable?
  9. How Do You Install A Bidet?
  10. How Do You Install a Bidet Attachment?
  11. How Do You Install A Handheld Bidet Sprayer?
  12. How Much Does A Bidet Cost?
  13. How Much Does A Bidet Toilet Seat Cost?
  14. Where Can You Buy a Bidet?

What Is A Bidet?

A bidet is a small receptacle usually made out of ceramic or porcelain. It is placed next to the toilet and has a separate plumbing connection where water is dispersed for washing the human backside after using the bathroom. Small streams of water are activated either by pushing a button or lever or using a handheld device for cleaning purposes.

Traditional bidets were separate bowls or receptacles that sprayed vertical jets of water for washing. Today, many modern bathrooms in European countries install toilets and electronic bidets placed side by side or bidet sprayers. These are similar to the handheld nozzles standard in many of today's showers.

Brondell Swash Select Bidet Seat with Warm Air Dryer and Deodorizer
Brondell Swash Select Bidet Seat with Warm Air Dryer and Deodorizer. Photo Credit: Brondell

How Do You Pronounce Bidet?

If you head to your local hardware or home improvement store and ask for a "bid-et" (rhymes with cadet), you will probably only confuse the store attendant. Since the bidet is a French word, it is phonetically pronounced as "buh-day."

Who Invented The Bidet?

Certain types of water dispensers for washing after using the toilet have been used in Arab and Muslim cultures for hundreds of years due to cleanliness rules and guidelines. However, the bidet in its current form is widely considered to be a French invention. The word "bidet" is most commonly attributed to a French word that translates as "little horse." The most common way to use a bidet is to straddle and squat over the porcelain bowl, which perhaps is reminiscent of a horse-riding position.

Christophe de Rosiers is credited with creating the French royal family's first bidet back in 1710, much before indoor plumbing and flush toilets became conventional fixtures in homes. This first bidet prototype was probably a porcelain bowl placed within a wooden chair and placed next to the chamber pot. Over the years, the bidet received several upgrades, including a pump for spraying the water. In the 1960s, Arnold Cohen founded the American Bidet Company. Cohen wanted to help his elderly father find a more natural way to clean himself after using the bathroom. However, sales were slow, and the use of the bidet didn't garner popularity in North America.

Are Bidets Popular?

In many European countries, bidets are a common feature in public and private bathrooms. At least 97 percent of homes in Italy have a bidet. In Portugal, bidets have been mandatory installations in bathrooms since 1975. In North America, however, bidets are still relatively unknown and seen as an oddity.

Toto Washlet Bidet Seat
Washlet Bidet Seat. Photo Credit: Toto

How Do You Use A Bidet?

For standalone bidets, you will need to straddle the bidet once you finish using the toilet. It is usually best to face the water control levers/buttons so you can better control the flow of water when cleaning up. But, this depends on the direction of the water jets/sprayers. Today, most bidets have both temperature controls and jet strengths that you can adjust for maximum comfort when cleaning.

For toilet seat bidet features, you have to push a button when ready to clean up. This will activate the water stream. For more advanced bidets, you can subsequently enable the drying process to send warm air to dry your behind when you are finished.

How Do You Use A Bidet Hose?

Using a handheld bidet sprayer is similar to using the spray nozzle in your shower or attached to your kitchen sink. You may have to open the shut-off valve to allow water to flow towards the spray nozzle. Simply squat, aim, and spray until your backside is clean. For all different types of bidets, new users might want to check for cleanliness with a backup roll of toilet paper until they grow used to using a bidet.

Brondell Swash se600 Bidet Seat
Swash se600 Bidet Seat. Photo Credit: Brondell

Can You Add a Bidet to an Existing Toilet?

Add-on bidets, which are often marketed as "combined toilets," include electronic switches for turning on and off the streams of water. Some of the more advanced bidets include elements that blow warm air for drying, heated seats, illumination, and activated carbon filters for odor removal.

biobidet hd-7000 Home Depot
BioBidet Model HD-7000. Photo Credit: Home Depot

This electronic bidet, by BioBidet, comes with a heated seat, a warm air dryer, heated water, a night light, and even a remote control or ease of use.

Is a Bidets Sustainable?

Despite our unfamiliarity with bidets, there are several important sustainability and health benefits that homeowners should consider. Andrew Lee, director for the leading environmental organization World Wide Fund for Nature, stated that upwards of 27,000 trees are cut down every day for the toilet paper industry. The toilet paper industry claims that they rely heavily on recycled sources of paper. A report in The Guardian finds that significant brands were using less recycled paper than in 2011 for toilet paper manufacture. Flushing virgin forests down the toilet is not a prime example of sustainable management of our quickly diminishing forest resources.

Using a bidet might result in lower water and electricity usage. An article in Scientific American finds that 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper are produced every year. This requires the pulping of over 15 million trees. The intensive manufacturing process uses almost 500 billion gallons of water for production and over a quarter-million tons of chlorine to bleach the paper into those white rolls we know so well. In terms of energy usage, over 17.3 terawatts of electricity are used each year in the manufacturing process alone.

The average person uses about one-eighth of a gallon of water (0.5 liters) when using the bidet for cleaning. So, switching to a bidet might reduce the overall water demand when cleaning up after using the bathroom. Another analysis finds that just one roll of toilet paper requires 37 gallons of water, 1.3 kilowatts/hours (KWh) of electricity, and some 1.5 pounds of wood to manufacture.

In terms of our health, most conventional toilet paper relies on large quantities of chlorine bleach for pressing the paper and turning it a bright white color. Some toilet paper manufacturers might even include formaldehyde in their rolls. The chlorine residues in toilet paper can lead to local irritation and might contribute to yeast infections in women. Formaldehyde is a known skin irritant and a carcinogen in high doses, so it is not something you want to use to clean up after using the toilet.

Installing a bidet in your bathroom, then, might lead to less deforestation, improved hygiene, and better health.

Kohler Cleansing Seat
Kohler Cleansing Seat. Photo Credit: Kohler

How Do You Install A Bidet?

Installing a free-standing bidet in your bathroom will require dedicated plumbing lines and the extra space necessary for a device about the size of your current toilet. If you don't have any plumbing experience, you will most likely want to hire an experienced plumber and expect to pay around $200 in installation costs. For homeowners with DIY plumbing skills, this video instructable will guide you through the step-by-step process.

How Do You Install a Bidet Attachment?

Bidet attachments or bidet seats are much easier for homeowners to install on their own. Mainly because they do not require a separate plumbing fixture or any pipework, just follow these easy steps:

  • To begin, you will need to shut off the water valve to your toilet.
  • Remove your current toilet seat with a wrench.
  • Attach the bidet seat mounting plate according to the instructions for the particular model you choose.
  • When the mounting plate is secured, attach the bidet seat.
  • Detach the water supply hose from the bottom of your toilet tank.
  • Attach the bidet t-valve to that tank and subsequently attach the water supply hose.
  • Last, connect the free end of the bidet hose to the bidet seat.
Bidet Sprayer sustainable_valerie
Bidet Sprayer. Photo Credit: Sustainable Valerie via Instagram

How Do You Install A Handheld Bidet Sprayer?

For a handheld bidet sprayer, installation is similar to the attachment above. The main difference is that you will have to attach one end of the sprayer hose to the upper connection of the t-valve connected to your toilet tank.

How Much Does A Bidet Cost?

Standalone bidets are the most costly option, costing between $250 and $700 with installation costs, probably raising the total cost by another $200 to $300. Bidet seats and spray nozzles are less expensive, with many options starting at under $50.

How Much Does A Bidet Toilet Seat Cost?

Bidet toilet seats are an increasingly popular option for homeowners. They are relatively easy to install and come with multiple "comfort features" that make them easier to use for the average American homeowner. A vast range of bidet toilet seats that range in price from $75 for a simple bidet seat to almost $2,000 for a high-end bidet seat with heated air and water features are available. Rise's online store sells Brondell Bidet seats that range in price from $229 to $699.

HelloTushy Bidet Attachment CBC
HelloTushy Bidet Attachment. Photo Credit: CBC

Where Can You Buy a Bidet?

Bidets can be found in the plumbing and toilet aisles of virtually every major hardware and home improvement store. There are many makes, models and colors. Look out for round and elongated seats for the right fit and ensure your toilet is compatible with the model you choose.

The sustainability and health benefits of bidets are one way to improve the overall sustainability of your bathroom. As an added benefit, you also will not have to fight with other shoppers for that last roll of toilet paper on the shelves of your local supermarket.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2023-10-31T16:51:29+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.

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