Modern Bidets Are Changing The Way Americans Poop
Basically a jacuzzi for your butthole, modern bidets can improve hygiene, help the planet, and change your bathroom game for the better.
When you finish pooping, you probably wipe and then flush. It’s a daily routine you’ve likely followed your whole life, a seemingly normal, commonplace way of handling your business and keeping things clean down there. Wet towelettes might be thrown into the mix on occasion, but for the bulk of Americans, going to the bathroom is a simple two-step process.
We’ve been practicing this dry-wipe method since the end of the 19th century when the earliest forms of toilet paper were introduced on the market. Back then, you could buy 1,000 sheets for $1 and had to worry about the risk of splinters in your butt.
Though it took some convincing at first, people eventually climbed on to the T.P. bandwagon, fueling the growth of an industry that is now worth $31 billion, Fortune reports. Today, our reliance on toilet paper is so extreme that the average American is said to consume around three rolls a week, or 50 pounds a year of the stuff. We use up more toilet paper than any other country, wiping our bottoms with as many as 36.5 billion rolls a year nationwide.
This, of course, is not good for the environment. Nor, it turns out, is it good for our butts — being neither sanitary, efficient, or cost effective. Thankfully, there’s the bidet.
Common in Europe and Japan, bidets were invented in France in the 18th century as a means of more thoroughly washing and cleansing one’s bottom after dropping a load. More hygienic than the dry-wipe technique employed by most Americans, bidets can also remedy constipation, prevent hemorrhoids and urinary tract infections, and make your butthole feel like it just went to the spa.
“Most Americans know little or nothing about bidets at this point,” Ewan Grantham, a bidet proponent in Texas, told OK Whatever. “There is some growing awareness, but the usual postings I see are folks who don’t even know why there’s an extra switch on the toilet they saw while on vacation.”
The traditional French bidet resembles a small, oddly shaped toilet that is missing a lid. It’s usually located next to the toilet, and instead of sitting on it, you straddle it, allowing streams of water to squirt up unto your backside and genitals.
However, such stand-alone bidets can be costly and labor intensive, requiring extra space in one’s bathroom and additional plumbing work to set up. And, if you rent or lease your home, good luck convincing your landlord to let you install one.
Luckily, there’s now an alternative. For customers with smaller budgets and tiny bathrooms, companies have started manufacturing modern bidets that clip underneath toilet seats and are controlled manually or electronically with switches, valves, or remote control. In addition to water jets, some modern bidets have functions like catalytic converters that suck out gases in the bowl or fans that dry your butt using warm air. These modern bidets can be purchased for less than $100 on Amazon, or you can even build one yourself.
“You don’t even need a man when you got a bidet,” actress Tiffany Haddish told PEOPLE in 2018, confessing that she bought her first one for around $298 through Groupon. “It’s the best. I feel so clean and fresh.”
Depending on how well you know the person, modern bidets can also make for great gifts. During a 2017 appearance on the late-night talk show Conan, the actor Jake Gyllenhaal revealed that he purchased one for Boston Marathon Bombing survivor Jake Bauman, whom he portrays in the film Stronger.
“This toilet is extraordinary,” he said. “It’s a bidet. It has a seat that automatically rises when you move towards it. It’s heated so that when you sit on it, your butt is warm. There are so many amazing things about this toilet.”
For the elderly and disabled, modern bidets can allow for greater autonomy when using the restroom. “As people get older and frailer, it’s harder for them to do good personal hygiene, particularly if they have arthritis,” Dr. Mary Tinetti, chief of geriatrics at Yale Medical School, told the New York Times in 2012. With a modern bidet, it’s easier to clean yourself on your own, which can reduce the need for assistance from others and increase your independence at the same time.
Commonplace in nursing homes and some hospitals, modern bidets can also be used as safer washing alternatives than showers and baths, which can be dangerous for those with poor balance and limited mobility.
Pregnant women and new mothers are also big fans of the modern bidet. At a time when every body part feels swollen and enlarged, they make going to the bathroom — and navigating around those obstacles — easier and less taxing. Modern bidets can also clear up, or even circumvent, common pregnancy maladies, such as constipation or diarrhea. After childbirth, they can soothe soreness of the perineum (or birth canal) and help new mothers manage postpartum vaginal discharge.
“Pregnancy has really revved up my IBS symptoms and that little piece of plastic on the back of the toilet bowl has been amazing,” a pregnant modern bidet user gushed on Reddit last month. “I friggin [sic] love it and try to time all my No. 2’s for when I’m home.”
Though some may do it differently, the correct way to use a bidet — be it modern or traditional — is in conjunction with toilet paper, generally after you’ve finished wiping. This means you’ll still have to buy toilet paper regularly, but on the plus side, you’ll be using far less than you normally would, helping you to save money and cut back on visits to the store. One modern bidet customer who purchased an attachable model off Amazon said he now uses less than one roll of toilet paper a month.
Reducing your reliance on toilet paper has a beneficial impact on the planet, as well. It cuts back on our consumption of limited resources, like trees and fossil fuels, which are used not only during the manufacturing process, but also to distribute and transport the product.
You’re even conserving water by choosing a modern bidet over of a huge wad of toilet paper. Merely creating one roll of toilet paper takes far more water than is needed to operate the nifty bathroom gadget multiple times.
Take all of this into account and using a modern bidet may seem like a no-brainer, but it still has a ways to go in the U.S. Convincing others that there is a more hygenic and planet-friendly alternative to the widespread practice of simply wiping and flushing is an uphill battle that the bidet industry currently faces. As Grantham himself has experienced, “most [people] aren’t convinced they need to change.”
But for those willing to take the plunge, the results are worth it. Grantham uses his modern bidet daily, and even developed a portable model — dubbed the “Franken-Bidet” — that he brings to work and on travels.
Because that’s the other thing about modern bidets: They’re easy to grow attached to. As Grantham pointed out, once you get used to one, you might never be able to return to the ol’ dry-and-wipe method or step foot in a public restroom again. Who knew butts could be so jaded?