Why Don’t Cleanliness-Obsessed Americans Use the Bidet?

Posted on May 30, 2012


I have long been interested in having a bidet in our home, but it just wasn’t practical or affordable to renovate our bathrooms.  Silly me, I had no idea (until recently) that there are economical, simple-to-install, effective bidet attachments that can just go right on your existing toilet.  A mere $39.95 later, Lila became the very satisfied owner of one of these attachments.  There are various brands.  I went with the Luxe Vi-110.  Oh, the difference in cleanliness!  Believe me, I will never go back to the old “smear tactics” again. Well, this got me to wondering:  Americans seem pretty obsessed with cleanliness.  In Europe, I often heard my American friends complain about European body odor, body hair, etc.   And yet, in this one area – the one arguably most in need of hygienic attention – we are sorely lacking.  Why the American resistance to bidets?  I conclude that there are a number of factors, mostly based on long-standing habit and plain ignorance about bidet use.  After reading a number of articles and reader comments, several themes emerge. First, the expense and space needed to renovate a bathroom.  This is the one that kept our home unnecessarily bidet-less for some time.  Check out the various bidet attachments out there, and shop around for the best price.  You will be pleasantly surprised. Then there is the misconception that a bidet “wastes water.”  Actually, bidets save trees and water.  Check out this article from Scientific American on just how much water goes into manufacturing one roll of toilet paper.  Bidets save toilet paper (and that saves you money). Okay, two misconceptions down.  The next one is the hardest to overcome, and that is the somewhat silly notion that somehow, bidets are not as sanitary as toilet paper because, well, they spray water on your butt.  The mistaken notion seems to be that this causes all kinds of bacteria, or even chunky bits,  to splash around.  Perhaps a quick lesson is in order: Do your business.  Wipe off any chunky bits (yes, you still wipe first).  Rinse thoroughly with the bidet.  Pat dry (paper will suffice).  Ta-da! Clean! The alternatives to this are: Do your business.  Wipe off any chunky bits.  Pull up your pants, and worry about the laundry later.  Hope you don’t somehow end up in the emergency room, where people will see your underwear. Or: Do your business.  Wipe.  Check the paper.  Wipe again.  Again.  Again.  Give up.  Try not to go to the emergency room, where people will see your underwear. You think I’m kidding?  Ha!  I am not.  As commenter Kii noted hilariously in response to an especially good article at Mother Nature Network, “Cleaning peanut butter off a rug is impossible.”  On a more serious note,  Alexander Kira’s history of the loo notes a study which found that among British men, nine percent were going commando and 44 percent “revealed fecal contamination of their underpants or trousers, ranging from ‘wasp-coloured staining’ to ‘frank massive faeces.’ ” Now, I am sure this never happens to you, but it is obviously happening to a lot of folks out there.  Consider this interesting revolting test of public seats by Good Morning America:

When we tested a dozen different kinds of public seats on a trip from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, we discovered that more than half contained traces of fecal matter and nearly a third were positive for E. coli.

Okay!  I think we have determined that “the wipe” is not quite as superior as folks seem to believe!  So… other than a vague and misplaced “ewww” factor (the real “ewww” factor obviously belongs to the inadequacy of toilet paper), I am not seeing any arguments in favor of not having a bidet in every home.  Toss in any number of health concerns – hemorrhoids, fissures, skin tags, Crohn’s or IBS, or even any infirmity that means you can’t shower as often as you would like – and the bidet is an absolute Godsend for cleanliness and hygiene. QUESTION FOR READERS:  This article is one of my most popular.  What prompted you to read it?  Curiosity?  Information?  Toilet humor?  Planning to get a bidet?