Why Americans Don’t Own a Bidet

From Japan to Italy, the bidet is a standard fixture in any bathroom. Bathrooms and toilets around the world commonly feature a bidet or some type of water cleansing device like a spray hose like toilets in the Middle East commonly feature. Yet bidets are curiously absent in the United States.   With daily showers, daily hair washing, ubiquitous antibacterial soap, all sorts of hand sanitizers, and a dizzying array of toiletry products, Americans are known for being hygiene obsessed.  Why have bidets not caught on in the United States when they are a common feature for toilets around the world?

5 reason Why American Don’t Own a Bidet

  1. The English didn’t use bidets. America was once part of England, so it is natural that American society still has many English mores and manners. The bidet was invented in France sometime in the 1700s. The bidet was then enthusiastically adopted by Italians. Before the American Revolution, the English did not commonly use bidets and they still don’t. Americans are like the British in toilet habits.
  2. Americans Don’t Know What a Bidet is. Thirty years ago, if you asked the average American about bidets, they might ask you: “what is a bidet?” and “what is a bidet for?” Even today with the ubiquity of the Internet, many Americans are unfamiliar with bidets.  How can this be? Currently, only 30% of Americans have a passport and the number was far fewer before you needed a passport to travel to Canada and Mexico.  There are many factors that keep Americans from traveling overseas, with the largest factors being lack of paid vacation days and the expense of overseas air travel.  The result is that many Americans have simply never seen or heard of a bidet.  Of those that have traveled overseas, they might not have known what it was, or how to work it.  Stories abound of confused Americans using bidets in all sorts of curious, and often highly inappropriate ways.  No, it is neither a water fountain nor a facial device!
  3. Homes are not Currently Plumbed for Bidets. Before the advent of bidet seats and hand sprayers, installing a bidet was often too expensive, difficult, often impossible due to space issues. Installing a completely new fixture can be expensive, depending on the current layout. New combination toilets/bidets and bidet seat options help alleviate this problem.
  4. Uncomfortable Talking About “Bathroom Stuff”. Talking about a fixture specifically used to wash nether regions after going to the bathroom is a bit too graphic and blunt for American sensibilities.  After all, Americans say “bathroom” or even “restroom” for what other people simply call the “toilet.”  Try asking someone where the toilet is, they might look a bit taken aback. Having a fixture for washing genitals installed in your home can be a daunting idea. Even if some one has heard of bidets, they might be too shy to ask, “how does a bidet work?”
  5. If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It Cleanliness is extremely cultural. What one culture considers dirty, another culture considers clean or normal. Americans learned how to use the bathroom with toilet paper. They grew up using toilet paper. Their mother and father used toilet paper. Toilet paper is “normal.” For most people residing in the Middle East, the idea of using toilet paper and not washing after using the bathroom would be horrendously dirty. For people who live in places like Japan and Italy where bidets are in every home, doing without a bidet is practically barbaric. While using a bidet probably doesn’t sound “dirty” to Americans, it is different. Different can be uncomfortable. What if there is splashing? How do you dry yourself? Using a bidet can seem complicated and uncomfortable if you are not used to it. Everyone learns to use the bathroom as a child; it is kind of weird to learn something new about so intimate and embarrassing a subject as an adult. Basically: if it is not broke, don’t fix it.

Bidet Seats, AKA Washlets

The Japanese toilet company TOTO invented a combination toilet/bidet called a Washlet in 1980. It is essentially a toilet that sprays water for cleansing. It quickly became popular in Japan. Today the majority of homes in Japan have these toilets and they have more features then ever. Some of these features include sensors that automatically raise and lower the toilet seat, pressure settings, temperature settings, and an air drier. Washlet style bidet seats give you all the benefits of a bidet without taking up additional space or needing new plumbing. You simply need an electrical outlet near the toilet and the seat has a water outlet that you’ll connect with your water supply. You can do it yourself or have a plumber hook it up quickly and cheaply. In addition to TOTO, Kohler also makes a bidet seat.

Bidet Seats, AKA Washlets | Ben Franklin Pluming


Benefits of the Bidet

  • Cleanliness, water cleans better then paper, obviously. Feel fresh from the shower anytime of the day
  • Use less toilet paper, easier on the environment and easier on your home’s plumbing
  • Accessible for elderly and disabled people who might have a difficult time wiping

How to Use a Bidet – Washlet Style Bidet

  1. Use the toilet as normal, and wipe or don’t wipe with toilet paper depending on your needs or preferences.
  2. Use controls to adjust stream placement and temperature.
  3. Enjoy the air dry function of your bidet has it or use some toilet paper or a towel to dry.
  4. Enjoy your day with a clean bum.

How to use a Bidet – Traditional Bidet (Separate Fixture)

  1. Use the toilet as normal, and wipe. You do not need to be perfectly clean, as you’ll be using the bidet, but you should get most everything off.
  2. Check the temperature to make sure you do not scald yourself. Careful, some bidets can be strong, so turn it slowly if you re unfamiliar with the bidet.
  3. Straddle the bidet and turn it on. Get gloriously clean.
  4. Pat dry with a towel or some toilet paper. Dispose of the toilet paper in the toilet, not the bidet.

The answer to why Americans don’t own bidets can be summed up in two reasons: history and unfamiliarity. Most Americans who have had the opportunity to use bidets or Washlets abroad enjoy the experience of being freshly clean after each trip to the bathroom. New washlet style bidet seats are a convenient way to have the benefits of a bidet without installing a completely new fixture in your home.

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