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Both the butt of jokes in many rom-coms and a cause for genuine curiosity in fancy hotel bathrooms, there’s always been a bit of mystery swirling around the bidet.
Although they’re popular in many parts of the world, particularly Europe and Japan, bidets have never been able to make a splash in the United States — until now, at least.
Searches for bidets have soared over the past couple of days as people search for alternatives to toilet paper. One popular bidet brand, TUSHY, has seen sales 10 times what they were when people first started worrying about a potential toilet paper shortage, according to company founder Miki Agrawal.
The problem isn’t that there’s really a toilet paper shortage. In fact, the U.S. is flush with toilet paper. The problem is that toilet paper manufacturers are having a hard time getting the product to stores before it sells out.
Because it’s clear there’s growing interest in and demand for bidet intel, we pulled together all of your need-to-know questions about bidets, from how to install one to whether you should still use toilet paper.
All of your pressing bidets questions, answered:
What is a bidet and what are the benefits of one?
A bidet sprays water on your nether regions after you’ve gone No.1 or No. 2, and offers a more, ahem, thorough cleanse than traditional toilet paper wiping.
We use water to clean just about everything else — and every other part of our body ― so why have we come to rely solely on toilet paper for this one area?
Wiping exclusively with toilet paper can leave behind poop residue, according to Dr. Samantha Nazareth, a board-certified gastroenterologist in New York City. A spray of water ensures everything is washed off, and it saves your bum from any potential irritation.
“Wiping with toilet paper frequently can cause the skin by the anus to become irritated,” Nazareth said. “Bidets also allow us to clean ourselves hands-free.”
This hands-free idea really hits home when you think about how much of that bacteria ends up sticking to your phone, especially if your find bathroom breaks are better with Instagram. Enough said.
Water is generally the best option when it comes to cleaning that area, according Dr. Kecia Gaither, a board-certified OB-GYN in New York City. That’s especially true if you’re on your period, pregnant or just have a lot of bowel movements.
“For women during their periods, it’s exceedingly helpful for cleansing the perianal area,” Gaither said. “For pregnant woman and/or anyone who suffers with hemorrhoids or has a gastrointestinal issue resulting in multiple daily bowel movements, it’s helpful to have a warm stream of water to cleanse the area as opposed to toilet paper, which can be abrasive.”
Are bidets easier to use than toilet paper?
For people with limited mobility or certain disabilities, or for women who have just given birth, wiping can be a struggle.
Toilet paper can also be painful to use after you’ve given birth or if you suffer from skin sensitivities, and water is a gentler alternative.
However, be mindful of the water pressure. Nazareth said a bidet shouldn’t feel uncomfortable or forceful, so be careful when using one if you have broken skin or ulcers in the genital area or anus.
And, just like it’s important to wipe front to back, you also want make sure you’re directing the bidet’s stream of water away from your vagina, Gaither said. Otherwise you risk getting feculent material in that area, which could result in infection. If you can’t adjust the angle of the nozzle on your bidet, it’s as easy as turning yourself around and straddling the seat backward.
Are bidets better for the environment than toilet paper?
You might be wondering whether using wet wipes would address a lot of these concerns. The answer is, partially, yes, but wet wipes also contribute to so-called “Fatbergs” — blockages in our pipes and sewage systems made up of cooking oils that get poured down the drain. They can cause major damage, too. Just ask the residents of London’s Whitechapel area.
While regular ol’ toilet paper might break down more easily than wipes and won’t usually pose a threat to pipes, it’s still not great for the environment.
On average, Americans use 36 billion rolls of toilet paper every year. This staggering number alone results in the loss of 15 million trees, 437 billion gallons of water and 253,000 tons of bleach.
Are bidets more affordable than toilet paper?
The price of toilet paper can start to add up over time. In fact, the U.S. spends more than $6 billion a year on toilet tissue — more than any other nation in the world.
Do you still use toilet paper with a bidet?
If you don’t want to wait to air-dry and your bidet doesn’t come fully loaded with a fancy dryer (more on that below), you’ll probably still need to keep a little toilet paper on hand.
Agrawal, the TUSHY founder, recommends using “only a few sheets of toilet paper to pat dry.”
What’s the difference between a bidet and a bidet toilet attachment?
Let’s get down to brass tacks: A traditional bidet is a separate object with built-in jets that you install in your bathroom. Some bidets are as simple as that, while others have more advanced features like adjustable spray settings, drying options, lights and even Bluetooth compatibility.
Bidet toilet attachments, also known as bidet toilet seats or “washlets,” are devices that attach to your existing toilet so you can get the benefits of a bidet without remodeling your entire bathroom. They attach to your toilet for a water source and are available in manual or electronic models, and have varying features like temperature and flow control.
Bidets are a suitable alternative to toilet paper because they tend to be more hygienic, comfortable, environmentally-friendly and cost-effective.
If you’re ready to dump your toilet paper, we’ve rounded up a few easy-to-install bidet toilet attachments that are also renter-friendly.