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Confused about bidets? Wondering what they are? How they work? When to use them? Questioning if you need one at all? Learn all about the types and features of bidets and bidet seats in this buying guide.
What is a bidet?
A popular fixture in Europe, eastern Asia, and parts of South America; a bidet is a plumbing fixture that you can use to cleanse after using the toilet. Traditionally, bidets have not been widely used in North America, but they are rapidly rising in popularity.
While wiping with toilet paper is arguably adequate, it cannot be said that it does a better job of cleaning than water does. You wash your hands with water, shower and bathe with water, and clean just about everything else with water or a water-based substance. Sure, you can leave a pack of wet wipes next to the toilet to help bridge the gap between clean and cleaner but flushing too many of those down the toilet can lead to clogs or other issues with the plumbing in your home.
It should also go without mentioning that using less toilet paper and wet wipes is a good thing for the environment. You're killing less trees and flushing less waste. Even worse, the non-biodegradable plastic wraps and containers that these products come in contribute a carbon footprint of their own, destined to release harmful gasses into the environment slowly over hundreds of years in landfills.
While being clean, saving the environment, and spending less money are all great things; the health benefits that bidets provide are just as notable. Frequent use of toilet paper can cause skin irritation for many people. Using a bidet helps prevent this from happening, and also alleviates the symptoms of existing or non-related irritations. Additionally, the ability to cleanse better and more efficiently goes a long way in preventing infectious diseases relating to those areas of the body.
Using less toilet paper is not only good for the environment, it's also a relief to your wallet. Buying far less toilet paper will, over time, save you hundreds of dollars per year depending on your family size.
Reducing motion from the clean-up process, bidets allow for less bending and turning than traditional methods. While this is convenient for all, those with limited mobility greatly benefit from using bidets.
Traditional bidets are built and installed as standalone units, placed near the toilet. Traditional bidets look a lot like a toilet without a water tank. This type of bidet requires its own water supply and uses a bidet faucet that looks like a sink faucet with a swiveling spout.
A modern alternative to a traditional bidet is a bidet seat. This type of unit installs onto an existing toilet, replacing your standard toilet seat. Going with this type of bidet is perfect for those who are limited on space, or simply don't want to go through the process of preparing a new space in their bathroom with the proper plumbing for a standalone unit.
An existing toilet already has all the proper plumbing, so the simplicity of adding a bidet seat makes this an attractive option. Additionally, bidet seats can offer features and luxuries that a traditional bidet cannot, especially an electric version.
Non-electric bidet seats, which are the easiest bidet seats to install, have basic functions that will get the job done. This type of bidet is powered by the water pressure in your home, tapped into the existing water supply line on your toilet. You control this type of seat with a knob or a lever that winds to activate the front or rear nozzle located on the back of the seat.
Electric bidet seats provide not only the benefits of a standard bidet, but also features that enhance the experience to make it luxurious. While these seats still get their water by tapping into the toilet's water supply, they require electricity from a nearby power source, typically an electrical outlet. This may make installation a bit more difficult if an outlet doesn't exist within reach.
A sanitary device needs to remain clean to serve its purpose, and some bidet seats can clean themselves. This convenient feature puts the nozzle into a self-cleaning mode to ease the burden of manually cleaning it. Some bidets will even go as far as sterilizing the nozzle, which is especially useful in a bathroom environment where germs and bacteria spread easily.
This function allows the bidet seat to go into a sleep mode when not in use. This conserves energy without the need to turn the seat completely off and on. Some seats may require you to manually put into them power-saving mode with the press of a button, while others will do it automatically after a short period of inactivity.
Some high-end electronic bidet seats include a remote control to make using the bidet even more convenient. It can be difficult to have to look over to your side or underneath your leg when searching for the proper settings, so having a remote control to hold in your hand is a favored upgrade.
Another common feature of electric bidet seats are their dual-nozzles, or a self-adjusting single nozzle, which allows for both front and rear cleansing at the push of a button rather than a manual adjustment. This is especially useful for people who want to wash both front and back.
An air-dry option activates a stream of warm air to help dry off after cleansing. This setting is sometimes adjustable so that you can control the temperature and pressure of the air. This setting further eliminates the need for toilet paper.
Memory settings save your desired preferences, so you don’t have to adjust features and settings each time you take a seat. With the push of one button, your bidet will adjust to your unique user profile every time you use it.
Another adjustable setting common in electric bidet seats is the water pressure of the spray nozzle. Multiple water pressure settings will allow the user to adjust the flow rate to what is comfortable for them. Some may prefer a softer stream of water over a high pressure one, and vice versa.
Controlling the temperature of the water is a plus, especially during winter months when your home's water pipes are colder. This feature allows you to set the temperature precisely to your personal preference.
Most electric bidet seats feature a heated seat, which are often adjustable with multiple settings to increase or decrease temperature.
An electric bidet seat requires a power source, but all you'll need is a standard 110-120v, 15amp, 3-prong outlet. However, since the outlet is in a bathroom where it could get wet, plumbing codes require a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlet which protects from shock if water were to penetrate the outlet. Chances are you don't have an existing outlet next to your toilet, so hire an electrician to install one properly.
You can easily add a bidet seat to most standard toilets with an elongated bowl. If you have a round toilet bowl, however, your options may be more limited. Measure carefully and accurately before you make your bidet seat purchase to ensure a proper fit, or, consider a toilet that already includes a bidet seat for guaranteed compatibility.
A traditional stand-alone bidet is a big job and most likely requires installation by a licensed plumber. The job may require new plumbing below the floor and behind the wall for the drain and water supply.
This task needs to be done correctly to meet local plumbing codes and prevent future problems. Bidet seats, however, can be installed relatively easily onto an existing toilet. Before purchasing a bidet seat, look over the installation manual to see what that particular model requires, especially if it uses electricity.