by Nick Gromicko, CMI®
and Kenton Shepard
Common in much of Europe and Asia, bidets are toilet-like plumbing fixtures designed to promote posterior hygiene. Although bidet prevalence in certain regions represents a humorous cultural distinction from American-style paper wiping, bidets do sport considerable convenience and comfort advantages. Bidets are becoming increasingly common in North America and it is important that first-timers and home inspectors understand how they operate.
Contrary to popular belief in regions where they are uncommon, bidets are not toilet alternatives. They are used to wash the anus, inner buttocks, and genitalia, usually after the user has defecated into an adjacent toilet. Some bidets have been incorporated into toilets, especially in bathrooms that are not large enough for both fixtures. Bidets, like toilets, are typically made from porcelain and contain a deep recess within a wide rim. They emit an arc of clean water from a nozzle that can either be beneath the rear of the rim or deep within the fixture cavity. Users can sit on the rim (or seat, if it has one) or straddle the fixture and face in either direction. He or she can decide which direction to face based on the water jet configuration and the part of their body that needs cleaning. Water temperature and pressure can be adjusted with knobs in order to arrive at the desired settings.
Some bidets come with built-in air dryers that can be used to dry wet areas. Toilet paper can be used for this purpose if no dryer is available. The bidet can be rinsed after use to keep it clean.
- People who suffer from hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or have recently had rectal surgery can find relief from painful paper wiping with the more gentle water flow of a bidet.
- As the bidet requires less operator mobility, they are easier to use for the elderly, disabled, and obese.
- Many believe that the use of bidets is more hygienic and effective than toilet paper. Regardless of this claim’s validity, the user has the option to use both methods if they desire.
- Bidets eliminate the expense of toilet paper.
Some Fun Facts About Bidets
- Although bidet is a French term, the fixture is more common in other European countries such as Italy and Portugal.
- The first bidets appeared in France in the early 1700s, although no one knows exactly who invented it or when this happened.
- In the Unites States, bidets are more expensive (around $400) than in countries where they are common, perhaps contributing to their rarity.
- Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, offers employees the most technologically advanced bidets on the planet. Employees can use a remote to control spray strength, seat temperature, vibration, and deodorization.
- A bidet for travelers who need to use them on the go is called a bidanit.
InterNACHI inspectors can pass along the following tips to their clients:
- Users should familiarize themselves with the rate of temperature and pressure changes that occur when they adjust the controls. Sensitive regions can be burned if the user is not careful, and high water pressure can be irritating.
- Bidets have the potential to transmit contagious diseases. This is of greater concern in public restrooms than in homes.
- Users should know in advance the direction of the water arc and position themselves accordingly. The spray can be powerful enough to strike a person in the face.
- Infants should not be bathed in a bidet, as this is unhygienic. An exception can be made if a bidet is solely devoted to this purpose.
- Bidets operate and appear similar to drinking fountains, although the two should never be confused. The bidet’s water jet can touch an unclean surface and become contaminated.
In summary, bidets are more than just an amusing European curiosity. Despite their expense in the United States and Canada, they are becoming more popular in these regions, and for good reason – many believe they are more sanitary, comfortable, and effective than toilet paper. It is a good idea for home inspectors who are not familiar with these devices to learn the basics so they can inform inquisitive clients.