Bidets: A “Paperless” Toilet

How can 89 million Japanese people be wrong?

It’s probably not something you’ve spent a lot of time pondering, but how sanitary is it to use toilet paper? For people in many countries, using tissue to clean yourself after going to the bathroom is the exception rather than the rule. Instead, the use of a bidet is far more common, and those who use one often say they can never go back to toilet paper again.

A bidet is, quite simply, an apparatus to wash your genitals and anus after you’ve done your business. It originated in France in the early 18thcentury (the word comes from the French word for “pony”) but it has since evolved into a high-tech type of toilet used in many countries across Europe and Asia. In fact, more than 70% of the Japanese population uses a bidet, or “paperless” toilet, and it has become a way of life there.

Despite the bidet’s ease of use and overall cleanliness, the concept has not really caught on in North America. Most people who come across a self-contained bidet confuse it with a small urinal or even a sink, and can’t really believe what it’s actually used for. But most leading manufacturers of toilets, including American Standard and Caroma, have versions of bidets or attachments that can go on a standard North American toilet. These attachments can run in price anywhere from $80 to $650, depending on how technologically advanced you want them to be.

Who uses these bidet toilet attachments?

The market for bidets, at least in North America, consists mostly of anyone who suffers from decreased mobility that makes using toilet paper difficult or impossible. These devices, both as an attachment to a standard toilet and a fully contained unit, are growing in popularity among the elderly whose movements have been restricted by age, arthritis or osteoporosis. People who suffer from disabilities and those who suffer from obesity are also common bidet users.


Today’s leading bidets can either attach to a standard toilet or be a stand-alone unit in its own right. Either way, they send a warm spray of water up around your nether regions at the turn of a button. But depending on how much money you have to spend and how many bells and whistles you want, a bidet can have a number of additional features. These include:

  • A heated seat. Great if you live in a colder climate.
  • Air dryer . Those who use a standard bidet still often use a towel or even toilet paper to dab themselves dry, but people with especially limited mobility will appreciate this additional feature.
  • Pulsating massage. For bums that enjoy a little something extra.

If you are going to put a bidet in your home, keep in mind that houseguests may not be familiar (or comfortable) with using one, so you may want to take the time to explain how it is different from a traditional toilet.