Would you ditch toilet paper if it meant saving hundreds of dollars a year?
Most Americans wouldn’t. But some want to change the way Americans do their business, one bathroom at a time.
“We have customers that tell us there was life before bidets and life after,” said Jason Ojalvo, chief executive of Tushy, which sells bidet attachments online. “We think that there is no reason that bidets should not be mainstream in America. It’s ridiculous; they are everywhere but here.”
Tushy’s target consumers, eco-conscious millennials, aren’t installing pricey plumbing fixtures in their apartments. Instead, they’re buying bidet attachments designed to appeal to renters and the cost-conscious. Its product is a far cry from the porcelain fixtures you’ll find in Europe and Asia. It’s a small, plastic box that connects to your toilet seat.
Tushy isn’t the only company on the bidet attachment bandwagon. Online retailers, such as Brondell and BidetKing, have seen 15% to 20% growth in sales over the past two years. Daniel Lalley, a spokesman for Brondell, said he thinks the uptick in sales means the taboo against bidets has been broken.
“The bottom line is hygiene. You get cleaner using a bidet than using dry toilet paper alone,” said Shannon Lerda of Omaha, who started the website TheBidetExperts.com in 2017 to educate Americans on the benefits of investing in a bidet.
Some medical professional are supporters, too.
“It can help prevent all sorts of medical conditions that are uncomfortable, embarrassing and frustrating,” said Dr. Mark Hyman, medical director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine.
Hyman said he regularly recommends the use of bidets to his patients, especially those with gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one in 20 Americans suffers from hemorrhoids. Dry toilet paper can irritate the skin.
Here’s how most bidet attachments work: After you have done your business, you remain on the toilet. Pressurized water (from the same water supply your toilet uses) sprays onto the skin, removing waste. Some have a handheld hose, others spray broadly. Toilet paper can be used afterward for patting dry. Some bidets also have blow-dryers, “if you want to feel extra pampered,” Lerda said.
Kathryn Kellogg’s husband introduced her to the bidet years ago, but she wasn’t sold on it right away.
“It wasn’t something that I had ever experienced before. But I was open to it because I wanted to reduce waste,” she said. “And I have to say the first time I tried it I was like, ‘This is the most brilliant thing in the entire world. Why isn’t this everywhere?’ I just think it makes so much more sense.”
When Kellogg, founder of the blog Going Zero Waste, incorporated bidets in her home, she noticed her family’s toilet paper use dropped by about a quarter.
“We are clear-cutting so many trees for these products that we don’t need to be using that much,” she said.
Of course, water and electricity have to be factored in. Dennis Baeza, a supervisor for BidetKing, said water usage with most bidet attachments is “very negligible.” And many simple attachments, such as Kellogg’s, don’t use electricity. Brondell’s high-end electric bidets, which have seat warmers and controlled-temperature features, take up as much energy as a blow-dryer at its highest use, Lalley said.
Calculating the cost
Stand-alone European bidets cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Installation, which must be done by a plumber, can be expensive, too. Bidet attachments, on the other hand, can cost as little as $30 (or as much as $400) and require little time or skill to install.
Assuming a high usage of 20 minutes of washing per day, you can expect to see an addition of less than $2 in your water bill, Baeza said. A standard electric attachment from BidetKing will add an average of $45 to your electric bill annually.
The real cost savings, fans said, comes from toilet paper.
Yasmin Amer, a radio producer from Boston, has been giving $30 bidet attachments to her friends as housewarming gifts. She’s very comfortable talking about hygiene and the merits of a bidet, calling them life-changing.
Recently, her husband added bidet attachments in the restrooms of his business. His employees admitted that they were scared to try it.
“Next time I come back you’re going to tell me it’s great and you’re going to love it and you’re going to order one,” Yasmin recalled telling them.
“I just think it’s so strange that people are uncomfortable with the idea of water,” she said.