Would you ditch toilet paper if it meant saving hundreds of dollars a year? For most Americans, it's unimaginable. But some want to change the way Americans do their business, one bathroom at a time. They are the bidet evangelists.
"We have customers that tell us there was life before bidets and life after," says 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, probably aren't rushing out to install pricey plumbing fixtures in their apartments. The company's bidet attachments are meant to appeal to renters and the cost-conscious. And its colorful, irreverent ads show a product that's 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 percent growth in sales over the past two years. Daniel Lalley, a spokesman for Brondell, says there was a mystique behind bidets for so long that he hopes this uptick in sales means the taboo has been broken for good.
Other bidet evangelists are people who have simply been won over by the hygienic, environmental and financial benefits. We asked several what the big deal is. Here are a few reasons they believe bidets will change your life.
Imagine this: A bird poops on your arm. Would you wipe it dry or wash it?
"The bottom line is hygiene. You get cleaner using a bidet than using dry toilet paper alone. Think of it like taking a little bath after going number two," says Shannon Lerda of Omaha, Nebraska, who started the website TheBidetExperts.com in 2017 to educate Americans on the benefits of investing in a bidet.
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 have blow-dryers, "if you want to feel extra pampered," Lerda says.
"It can help prevent all sorts of medical conditions that are uncomfortable, embarrassing and frustrating," says Mark Hyman, medical director at Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine.
Hyman says 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, 1 in 20 Americans suffer from hemorrhoids. Dry toilet paper can irritate the skin.
One part of the United States that has caught on to the bidet is Puerto Rico, where many people had stand-alone bidets before attachments came on the market.
"Middle- and upper-class families had bidets. It was a hygiene issue for women mostly," says Luz Celenia Lopez, a longtime resident, describing menstruation, post-pregnancy symptoms and general cleanliness as major factors.
Kathryn Kellogg's husband introduced her to the bidet years ago, but she wasn't sold on it right away. "It was interesting. It was not 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 was using on average about a roll of toilet paper every two weeks — about a quarter of their previous usage.
"We are clear-cutting so many trees for these products that we don't need to be using that much," she says.
As for water and electricity usage, it can vary depending on the type of bidet. Dennis Baeza, a supervisor for BidetKing, says water usage with most bidet attachments is "very negligible." 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 says.
Every time Kellogg moves from one home to another, she leaves her bidet attachment behind for the next owner. She hopes this might start a conversation about reducing waste and improving hygiene.
Stand-alone bidets in Europe can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Installation can be expensive, too; it needs to be done by a plumber. Bidet attachments can cost as little as $30 (or as much as $400) and require little time or skill to install. Simple, non-electric attachments from Amazon can range from $25 to $45. Brondell sells various styles of bidets, such as a slim-style attachment for $39.95. (The company also caters to left-handed people with attachments between $49 to $69.)
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 says. A standard electric attachment from BidetKing will add an average of $45 to your electric bill annually.
The real cost savings, fans say, come one toilet paper roll at a time, as users limit or even stop their usage.
Yasmin Amer, a radio producer from Boston, has been gifting bidet attachments to her friends as housewarming gifts, for about $30 from Amazon. She says she is very comfortable talking about hygiene and what a bidet can do for someone — so her gifts don't necessarily come as a surprise to her friends. Some friends are still hesitant to use them; others, she says, call them life-changing.
Recently, her husband added bidet attachments in the restrooms of his business. When Amer asked his employees what they thought, they said they were scared to try it.
"Next time I come back you're going to tell me because it's great and you're gonna 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."