150

Confession time: I am from one of these barbaric countries where the use of the bidet is not widespread. So I have no idea...

Question 1: What is the bidet good for?

Question 2: How do I use it?

bidet Image Source: wikipedia

Apparently the bidet is a necessity of daily life in some countries and we have already had questions such as
OK we are all adults here, so really, how on earth should I live without bidet?
but to my surprise nobody has ever questioned as to how to use them.

Assuming I'd be travelling to e.g. Italy and encounter such a bidet in my hotel bathroom,

  • What should I use it for?
  • What should I not use it for?
  • How should I use it?
  • How should I not use it?
  • Bonus question: What is the social aspect of bidet usage in countries where they are widespread? Is it implicitly assumed everybody uses this device on a weekly/daily/hourly basis? Should I dare not talk about it or is there no taboo around it? E.g. when I say "I just used the bidet." does that sound like "I just washed my hands" or is that akin to "I just took a dump", i.e. a rather awkward thing to mention as small talk?

This is perfectly on-topic here on Travel SE as part of the bathroom usage 101 series (not in chronological order, omissions possible):

  1. OK we are all adults here, so really, how on earth should I live without bidet?
  2. OK we're all adults here, so really, how on earth should I use a squat toilet?
  3. OK we're all nerds here, so really, how on earth should I use a Japanese toilet?
  4. We're all adults here - how to use a squat toilet if you have trouble squatting?
  5. Are the hoses in toilets in Asia something I should know about?
  6. How to use toilet paper
  7. How do you use a traditional hot-air hand dryer so your hands are actually dry afterwards?

You could assume for this question I have no physical disabilities that would e.g. cause me trouble squatting.

  • 55
    All we need to complete the "OK we're adults" collection is a question about tampons and condoms. – JonathanReez Jun 6 '16 at 14:14
  • 11
    @JonathanReez Gotta love Travel. You learn so much. :P – JoErNanO Jun 6 '16 at 14:35
  • 12
    I have a bidet, and have had a bidet since before I got married and in 5 or 6 houses since. I'm married to an EU contintental and have been for about 20 years. First bidet was installed in the UK. After proving my credentials I hope I can provide guidance from 20 years of experience: I have no idea. Never used it. – Berwyn Jun 6 '16 at 14:47
  • 43
    The people who know how to use a bidet think it's obvious how they work. The people who don't know how to use a bidet think it's obvious that they're confusing. – user2023861 Jun 6 '16 at 15:54
  • 69
    @DavidRicherby, the only time I encounter bidets is when I travel. Just like the only time I encounter passports is when I travel. This question is on-topic. – user2023861 Jun 6 '16 at 15:55

11 Answers 11

96

Bidet Who Are You?

The bidet is a sanitary installation which looks like a shallow toilet bowl with water taps. The purpose of the bidet is to clean up after you've done what you came to do in the toilet. The rationale here is that sometimes toilet paper isn't enough and you can't always shower after you went to the toilet. Enters: the bidet. I feel like I have to mention this: the bidet is not a toilet. You go to the toilet first and then you use a bidet.

How Do You Work?

The way a bidet works is fairly intuitive: you get tempered water and a piece of soap and you clean yourself. Like a targeted shower, if you will.

Step 1: Sit

There are two ways you can sit on a bidet:

  • Facing towards the water taps
  • With the water taps behind your back

The way you sit depends on what you want to clean up, and also on the way you feel more comfortable. Below is a picture of a person straddling a bidet facing towards the taps:

Bidet straddling Image courtesy of WikiHow, CC-by-SA

You might need to remove your trousers to sit in this way.

Step 2: Wash

Having found your seating comfort you are now ready to turn on the water. You'll want to do this slowly so as to control the jet strength and the temperature. Once you are satisfied with both you start washing yourself using whichever cleaning product you require.

When washing yourself you can either fill the bowl and splash water on your body or use the water stream directly. This will depend on personal preference. Some bidets have nozzles you can use to direct the water flow (top left). Others don't and sometimes provide holes from which flows a weak water jet (top right). Some have a vertical spray nozzle (bottom left) which is commonly used to clean the anal region. A more technological bidets can be integrated in the toilet bowl in the form of a water nozzle (bottom right). Below are pictures of these types of bidets:

Bidet nozzle Bidet hole jets Bidet vertical spray Bidet integrated toilet bowl nozzle

To avoid any surprises turn on the water slowly and cover the jet with your hand so as to get a warning before the water hits you.

Step 3: Dry

When you are done washing you can either use a towel or toilet paper to dry yourself.

References

Here is a nice instructable video on how to use a bidet. You can also find a text-based guide here.

What Else Can You Do?

For completeness sake, note that you can also use bidets to soak and clean your feet. To do this you lower the toilet seat lid, sit on that, and put your feet in the bidet, provided the two are installed close together.

  • 54
    We need a video of well-dressed Indian man showing how to use the bidet. – JonathanReez Jun 6 '16 at 14:42
  • 17
    I seriously doubt the correctness of this answer. In the country where it was invented (France), the bidet was clearly intended for a daily wash and not to be used after you went to the toilet per se. It became less useful with the increased availability of water, shower fixtures and bathtubs and gradually disappeared. In countries where I am still seeing bidets (Italy, Spain), it's usually found in hotel rooms next to a regular shower or bathtub and not at every (public) toilet so again associated with daily hygiene, and not with cleaning after toilet use. – Relaxed Jun 6 '16 at 16:16
  • 20
    @Relaxed I assure you that in Italy this is the way it is used. And were I work we have one in every office toilet. – Lucia Bentivoglio Jun 7 '16 at 10:43
  • 14
    @Relaxed As already said, in Italy it definitely is used as part of cleaning up after using the toilet, whatever the reason for using the toilet was. Public toilets don't usually have bidet, and your mileage may vary when you're in a hotel, but each and every house I've been in in Italy has a bidet that is used exactly for the reason specified in an answer, and I still have to meet an Italian who doesn't use it as said. As far as I can say from my limited experience, in Spain the situation is the same; I couldn't say anything about other regions. – gcali Jun 7 '16 at 10:53
  • 13
    @Relaxed: having grown up in a country where every single house has a bidet in every bathroom, the answer is spot on. In particular, bidets are put besides the toilet, not (necessarily) beside the shower. The reason you don't see them in public bathrooms is twofold: they are an additional expense to install and, more importantly, they would require availability of towels (where in many places it is hard even to have toilet paper), that you wouldn't want to share. – Martin Argerami Jun 7 '16 at 15:38
88
+50

I'm Portuguese and every bathroom has a bidet. Only the really small ones don't. It is something I find in European countries with Latin roots (specially Portugal, Spain, France and Italy).

From personal experience and of others, it is not commonly used, although useful on those few times.

The main uses are to clean:

  • Your feet: Sometimes you come home from the beach or had a walk bare feet on your lawn, and you feel like taking a shower is an overkill. Then just use... the bidet. Why is it better than the shower? The bidet is higher, so you can reach your feet to clean them, and normally the faucet is fixed so you can use both your hands without the need for one to hold the water. This might actually be the main use of the bidet, specially on the summer.
  • Your bottom: Ever used toilet paper and it seems that it is never going to end? Are you going to a formal event or a date and you want to make sure your bottom is clean after using the toilet? Then why not take a shower? Well, that would take long and it might be unnecessary... Then just use... the bidet! Just sit on it, like you would on the toilet, open the water, and clean it with water and soap like you would on a shower.
  • Your genitals: Yes, you guessed it. Before and/or after sex.

When should you do it?

Nobody is going to ask you: Hey, how many times have you used the bidet today?

The bidet fits for those cleanings that would be an overkill for a shower and couldn't be made in a sink, like the ones I've written above.

How should you do it?

I would recommend to use it like the opposite of the toilet in the case of bottom/genitals (like the answer with the picture), because it is easy to reach the area you are going to clean, to control the faucet and to grab a towel (normally, there is a towel bar just above the bidet). Just sit on the bidet, one leg each side and with the genitals close to the faucet, let the water run and use it with soap to clean yourself.

In the case of feet, just wash one at a time. Put your foot on the bidet, let the water run and clean it. After you're done, dry your foot, put it somewhere where it doesn't get dirty again like a bathroom rug or your slippers, and then do the same with the other foot.

Why not just clean waist down in the shower?

Because you wet way more body, making a bigger mess and the need to wet and dry more. And for you might be hard to reach your feet if you really want to clean them.

  • 30
    I'm trying to work out why I should be more concerned that my bottom was clean before a formal event than any other event. I have never been to a formal event where my bottom's cleanliness or otherwise was in point. – abligh Jun 7 '16 at 9:56
  • 6
    It's not about to look clean, it's about to smell clean (or not smell at all). :) – Edu Jun 7 '16 at 9:59
  • 3
    sure - personally I'd make the same effort every day - formal event or not! – abligh Jun 7 '16 at 10:01
  • 14
    @abligh Sometimes there are serious consequences to having a grubby rear end! huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/02/… – Gusdor Jun 7 '16 at 12:12
  • 9
    This answer has inspired me to some day own a bidet – Pharap Jun 7 '16 at 22:58
49

Edit: Since I've discovered that the "Number two" euphemism isn't global, I'll add here that it means defecation, and comes from the fact that "poo" rhymes with "number two". It's a common euphemism in the UK/America, used as a more polite (or at least, less "visual") alternative to saying poo.

I won't add to the above answers, which have mostly covered the "What is it, how do I use it?" questions, so I'll go straight for the etiquette

Bonus question: What is the social aspect of bidet usage in countries where they are widespread?

Is it implicitly assumed everybody uses this device on a weekly/daily/hourly basis?

It's like any other personal hygiene - the assumption is that you'll use it when necessary. For example, I would likely use some mouthwash after a meal involving garlic bread, or take a shower after the gym... but not everyone would. Regarding the bidet, a lot of people would use it after every number two, with women generally using it more frequently than men for their genital regions. As with much other genital hygiene, it's personal preference and likely related to how soon you expect another person to be in close proximity to those areas of your anatomy... Daily with your number two would be pretty common.

If you've gotten by without using it in your day to day life, though, I highly doubt anybody will notice. It's a bit like moving to a country with dental floss when you've been getting by just fine with toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash. It won't do any harm to add the extra hygiene, but you're not going to suddenly lose all your teeth or start smelling of... well, you get the idea.

Should I dare not talk about it or is there no taboo around it? E.g. when I say "I just used the bidet." does that sound like "I just washed my hands" or is that akin to "I just took a dump", i.e. a rather awkward thing to mention as small talk?

Somewhere in between the two, but probably closer to the latter. You're essentially saying "I just washed my bottom/genitals": before discussing the bidet, think of yourself saying that sentence. If you wouldn't say that sentence in your current context, don't say "I just used the bidet". It wouldn't be automatically considered rude or taboo, but it's a little on the tactless side and perhaps not something you'd bring up at the dinner table. You're unlikely to mention it without a reasonably good reason. How often do you leave a bathroom and tell people you just washed your hands, or used the lavatory?

  • 7
    Interesting answer! So someone in a bidet-using-country might not use the bidet every time but might use it if, for example, they feel a bit sweaty, or they might think "This date's going well, I'll use the bidet next time I go to the bathroom, in case things get interesting later"? – user568458 Jun 6 '16 at 18:53
  • 5
    Indeed. Some people will use it religiously every time they go to the toilet, others just if they feel they need it etc. And you may not bother if you're about to have a shower, for example. Most people will at least use it once a day at the opposite end of the day to their shower, so they're getting a thorough toilette twice a day – Jon Story Jun 6 '16 at 19:51
  • 5
    As a non native speaker, I am ashamed to say I had to Google for "number two". LOL – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 10 '16 at 22:15
  • 1
    Whoops sorry, I thought that one was universal! – Jon Story Jun 11 '16 at 1:32
  • I know number two as a non-speaker..., in substitution the euphemism of doing some other thing, or something more complicated or a "bigger thing" seems here pretty much universal, even for toddlers. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 17 '17 at 18:56
21

As living in Southern Europe, bidets are pretty much ubiquitous at any home setting.

Outside homes, they are only normally present in women's toilets, as it is assumed they have got to clean up themselves especially in that time of the month.

I pretty much do not feel confy with them, and use only in those nasty days I go too many times to the toilet; otherwise I just step in the shower and wash at least the relevant bits; faster and less complicated.

As others already mentioned, besides washing the lower parts, the bidet can also double as a feet washer. We take it as very uncivilized to use the basin, or heavens forbid, the kitchen sink to wash your feet as we have already seen french and british doing it while in vacations.

People with kids also have an incentive to keep it extra clean all the time, as toddlers tend to use the bidet to wash hands, as they can reach it more easily than the basin. My daughter used to pick up the soap from the basin and wash the hands there. [and the dolls]

The bidet is also an excellent way of starting to teach young kids how to take care of their own personal higyene with a minimal adult supervision as it is not so dangerous to use alone as the shower.

As far the social aspect, we do not have much taboos around bidets. I have to explain a lot of times to my daughter how to use it, and my wife as a foreign was quite surprised to learn the guys toilets usually do not have bidets. I also can mention that in a rather informal talk without any worries, but needless to say, there is no need to enter into very "technical" details.

As for other doubts expressed in this thread, we have a glycerin soap and two small towels just dedicated to the bidet. There are no mixes with the soap and towels of the basin or the shower.

Finally, bidets can be convenient for the elderly. Often they do have dificulties or even need some help using the shower, and the bidet gives them some degree of independence in their cleaning needs.

There is also another point of using the bidet I had forgotten: water savings/energy savings. While I tend to have a full shower with hot water in the winter time, I can do with washing my private parts and feet with cold or slightly warm water using a bidet, and the water usage/waste is much lower by several orders of magnitude.

Focusing on the subject of using bidets in public places, or hotels, I would only use them only as a last resort. You never know who used them before and how well they were cleaned, and it is not unheard of women getting vaginal infections, as they are more sensitive to that kind of problems. In a hotel I just hop in the shower.

  • 10
    On the washing of feet, it also bears mention that trying to use the wash basin or kitchen sink would also require much more agility and/or height than it would to use a bidet. – phoog Jun 6 '16 at 19:32
  • 2
    When have you seen British people wash their feet in the basin or kitchen sink? In 27 years I've never once seen a Brit use a sink like that - we'd default to a shower or bath! I can't speak for the French... – Jon Story Oct 4 '16 at 14:19
  • Long time ago in my teens years...I wont enter in details for the risk of nitpicking against a particular group, but I do appreciate your comment. – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 4 '16 at 14:28
  • Why is using a shower deemed dangerous for unsupervised children? – Pranab Jun 17 '17 at 16:32
  • @Pranab Slipping and falling down in the shower, or difficulties getting in and out of the bathtub when the shower is inside; and/or wetting all the room. My daughter is 7 and still needs a little help getting in, and especially getting out the tub when her and the tub are already wet; in contrast she has been using the bidet alone for years now. The top outer border of the bathtub touches my kneecaps at home, and it is only moderately higher/small by our standards. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 17 '17 at 18:44
17

Bidets are in almost every bathroom here (Argentina), excepting public places. Their main usage is for anal (both sexes) and genital (women mostly) cleaning. They can replace or (more commonly) complement the toilet paper. Not everyone uses them, though.

Other answers have covered the usage instructions. I wish to add some socially relevant points about towels:

  • Be considerate, you should not leave too visible traces in the bidet towel... you are not supposed to use it to dry your anus, but the surroundings - use toilet paper for the most basic/gross drying

  • Be careful. If there is a towel for the bidet, it should be hanging next to it. Use that one -and only that one!- for bidet things.

  • 4
    Or if in an unexpected visit, ask the host for a complementary set of towels, it will be appreciated. For a party or a programmed visit/social visit, normally that is already accounted for. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 7 '16 at 13:48
  • 2
    About towels, I was an expat in a country with a high percentage of muslim population, and you know they wash, they do not clean with paper...the end result is that in public restrooms, and when visiting muslim houses we actively avoided the hand towels...mainly because usually there were no other towels in the nearest sight. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 7 '16 at 13:57
7

My understanding, having asked and been given a partial, embarrassed answer, would be that you assume a squatted position over the fixture, without lower body contact, then use the supplied water flow to wash your functional areas after discharging waste in the otherwise appropriate receptacle. Clear yet vague? Typically there is no paper supplied, so the question of wiping and / or drying is not answered. No soap either, required for the setup, right? I've seen bidets that squirt upward, and also, as the one pictured, it squirts outward, across the bowl: either setup seems purposefully aimed for the type of action alluded to above.

I'd like to know if there are more important details left out here -- things we should know. At one time, I stayed in a house with only bidets; they had no toilet paper, nor other paper products that would have worked, and I was informed the rig was better for their septic system (it was a farm outside the city.) No instructions were provided, ahem.

  • 6
    "My" bidet has nothing but a weak water flow that is ineffective for automatically washing anything. You would have to scoop the water into your nether regions to do it yourself. Without naming names, I have observed "someone" using a bidet and it seems to involve soap and sponges and things that you might not want to use afterwards. – Berwyn Jun 6 '16 at 15:59
  • 1
    I would wary using the hand soap there... – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 7 '16 at 4:16
  • 1
    @Berwyn: I think you've just got a bad bidet. I've only ever used the ones which had a water jet strong enough to do all cleaning directly. – Marianne013 Jun 9 '16 at 10:27
6

You use it for cleaning your genital and anal areas. This may be BEFORE social (or sexual) meetings or after those areas become in need of cleaning (just a long day since you showered, after sex, exercise, bowel movements or urination, during your menstruation,,, basically when you feel you need it.) I suspect with the widespread adoption of panty pads, that the need for bidets has declined. Usage depends on too many factors, but the bidet is rare in the USA which implies that unlike flush toilets, it is more of a luxury than a necessity. It is possible to over use, it isn't necessary to use soap (culture dependent, I think), and it's possible to be too harsh with delicate areas. The use of anything but disposable (paper) towels creeps me out (except in your own home or your own (guest) bathroom. I didn't know that men used it, and its use for feet was also a surprise.(I'm a typical mid-western American; it's mostly associated with feminine needs here.) As far as how you use it, you shouldn't step into an unfamiliar shower without first turning it on and adjusting the flows of cold and hot water, similarly, you should check out the flows (and temperatures) of the bidet before sitting.

  • I would understand mention (baby wipes) as an alternative to the bidet out of home, especially after doing the number 2. Suggesting panty pads obviates the need for washing sounds...gross. My wife uses regularly panty pads, and it still does shower everyday and uses the bidet at home everytime after going to the wc. I am European and using only paper creeps me out; there is always something that needs a better cleaning, and usually the smell adds up. In Europe, you also have a lot of uncircumcised men, and the need for washing is greater – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 19 '17 at 8:59
6

Any almost all North African and Middle Eastern countries Bidet serves simple purpose of washing legs which is a mandatory prerequisite for Muslim prayer

5
+50

We need a video of well-dressed Indian man showing how to use the bidet.

-- JonathanReez

I'm surprised, nobody has posted this before: In analogy to this answer about squatting toilets, I'll answer the bidet-question with a video by the same well-dressed Indian man:

enter image description here

3

In spain is pretty common to have a bidet in the bathroom as many others have already answered, the use of it it's up to you, I personally only use it after some liquid dump, those that let you shivering and your bottom on fire... I squat on the bidet, point the faucet to my bottoms and power it up with some cool water in order to clean it up, after soaked it a bit i just rub a little with my hands and then get back to the toilet to wipe it with toilet paper.

I always am fascinated for the curiosity of the people about this, but I not remember no one teaching me how to use it, i guess it's one of those things that you just has to experiment until you are confortable with its use.

Cleaning your feet is another of its uses, you can fill it with hot water and put the feet in the bidet (I have it in front of the toilet and next to the bathtub, so i can six in the border of the tub).

You could use the shower for the both cases mentioned above, but it costs more time and water.

I've never heard of a bidet without toilet paper or a towel to clean up afterwards like Old Uncle Ho commented but I'm no expert on bidets...

  • I can take a shower in 3 minutes. I'm not sure it really is that much of a time saver. – Berwyn Jun 7 '16 at 11:32
  • 5
    @Berwyn A) Not everyone can shower in 3 minutes. I think the shortest shower I ever managed was 10 minutes. B) Sometimes when you've already showered that day you don't want to have to shower again, especially if you have long hair that takes forever to dry. – Pharap Jun 7 '16 at 23:01
  • 1
    Paper is barbaric in comparison. In particular the hands-free jet is what I'm thinking of, integrated in the toilet seat. – JDługosz Jun 9 '16 at 17:04
0

A bidet is nice but not every home has space for one and you might find yourself in a bathroom while travelling which doesn't have any such facilities and expect you to use toilet paper like some barbarian. Have no fear, Toto has invented the portable washlet. Here is a completely SFW video on its usage although I must admit I have found its usage absolutely intuitive: fill it with water, hold it between legs with the extended nozzle below your bottom, direct the jet of water where needed and spray. I know I have somehow lived 35 years without using a washlet but now that I have stationary at home and a travel one as well it seems impossible like living without Google or coding without Stackoverflow.

protected by Community Jun 8 '16 at 8:34

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.