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Illustration by Irene Goddard

A bidet (pronounced buh-day) is a basin used for cleaning yourself after using the bathroom. Bidets are common in Europe, Asia, and South America, so if you’ve ever traveled internationally, you’ve probably seen one.

If you’ve ever wondered about the proper way to use a bidet, now is a great time to learn, as they’re becoming increasingly popular in the United States.

Bidets come in more forms than ever, which is part of why they’re becoming more popular. With various bidet models in demand in modern bathrooms everywhere, you can never really predict where you might encounter a handheld or built-in bidet.

Freestanding bidet

This is the traditional type of bidet. Freestanding bidets are placed next to the regular toilet, and they look like a large, low sink. Freestanding bidets are sometimes filled with water that rises to the surface of the bowl, and they may be equipped with jets.

Handheld bidet

A handheld bidet, also called a bidet shower or bidet sprayer, is a nozzle that stays attached to the toilet. This type of bidet is manually placed near your private area to clean your anus and rectum after using the toilet. With a handheld bidet, you control the positioning of the stream of water.

Built-in bidet

A built-in bidet is a toilet equipped with a bidet feature. After flushing a toilet with a built-in bidet, the toilet may automatically dispense a vertical stream of water to cleanse you.

Warm water bidet

A warm water bidet can be built-in, free-standing, or a sprayer attachment. A warm water bidet is simply hooked up to the hot water pipe system or has a built-in water warmer which provides a warmer spritz to your bottom when you use it.

If you see a bidet “out in the wild,” make a plan for how you’re going to use it before you make an attempt. Try turning the spray nozzle on or flushing the built-in bidet, so you can see where the stream of water will come from and how powerful the water pressure will be.

Follow these steps to use any kind of bidet successfully

  1. Use the bathroom as you normally would. After you’re finished, you can opt to use toilet paper to clean up — or you can skip it and head straight to the bidet wash.
  2. If a toilet has a built-in bidet, stay seated on the toilet. After you’ve flushed, press the “wash” button. You’ll feel a stream of water rise up and cleanse your bottom, going from your front to your rear.
  3. To use a handheld bidet, you’ll need to grasp the bidet hose (usually attached to the side of the toilet tank) and make sure that the T-valve on the side of the hose is on the “on” position. Bring the hose down through your legs as you sit. Turn the hose on, spraying from front to back. Once you’re finished, turn the T-valve back to the “off” setting.
  4. To use a freestanding bidet, you’ll need to move to the basin that stands next to the toilet. Most people straddle a freestanding bidet with their knees facing the wall, backward from the way that you would use a regular toilet. If you’re wearing pants, you may need to remove them. Turn the bidet faucet on and align your anus with the stream of water to clean your backside. You may have to keep your finger on the lever or faucet until you’re ready to turn the water off.
  5. If you’d like, you can use a dry piece of toilet paper to clean up afterward. Dispose of this toilet paper in the trash can, not the bidet.
  6. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after using a bidet.

  • Check out the bidet before you try to use it. Figure out where the jets of water are going to come from so you’re prepared.
  • When you first use a bidet, clean off with toilet paper first before attempting the bidet spray.
  • You don’t need to use soap to use a bidet. Some people do use the bidet like a mini-shower after a bowel movement, but it isn’t a requirement.
  • Make sure that any clothing items (like underwear, pants, and tunic-style shirts) are out of the way before turning on the bidet jets.
  • You may notice a towel hanging within arm’s reach of your bidet. Be forewarned that this is for drying off your hands, never your rear.
  • For best results with a bidet attachment, make sure you remember to shut off the T-valve after every use, with no exceptions. Forgetting to turn it off could result in a leaky attachment.

Bidets can be a great alternative to toilet paper, but that doesn’t mean that there are no drawbacks or risks associated with using them. Bidets are decidedly not for everyone, and if you have a weakened immune system, you might want to wait a bit before trying one out.

If you have male genitalia, using a bidet before having a bowel movement could result in an itchy feeling on your anus. A 2016 study in Japan strongly linked using the bidet prior to elimination as opposed to just using it afterward to symptoms of itching.

If you have female genitalia, using bidets may increase your risk of bacterial vaginitis. At least one study has demonstrated that using a warm water bidet aggravates the natural balance of flora in the vagina.

Electric warm water bidets also carry a general risk of bacterial contamination, according to a 2017 study done in hospitals.

Bidets may take some getting used to, but many people like them so much that they decide to make a permanent switch. If you want to try using a bidet, take a good look around at the equipment and make sure you’re prepared for the jets.

People with conditions such as hemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) might benefit from giving the bidet a try.