A bidet is a low-mounted plumbing fixture or type of sink intended for washing the external genitalia and the anus.
Bidet is pronounced using IPA: (US), [ˈbiːdeɪ] (UK).
A bidet: this design is common in Europe
Bidets are principally used to wash and clean the external genitalia and the anus, as well as the skin near these areas. They may also be used to clean any other part of the body; they are convenient for cleaning the feet for example. Despite appearing similar to a toilet, it would be more accurate to compare it to the washbasin or bathtub. Anyone who has mobility problems and finds it difficult to get into a bathtub, or is afraid of slipping in the shower, may find a bidet an excellent solution for maintaining personal hygiene.
Users who are unfamiliar with bidets often confuse a bidet with a urinal or toilet. The user should use the toilet before using the bidet; its purpose is to wash afterwards. It is generally understood that you should sit on a bidet facing the faucet and nozzle, however that is not necessarily the case. It's just as efficient, and some say, less awkward with your back to the faucet and wall.
Bidets are made in several different designs. They may have one faucet which pours (usually warm) water into a china basin. The basin can be plugged and filled if necessary, or the water can be allowed to drain away. Other bidets have a nozzle which propels an arc of water up into the air. This jet of water is angled to connect directly with the genital area.
A bidet may also be a nozzle attached to an existing toilet, or a part of the toilet itself. In this case, its use is restricted to cleaning the anus and genitals. Some bidets of this type have two nozzles, the shorter one, called the family nozzle, is used for washing the area around the anus, and the longer one (bidet nozzle) is designed for women to wash their vulvas. These bidets are often controlled electronically rather than with a traditional faucet, and some have an element under the seat which heats up to dry you after washing.
Although using a bidet may include touching the genitalia and the anus with the hands after using the toilet, it can be more hygienic than toilet paper. In fact, most people with bidets use both, wiping with toilet paper before washing with the bidet.
Bidets are very useful for the elderly or anyone with mobility problems and for people with hemorrhoids.
Bidets are common bathroom fixtures in some European countries (especially France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal), Latin America (especially Argentina found in approximately 90% of households), the Middle East and some parts of Asia (particularly in Japan). They may be installed both in private homes and hotels. In Japan, bidets are so common that they are often present in public toilet facilities.
In Europe, the bidet is not normally used for cleaning the anus after defecation (which is done with toilet paper), but for optional supplementary washing, or for daily personal hygiene.
In 1980 the first "paperless toilet" was launched in Japan, a combination toilet and bidet which also dries you after washing. Combination toilet-bidets are particularly popular in Japan, found in approximately 60% of households. They are commonly found in hotels and even some public facilities. These bidet-toilets, along with toilet seat/bidet units (to convert an existing toilet) are sold in many countries including the United States. For details see Japanese toilet.
Residents of countries in which bidets in private homes are rare (the USA and UK for example) may be totally unfamiliar with bidets and have no idea how to use them if they encounter them (while travelling abroad for example). It is said that many American men first encountered bidets in French brothels during WWII and thought they were designed for the prostitutes to douche (inside the vagina) after sexual intercourse. It is not uncommon for people who have never used bidets to think that there is something strange or even dirty about them; these attitudes may be difficult for manufacturers to dispel where it is taboo to discuss toilet habits and personal hygiene in public.
Bidet is French for pony (and in Old French, bider meant to trot). This odd etymology exists because early bidets were normally on a stand which the user would straddle, not unlike mounting a horse.
The bidet appears to have been an invention of French furniture makers in the late 17th or early 18th century, although no exact date or inventor is known. The earliest written reference to the bidet is in 1710.
By 1900, thanks to the plumbing improvements of the Victorian era, the bidet (and chamber pot) moved from the bedroom to the bathroom.
Last updated: 05-16-2005 01:38:02
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04