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A bidet (US: // ( listen) or UK: //) is a plumbing fixture or type of sink intended for washing the genitalia, perineum, inner buttocks, and anus of the human body. It may be located next to the toilet in the toilet room. Fixtures that combine a toilet seat with an electronic bidet are also available on the market.
Bidets are primarily used to wash and clean the genitalia, perineum, inner buttocks, and anus. Despite appearing similar to a toilet, a traditional bidet may be more accurately compared to a sink. There are also bidets that are attachable to ordinary toilet bowls. They have the advantage of being inexpensive and saving space.
They are not meant to replace the use of toilet paper but instead to be used with soap in addition to it, after paper has been used, to achieve full cleanliness without immediately having to take a shower. Some bidets have a vertical jet intended to give easy access for washing and rinsing the perineum and anal area achieving a high level of cleanliness.
A bidet shower (also known as "bidet spray", "bidet sprayer", or "health faucet") is a hand-held triggered nozzle, similar to that on a kitchen sink sprayer, that delivers a spray of water to assist in anal cleansing and cleaning the genitals after defecation and urination. In contrast to a bidet that is integrated with the toilet, a bidet shower has to be held by the hands, and cleaning does not take place automatically. Bidet showers are common in countries where water is considered essential for anal cleansing.
Drawbacks include the possibility of wetting a user's clothing if used carelessly. In addition, a user must be reasonably mobile and flexible to use a hand-held bidet shower.
Conventional or standalone bidet
A bidet is a plumbing fixture that is installed as a separate unit in the bathroom besides toilet, shower and sink, which users have to straddle. Some bidets resemble a large hand basin, with taps and a stopper so they can be filled up; other designs have a nozzle that squirts a jet of water to aid in cleansing.
In the past, getting a bidet meant installing a completely new plumbing unit into the bathroom. Newer bidets are often no longer standalone units: A bidet may be a movable or fixed nozzle attached to an existing toilet on back or side toilet rim, or a part of the toilet itself. In these cases, their use is restricted to cleaning the anus and genitals. Some bidets of this type produce a vertical water jet and others a more or less oblique one. Others have one nozzle on the side rim for both anal and genital areas, and other designs have two nozzles on the back rim, 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 washing the vulva.
Such attachable bidets (also called "combined toilets", "bidet attachments", or "add-on bidets") are controlled either mechanically or electronically. Mechanically controlled bidets tend to be simple mechanisms manually controlled by a valve. Electronic bidets are controlled with waterproof electrical switches rather than with a traditional manual valve. There are models that have a heating element which blows warm air to dry the user after washing, that offer heated seats, wireless remote controls, illumination through built in night lights, or built in deodorizers and activated carbon filters to remove odors. Further refinements include adjustable water pressure, temperature compensation, and directional spray control. Where bathroom appearance is of concern, under-the-seat mounting types have become more popular.
An add-on bidet typically connects to the existing water supply of a toilet via the addition of a threaded tee pipe adapter, and requires no soldering or other plumbing work. Electronic add-on bidets also require a GFCI protected grounded electrical outlet.
Because of the large surface of the sink, disinfection of stand-alone bidets is difficult, so microbial contamination from one user to the next could take place. Bidet attachments are sometimes included on hospital toilets because of their utility in maintaining hygiene. Warm-water bidets may harbor dangerous microbes if not properly disinfected.
From an environmental standpoint, bidets can reduce the need for toilet paper, saving households money on paper products and allowing users to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing their paper waste over time. Considering that an average person uses only 1/8th gallon of water for cleansing using a bidet, much less water is used compared to the amount of water required to make toilet paper. An article in Scientific American concluded that using a bidet is "much less stressful on the environment than using paper."
Society and culture
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Bidets are becoming increasingly popular with the ageing community, or for use among people with physical disabilities. These combined units make independent toileting possible for many people, affording greater independence. These are often special units with higher toilet seats allowing easier wheelchair transfer, and with some form of electronic remote control that benefits an individual with limited mobility or requiring assistance.
Bidets are common bathroom fixtures in many southern European countries, especially Italy, where they are found in 97% of households (the installation of a bidet in a bathroom has been mandatory since 1975), Spain, and Portugal (installation is mandatory also since 1975). Additionally, they are rather widespread, although not standard, in France, and within Europe are often found in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, and Greece. Outside of Europe, they are very popular in some South American countries, notably in Argentina and Uruguay. Electronic bidet-integrated toilets, along with functions like toilet seat warmers, are commonly found in Japan.
In 1980, the first "paperless toilet" was launched in Japan by manufacturer Toto, a combination of toilet and bidet which also dries the user after washing. These combination toilet-bidets (washlet) with seat warmers, or attachable bidets are particularly popular in Japan and South Korea, and are found in approximately 76% of Japanese households as of 2015[update]. They are commonly found in hotels and even some public facilities. These bidet-toilets, along with toilet seat and bidet units (to convert an existing toilet) are sold in many countries, including the United States.
Bidet seat conversions are much easier and lower cost to install than traditional bidets, and have disrupted the market for the older fixtures. Acceptance worldwide is facilitated by cultural preferences for washing, as well as poor quality and availability of toilet paper in many parts of the world. After a slow start in the 1990s, electronic bidets are gaining increasing popularity in the United States.
In the UK, toilet-integrated bidets with drying facility are becoming more widespread for use among people with physical disabilities.
Bidet is a French word for "pony", and in Old French, bider meant "to trot". This etymology comes from the notion that one "rides" or straddles a bidet much like a pony is ridden. The word "bidet" was used in 15th century France to refer to the pet ponies that French royalty kept.
The bidet appears to have been an invention of French furniture makers in the late 17th century, although no exact date or inventor is known. The earliest written reference to the bidet is in 1726 in Italy. Even though there are records of Maria Carolina of Austria, Queen of Naples and Sicily, requesting a bidet for her personal bathroom in the Royal Palace of Caserta in the second half of the 18th century, the bidet did not diffuse in Italy until after WWII. The bidet is possibly associated with the chamber pot and the bourdaloue, the latter being a small, hand-held chamber pot.
Historical antecedents and early functions of the bidet are believed to include devices used for contraception. Bidets are considered ineffective by today's standards of contraception, and their use for this function was quickly abandoned and forgotten with the advent of modern contraceptives such as the pill.
In the United States in 1928 John Harvey Kellogg applied for a patent on an "anal douche". In his application, he uses the term to describe a system comparable to what today might be called a bidet nozzle which can be attached to a toilet to perform anal cleansing with water.[original research?]
In 1965 the American Bidet Company featured an adjustable spray nozzle and warm water option seeking to make the bidet a household item.
The early 1980s saw the introduction of the electronic bidet from Japan, with names such as Clean Sense, Galaxy, Infinity, Novita and non-electric chrome plated brass attachments such as Gobidet. These devices have attachments that connect to existing toilet arrangements, and can be used for bathrooms lacking the space for both a separate bidet and toilet having advantages such as instant heating warm water, night lights and a heated seat.
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- Manjoo, Farhad (April 29, 2015). "Electronic Bidet Toilet Seat Is the Luxury You Won't Want to Live Without". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
- J UOEH. 2014 Jun 1;36(2):135-9. A survey on bacterial contamination of lavage water in electric warm-water lavage toilet seats and of the gluteal cleft after lavage.Katano H1, Yokoyama K
- "Wipe or Wash? Do Bidets Save Forest and Water Resources?". Scientific American. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- Decreto ministeriale Sanità, 5 July 1975, art. 7.
- Decreto-Lei n.º 650/75 de 18 de Novembro (in Portuguese), 18 November 1975, art. 84
- "Bidets in Finland"
- "In modern world, even toilets are becoming paperless". The Augusta Chronicle. March 13, 2014. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
- "Toilet Timeline". World Toilet Organization. Archived from the original on December 20, 2009. Retrieved 20 Dec 2009.
- Diseases of the Colon & Rectum (Volume 49, Number 7) pp.1082-1083, doi:10.1007/s10350-006-0553-y
- "Toilet Timeline" on the World Toilet Organization website
- Storia del bidet, Un grande contenitore ideologico [History of the bidet] (in Italian). Castelvecchi. 2003. ISBN 9788882101114.
- Made in Naples. Come Napoli ha civilizzato l'Europa (e come continua a farlo) [Made in Naples. How Naples civilised Europe (And still does it)] (in Italian). Addictions-Magenes Editoriale. 2013. ISBN 8866490393.
- Bullough, Verne (2001). Encyclopedia of Birth Control. ABC-CLIO.
- Museum of Contraception and Abortion. "The bidet is for vaginal rinsing".
- A United States patent US1787481 A, John Harvey Kellogg, "Anal douche", published Jan 6, 1931