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A bidet (US i// or UK //) is a plumbing fixture or type of sink intended for washing the "private parts" of the human body, and is typically installed in a bathroom. Lower-cost add-ons combining a toilet seat and "electronic bidet" are becoming increasingly popular as well. "Bidet" is a French loanword.
Bidets are primarily used to wash and clean the genitalia, perineum, inner buttocks, and anus. Traditional designs may also be used to clean any other part of the human body, such as the feet. Despite appearing similar to a toilet, a traditional bidet may be more accurately compared to a washbasin or bathtub. Bidets may serve as a practical way for people to clean themselves before and after having sex.
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. They are not necessarily meant to replace the use of toilet paper. Often they are used after some paper to achieve full cleanliness without immediately having to take a shower.
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.
Devices with a similar function
In South-East Asia, Muslim countries, and Finland, bidets are less likely to be separate fixtures, but often are a small hose with a nozzle similar to a sink sprayer, called a bidet shower or health faucet.
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Bidets have benefits that include sanitation, health, and some environmental benefits. Bidets are beneficial for those who suffer from hemorrhoids or other medical conditions. Toilet paper can be irritating to the sensitive skin in the perineal area, and warmed water provided by some bidets can offer relief. This is also true for older people who have less mobility, or very young children who cannot wipe themselves.
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. On the other hand, they may modestly increase the amount of heated water used in the bathroom.
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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 is mandatory from 1975), Turkey, Spain, and Portugal. Additionally, they are rather widespread, although not standard, in France, and are often found in Albania, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Malta, and Greece. In northern Europe (with the exception of Finland), bidets are rare.
Bidets can be found in some countries in the Americas, especially in South America, and are a standard feature of homes in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay; however they are rare in North America.
Integration of toilet and bidet
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 tap, and some have a heating element which blows warm air to dry the user after washing.
Bidet toilets have been popular in countries like India since British colonial days, as the use of only dry toilet paper to clean the peri-anal area is considered unhygienic. The nozzle is sometimes controlled with an external tap within the reach of the hand. Traditionally, local style squatting toilets have been more common in India and are more convenient to most Indians, especially of the lower income groups. But with the rise of westernization, western style bowls have started becoming more common, and the most convenient way to wash the perineal area with these bowls is simply to attach a bidet nozzle.
In 1980 the first "paperless toilet" was launched in Japan by manufacturer Toto, a combination toilet and bidet which also dries the user after washing. Combination toilet-bidets with seat warmers, or attachable bidets are particularly popular in Japan and South Korea, 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.
Bidet attachments are sometimes included on hospital toilets because of their utility in maintaining hygiene. In countries where the bidet is very common, prices are much lower. In Italy, for example, the price for a bidet seldom exceeds €150 (about US$200), and it is not uncommon to find bidets priced as low as €40 (about US$60). In Middle Eastern countries, bidet attachments are much cheaper, being priced at around the equivalent of US$10–20, which is attributed to their popularity and availability.
Toilet seat bidet attachments, including those able to accommodate raised toilet seats or elevated toilet seats, are also becoming increasingly popular with the aging community. Where bathroom appearance is of concern, under-the-seat mounting types have become more popular. Many companies make bidet seat attachments that include remote controls to activate the water jets and air dryer. Further refinements also include adjustable water pressure, temperature compensation, and directional spray control. Conveniently placed remote controls may particularly benefit any individual with limited mobility or requiring assistance.
Combined toilets/bidets with drying facility are becoming more widespread in the UK 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 bowls allowing easy wheelchair transfer, and with some form of electronic remote control.
Trends in North America
In recent years, toilet-integrated bidets have started to become much more popular in North America. One reason for the installation of more bidets in North America is the lower cost of attachable or add-on bidets. The attachable bidets may be manufactured of plastic, chrome plated metal, or stainless steel to accommodate many tastes and budgets. The expense of remodeling a typical North American bathroom to accommodate a traditional bidet fixture is large, in the thousands of dollars, while an add-on electronic bidet can be purchased for around US$300. 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.
Additional features may make bidets even more popular, at higher prices. Some bidets offer heated seats, wireless remote controls, illumination through built in night lights, or built in deodorizers and activated carbon filters to remove odors.
The Bidet is possibly associated with the Chamber pot and the Bourdaloue, the latter being a small chamber pot like object specifically for the use of ladies on long trips.
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. Theories exist that its inventor was Christophe Des Rosiers, furniture maker for the French royal family, but Marc Andre Jacoud was also rumored to have been the inventor. The earliest written reference to the bidet is in 1710 in Italy.
By 1900, due to plumbing improvements, the bidet (and chamber pot) moved from the bedroom to the bathroom. This was common in French palaces. The early 1980s saw the introduction of the electronic bidet from Japan, with names such as Bio Bidet, Biffy, and Gobidet. These newer devices have attachments that connect to existing toilet arrangements, ideal for bathrooms lacking the space for both a separate bidet and toilet.
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 would today might be called a bidet nozzle which can be attached to a toilet to perform anal cleansing with water.[original research?]
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- Bullough, Verne (2001). Encyclopedia of Birth Control. ABC-CLIO.
- Museum of Contraception and Abortion. "The bidet is for vaginal rinsing".
- "Bidets in Finland"
- Decreto ministeriale Sanità, 5 July 1975, art. 7.
- In modern world, even toilets are becoming paperless, The Augusta Chronicle, Retrieved 2015-06-26
- http://www.gsiceramica.it/en/catalogue/sanitary-wares[unreliable source?]
- 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
- A United States patent US1787481 A, John Harvey Kellogg, "Anal douche", published Jan 6, 1931