What Is a Bidet?

A Traveler's Guide to Foreign Bathrooms

bidet and toilet

Phototropic / Getty Images 

Have you ever arrived at a fine new hotel, anxious to check-in and get to your accommodations as quickly as possible because you've simply got to use the bathroom? Whether or not you were having an emergency, you may have encountered an additional fixture next to the toilet that is unfamiliar. It is called a bidet (pronounced bih-day). Although the word derives from French, there are actually more bidets in Italy, where 97% of households contain one.

Luxury Villa Bathroom
tulcarion / Getty Images

What Is the Purpose of a Bidet?

A bidet is a cleansing unit for the lower body. Travelers who stay in certain European and upscale hotels outside the U.S. may find a bidet located adjacent to the toilet in the bathroom. It often is backed by a rack that holds a small, flat towel and an easy-to-reach soap holder. In some countries, such as Japan, newer toilets often have bidet features built-in to the toilet.

The first time you see a bidet, you may not know what it is or how to use it. After using the bathroom, the bidet is used to more thoroughly clean yourself than just using toilet paper. It may feel weird at first, but after you get used to using bidets abroad, you'll want to get one installed in your bathroom back at home.

Bidet from Kohler

What Does a Bidet Look Like?

A bidet looks like and may resemble the adjacent toilet in style and color, but it does not have a lid and is usually somewhat smaller. Bidets come in a variety of colors and styles that, in most cases, match the toilet. A popular bidet made by Kohler is in the traditional Memoirs style collection. It stands 15 inches tall and comes in a range of seven colors, from white to black.

How Does a Woman or Man Use a Bidet?

When you are fortunate enough to have a bidet in your bathroom, take advantage of it and use it after each time you use the toilet.

To properly use a bidet:

  1. First, locate a clean bar of soap or soap dispenser and place it within arm's reach.
  2.  Choose a towel for drying and only use it with the bidet. Low-nap towels are preferable.
  3. Turn on the water supply of the bidet and adjust it to a temperature that will be comfortable when sprayed on delicate body parts.
  4. Straddling the bidet in the same direction that you would sit on a toilet, lower your body over the water coming from the spout of the bidet. Adjust the direction and angle of the spout if need be.
  5. Cleanse yourself using the soap, and rinse.
  6. Stand up and turn off the water.
  7. Use your dedicated towel to pat yourself dry.
  8. Separate the bidet soap and your towel from similar items.
  9. Wash your hands in the sink.

Are There Wrong Ways to Use a Bidet?

Yes! Do not use the bidet for the following:

  • A bidet is not a urinal or an additional toilet.
  • A bidet is not a cooler or a place to store ice when you don't have a bucket or are having guests.
  • A bidet is not comfortable for soaking your feet, although it can be used for washing them.
  • A bidet is not a good place to store anything, including newspapers and magazines.
  • A bidet should not be used as a sink to wash clothing.

Should you encounter a bidet that is less than clean, do not use it and inform the management.

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