For A Gentle Toilet Paper Alternative, Consider One Of These 8 Bidet Attachments

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Picture this: You have food poisoning. After spending most of the night on the toilet, the idea of rubbing your bum with one more piece of dry toilet paper makes you want to cry.

Then there’s this scenario: the infamous toilet paper shortage of March 2020, where people scrambled to find toilet paper when the store shelves were cleared.

Both of these situations could benefit from a gentler and more sustainable toilet paper alternative that some parts of the world have been using for ages — the bidet.

What exactly is a bidet?

Bidets are stand-alone plumbing fixtures designed to wash the genital and anal area with a gentle stream of water (basically, a shower for your butt). They are found in bathrooms in many countries.

Bidets are uncommon in the US, however, and unlikely to become popular soon. (Who has the money or space for two toilet-sized fixtures in every bathroom?) However, some companies are leading a poop revolution with attachments, bidet converter kits, and toilet seats that mimic the experience you get with a stand-alone fixture.

Bidets attachments offer a more gentle way of cleaning that may be particularly helpful for people with certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome; Crohn’s disease, which is an autoimmune condition that causes digestive tract inflammation; certain thyroid conditions; or even celiac disease, a gluten-triggered autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine.

This gentler option may also be useful for “hyper wipers,” or those who tend to overdo it when wiping in an effort to feel clean, said Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Hospital. Some people scrub too hard with toilet paper, which can irritate hemorrhoids or lead to small tears known as anal fissures, both of which may lead to bleeding.

Bidets can be used to wash the vulva or after childbirth to allow the sensitive or compromised tissue to heal. (Bidets are for external use only; vaginal douching can cause infections.)

A bidet attachment is not going to introduce bacteria into the vagina when used correctly, said board-certified OB-GYN Dr. Anna Cabeca, chief medical officer at Golden Isles Medical Spa and author of the book MenuPause. (Similar to wiping front to back, some attachments have a feminine wash setting that directs the water from front to back.)

Bidets can help you save toilet paper

There are other perks of bidets. You can save money on toilet paper, and cutting back on toilet paper is also good for the environment. (After you rinse, you generally need just a bit of toilet tissue to pat dry, unless there’s a dry function that lets you avoid the need for toilet paper altogether.)

Americans make up only 4% of the world’s population yet are responsible for 20% of global toilet paper consumption. The average American uses over 140 rolls. or about 28 pounds, of toilet paper per year, making the country the world’s leader in toilet paper consumption. Less than 2% of this market is made up of recycled products.

This toilet paper usage and production leads to the “degradation of forests across the southeastern US,” according to the advocacy group Environment America.

Bidets may also be less likely to spread bacteria. In one 2022 study published in the Journal of Water and Health, 32 participants used toilet paper or an electric toilet seat with water spray after a bowel movement. The researchers found that the study subjects had fewer bacteria on their hands with the use of the bidet than with toilet paper.

How bidet attachments work

Installing a bidet attachment may be easier than you think. All you have to do is remove the toilet seat, turn the valve to shut off your toilet’s water source, and detach the hose that funnels it into the toilet tank, said James Lin, founder of e-commerce retailer BidetKing, a site that sells bidet products.

The bidet should come with an adapter that you then attach to the water source. This will route water through the bidet nozzle before it ever reaches the toilet tank. It’s the same water you shower and brush your teeth with, so you will not be cleaning yourself with dirty toilet water. Then you simply pop the toilet seat back on, which will completely cover the base of the attachment, so the only visible part will be the nozzle that slightly protrudes just below the back of the seat.

“Electronic seats are a little more complicated,” Lin told BuzzFeed News. “But in terms of installation, they get the water exactly the same way.”

Electric bidet toilet seats require an outlet unlike nonelectric attachments, which only connect through your water source. Not everyone has an outlet next to their toilet, but you can use an extension cord or have an electrician install a new outlet.

Electric bidet seats have the added luxury of warmth, both in the water and the actual seat, unlike other attachments, which supply cold water only. Some bidet attachments can connect to your hot water supply, though similar to water in your sink or shower, it may take a few seconds to heat up, meaning the initial contact will be cold water.

Both options have similar bidet spouts that shoot water at an angle from the back of the toilet up to your bum (or wherever you desire). Many are also adjustable to make sure you get the angle just right. Or, if you want the most direct and controlled wash, you can get a handheld bidet sprayer that docks on or beside the toilet.

While Rajapaksa and Cabeca agreed that bidets are not essential and won’t treat or cure anything, they might be a more comfortable and less irritating option if that’s what you prefer. Here are the best bidet attachments and bidet toilet seats to consider for a more enjoyable pooping experience.