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Consider this an introduction to the bidet — the power washer for your bottom— with gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD.
What is a bidet?
A bidet (pronounced bih-DAY) is a plumbing fixture designed to clean your rear. It goes to work after you urinate or have a bowel movement, eliminating the need for toilet paper.
Some bidets attach to your toilet, either affixed to the side of the bowl or with a detachable hose. Other bidets are a stand-alone fixture that resembles a low sink.
Bidets are commonplace in many European countries and have gained popularity in the United States.
Bidets vs. toilet paper
Overall, a bidet can sometimes provide a superior cleaning experience compared to toilet paper. It starts with the basic fact that water can top a few squares of dry TP in removing trace amounts of fecal matter after you poop.
Other advantages of a bidet include being gentler on your skin. Wiping can cause chafing and tiny cuts. Bidets can also be more comfortable to use if you have hemorrhoids and fissures.
The setup of a bidet can make it user-friendly, too — especially if you have mobility issues, arthritis or difficulties reaching to wipe. There’s less wrist action involved in cleaning hard-to-reach areas.Advertising Policy
Wiping with toilet paper also comes with a risk of getting fecal matter on your hands or nails. “If someone doesn’t wash their hands properly after wiping, they could spread germs to whatever they touch,” says Dr. Lee.
(On a side note, scrub your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds even if you use a bidet. It’s just proper hygiene when using the restroom.)
People also like bidets for other reasons, including:
Women and bidets
For women, using a bidet safely comes down to one main issue: How the water flows. “The water from your bidet should flow front-to-back, just like wiping from front to back,” says Dr. Lee. “This helps keep any fecal matter out of the urethra and vagina.”
Correct usage is important to avoid vaginal or urinary tract infections. The urethra (where pee exits your body) and vagina are closer to the anus, so germs can transfer more easily without proper care.
Women should also watch the water pressure and angle of the water to avoid forcing water into the vagina.
“A bidet is meant to clean the outside of your body, not the inside,” says Dr. Lee. “Don’t point it up into the vagina. Douching is not only unnecessary, but it can cause infections.”Advertising Policy
Bidet cleaning, maintenance and safety
Read your bidet manual and follow the directions on cleaning and maintaining it. Change filters regularly and check that all the parts work properly.
“There are a lot of mechanics involved with bidets, so things could go wrong,” says Dr. Lee. “If the water heater malfunctions, the water could become too hot and burn you. Or if the water is too cold, it could make you jump and cause you to slip and fall.”
Don’t assume that it’s OK for the bidet to get dirty because it’s only cleaning your butt, either. If your bidet has germs on it, those germs can find a way into your urinary tract, vagina or cracks in your skin.
“If bacteria or virus particles get into the water tank or on the nozzle, everyone who uses the bidet could be exposed to those germs,” says Dr. Lee. “Don’t touch the nozzle to your body. Clean it regularly and rinse it well.”
If you accidentally get your bidet dirty, clean it so it’s safe for the next use.
Research regarding bidets is limited, but it’s generally considered safe and effective as a hygiene aid. It’s important to follow usage instructions, though, particularly with jet stream pressure and water temperature.
“But if it’s working properly and you clean and sanitize it regularly, a bidet is a good alternative option for many people,” says Dr. Lee.