Toilet paper running low? Make your own bidet starting at $20 -- yes, really

Bathroom tissue isn't the only way to clean your delicates after using the lavatory, and as toilet paper stock dwindles in response to coronavirus-inspired panic buying, you may want to consider options besides TP. One alternative I recently discovered is to add a simple bidet attachment to your existing toilet, which allows you to clean up using water instead of tissue paper -- a win for both your hygiene needs and the environment.

If you've never worked a bidet before, it may seem confusing at first: How do you use it correctly? Do you still need to wipe afterwards? You might feel like it's too complicated, too expensive or maybe just too icky to consider adding one to your bathroom.

Although bidet attachments that fit onto existing toilets start as low as $20, I tried out a more advanced $60 version. I discovered that a bidet is actually quite easy to use, affordable and a perfectly hygienic way to keep your nether regions clean. Here's everything you need to know to install one in your home. Note that online supply may vary at this time.

What exactly is a bidet?

A bidet (pronounced "buh-DAY" in America, "bee-DAY" elsewhere) is a bathroom plumbing fixture used to wash one's nether regions. Bidets can include either a faucet-style spout or a pressurized jet -- or both! -- and can be either a part of a toilet or a totally separate fixture. The first bidet was invented in early 18th century France. The word "bidet" means "tiny horse", a name that serves as a succinct if playful instruction on how to use it.

Why don't we have bidets in America?

We do, they're just not nearly as popular as they are in other places, like Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Even though bidets aren't common here, research from toilet maker Kohler indicates that 63% of Americans would be interested in their home toilet having a personal cleaning feature. That number balloons to 75% for adults age 18-34 and 77% for parents of children under 18.

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Are bidets expensive?

Like almost any plumbing fixture, the cost of adding a bidet to your bathroom is limited by your budget. At the low end, the least expensive options can cost as little as $20, like this bidet that attaches to your existing toilet available at Walmart. A standalone, low-tech bidet can be had for a few hundred dollars, like this model from Toto for $306 at Home Depot.

On the high end, this $6,750 Kohler smart toilet available at Home Depot has a heated seat and Bluetooth, as well as an integrated bidet.

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For my bidet, I chose this $60 attachment from manufacturer Luxe, mostly because you can connect both cold and hot water to it so it can dial in your perfect temperature. Read: No need to make my bathroom the setting to Frozen 3.

Toilet paper running low? Make your own bidet starting at  -- yes, really

What features are important in a bidet?

You'll want to consider temperature control and whether the bidet offers one all-purpose nozzle or two -- one for feminine washing (the Luxe model I installed has both).

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How do you use a bidet?

First and foremost, if your bidet has temperature controls, you may want to let the hot water line heat up by running the tap in the sink while you're getting down to business. There will still be a short blast of room-temperature water as the hot water line clears, but it'll be brief.

When you're ready to clean up, adjust the temperature to between cold and hot, then select either the all-purpose or feminine nozzle (or both). Next, slowly move the water control switch until the water jet reaches a pressure level that feels comfortable.

Do not flip the water on full blast or you may be in for quite a shock. If the water is too hot or too cold, readjust the temperature knob until it's perfect.

To wipe or not to wipe?

Thanks to several decades' worth of conditioning, I'm not comfortable going completely paperless in the bathroom. Others, however, may find they don't need the added psychological reassurance of a paper tissue finale.

Opinions and practices vary among cultures and individuals who use bidets, so do whatever feels comfortable for you. There really isn't a right or wrong way to use a bidet, but this YouTube video will walk you through the process if you still can't wrap your mind around how to do it.

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to test out your new bidet before you actually sit on the toilet. Unless, of course, the wall, sink or mirror across the bathroom from your bidet needs to be cleaned anyway, but even then you're probably better off sticking with Windex.

How do you install a bidet attachment?

Installing the Luxe Bidet attachment was relatively easy, although be prepared to take apart your water line connections -- possibly multiple times -- and start over if they leak. The process breaks down into five fairly simple steps:

1. Remove your existing toilet seat, including any hardware attached to the base.

2. Center the bidet attachment on the back rim of your toilet bowl and align the adjustment plates with the bolt holes in the commode, then reconnect the bolts and reattach the toilet seat.

3. Turn off the cold water supply behind the toilet and attach a T-adapter to the commode's water tank, then turn off the sink's hot water supply and attach a T-adapter just after the water valve.

4. Connect one cold water supply hose to the water tank and one to the bidet, then connect one hot water line to the sink and one to the bidet.

5. Turn the cold water valve on all the way and examine for leaks, then repeat with the hot water line.

If I had it to do over again there's one step I'd perform out of order: I would connect the hot and cold water supplies to the bidet before attaching the bidet to the toilet. Once the attachment was mounted, I had very little room and some pretty awkward angles to work with to get the water lines connected. In fact, it took me three attempts to get everything hooked up with no leaks.

Your bottom isn't the only area you might be concerned about cleaning as the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold. Be sure you're washing your hands the right way to remove the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as any other germs you may have picked up. To keep your home as hygienic and safe as possible, these are the EPA-approved cleansers and disinfectants you should be cleaning with. If you do need to leave the house for any reason, follow these nine suggestions for staying safe while out and about.

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