While Europeans, Japanese, and Venezuelans rinse their bums with bidets as a matter of course, the average American uses a shocking 57 sheets of toilet paper a day. Using bidets instead would save our hygiene—and our forests. So what’s with the western hold out?
Since the 18th century, bidets have been used by Europeans to keep things clean down below after bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, Americans kept their hands dirty by taking up use of toilet paper in 1857—a full century after bidets hit Europe, and 500 years following TP’s arrival in China. The first incarnation of American toilet paper, brought about by one Joseph C. Gayetty, failed.
Maybe that’s because of splinters, or maybe people were just too used to wiping with corncobs, fruit skins, lace, leaves and even newspapers. More than a decade later, Scott Paper Company was born and came out with the very first rolls of toilet tissue that are now standard in every American bathroom. Today, toilet paper is a $30 billion industry.
Sure, toilet paper’s more hygienic than, say, using your hands. But it’s got nothing on the bidet. Yet in spite of its superior health and environmental benefits, the bidet has yet to really take off in western culture.
There have been a number of reasons posited for the American resistance to bidets. Maybe it’s got to do with our ingrained English-bred distrust of all things French, or because World War II soldiers saw bidets in brothels and associated them with immorality and unsanitary conditions. Maybe our bathrooms are two small for second fixtures. Or maybe we have a hard time accepting change.
Here’s the thing about toilet paper: No matter how well you wipe, there will always be something left behind. That’s gross, for sure—but scarier is the fact that 80 percent of disease is passed from skin to skin. How well do you trust the people around you to wash their hands after doing their business?
With a bidet, there is no wiping required. Talk about washing your hands of a stinky situation. Also, anyone who’s used scratchy toilet paper knows what a pain in the butt it can be. Sensitive skin will never feel right under the harsh roughage of TP; while bidets (especially when shooting warm water!) can soothe while cleaning.
To support the amount of toilet paper Americans use, we’d need to cut down around 15 million trees a year to cover our butts with 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper.
It takes 473,587,500,000 gallons of water, 253,000 tons of chlorine, and 17.3 terawatts of electricity every year to create the 36.5 million rolls of toilet paper needed by Americans, according to MetaEfficient editor Justin Thomas in an interview with Scientific American. Added up over a lifetime, your toilet paper use equates to 384 trees.
And get this: Creating 57 sheets of toilet paper for every American to wipe with on a daily basis requires 3.7 gallons of water. Actually, while we're talking water...
When you consider flush toilets use upwards of 24 gallons of otherwise drinkable water every day, the amount of water used for bidets is really negligible. But ardent bidet supporters will tell you that the water used for the bum wash is more than worth the amount of paper you’d be saving.
So maybe you’re not ready to install a $500 (or more) bidet in your bathroom next to your toilet. That’s cool, because companies are now coming out with plenty of easy-to-use attachments that clip right onto your toilet for less than $100.
Aim to Wash!, Tushy, Blue Bidet, Squatty Potty and many others now offer hook-on bidets for sale everywhere from Amazon to Bed, Bath & Beyond for around $70 that you can easily hook up yourself. And at a price like that, the bidets will pay for themselves after the first six months of you not having to replenish your toilet paper supply. What other investment can say that?
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