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.