The Wonderful World of Bidets
Royalty, intrigue, the silver screen! Bidets have a fascinating past, and a bright future as the new must-have bathroom fixture.
Though its origins are a bit of a mystery, the bidet became popular with French aristocracy in the 17th century. A sign of luxury and prestige, these early bidets were ornamentally carved, fitted with mirrors and tables, and stocked with bottled perfumes and sanitizers. Bidets were even immortalized in the art scene when French artist Louis Leopold Boilly painted a provocative portrait of a woman using one circa 1790, titled La Toilette Intime.
The comeback bid
In the 1960s, the American Bidet Company made a bid to popularize bidets stateside, but Americans just weren’t ready. Japan, on the other hand, was, and several companies developed their own unique take on the bidet. Among them, innovative Japanese company, INAX—which is part LIXIL, parent company of the American Standard brand family—developed the first shower-toilet in 1964.
The silver screen
Bidets were introduced to many North Americans through pop culture, including the 1986 hit, Crocodile Dundee, in which the titular Aussie wonders why his New York hotel room has two toilets. The reporter assigned to his story replies slyly, “You’ll figure it out,” as she leaves his room. Fast-forward a few moments later, when Dundee shouts from his window onto the busy Manhattan street: “I know! It’s for washing your backside, right?!”
We’ve come a long way!
Though the traditional fixture that resembles a second toilet (as Dundee thought) are still widely available, bidets have seen incredible innovation, from portable bidets you can carry in your purse and spray nozzles that hang beside the toilet, to bidets you can attach to the seat, and finally, electronic bidet toilets, like American Standard’s SpaLet®.
American Standard is bringing the spa experience to the bathroom with its SpaLet® line of electronic bidet toilets and seats. Inspired by the Japanese onsen (hot springs) the SpaLet® combines spa-calibre comfort with hygiene and convenience. This bidet goes beyond a simple spray clean, creating a luxurious bathroom experience from the auto-lift lid start to the automatic-flush finish on select models. In between, you’ll enjoy a heated seat, an in-bowl nightlight, deodorizing sprays, front and back cleansing via sprays that can oscillate or pulse at adjustable temperatures, and a built-in dryer. It keeps your behind clean and your bathroom fresh.
Toronto-based decorator and design blogger Tim Lam says that bathroom luxury is trending more than ever in 2021. Between juggling work and family duties during the global pandemic, many Canadians are treating their bathrooms as mini-sanctuaries or private escapes. “We all need a quiet place to unwind and feel like ourselves again,” he says, noting that the SpaLet® is one way of bringing that relaxing spa vibe home. “Homeowners often focus on designing the perfect bath, but we spend more time on the toilet than we do in the shower, so that’s an important investment, too.”
Photo: Tim Lam
While bidets have long been common in bathrooms across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, they are quickly becoming a North American staple, too. The 2020 toilet paper panic sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic caused shortages that converted the bidet-bashful into ardent advocates. In fact, since the start of 2020, bidet sales have soared, seeing a market growth of 15% that’s expected to continue well into 2022.
The healthy choice
Not only is a wash more effective than a wipe, but it keeps hands clean, too. Furthermore, studies have shown that bidets are a gentle option for anyone living with ailments like IBS or hemorrhoids. Because they’re so simple to use, bidets also help facilitate aging-in-place and maintaining personal autonomy for those with restricted mobility.
Because bidets negate the need for toilet paper, you’re helping save the planet every time you spray. According to Scientific American, it takes 15 million trees, 473,587,500,000 gallons of water, and 253,000 tons of chlorine to produce the 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper that Americans use each year. Bidets’ environmental impact pales in comparison, using, on average, only an eighth a gallon of water per use, and reducing toilet paper consumption by up to 75%.