How to use a bidet? Admit it, at some point you’ve wondered…
Popular in many parts of the world, Americans have never embraced the idea of washing themselves “down there” to stay clean. No, we prefer rolls and rolls of toilet paper, which often does a “crappy” job. (sorry, couldn’t resist.) North Americans use 37.5 billion rolls of toilet paper each year. That’s a lot of trees!
Bidet furniture was a thing!
The bidet–pronounced bee-DAY–showed up in the late 1600s, with the first apparent reference in 1710. By 1750, Italians were gaga for it, and furniture makers were designing it for use in the bedroom. Without plumbing, the early bidet was little more than a bowl of water, with a manual pump or syringe, used to wash the genitals and butt after a variety of functions that included those body parts. But folks seemed to like the idea of feeling fresh and the word spread.
Today, when you travel, there’s a good chance you will encounter a bidet. With modern plumbing, they migrated to the bathroom and are usually next to the toilet. Very handy. And no, it is not used as a place to wash your feet or as an ice bucket. Americans tend to snigger like a bunch of boys who just found an older girl’s bra on a clothesline. Don’t be that person.
How to use a bidet: Step-by-step
This is all quite interesting, you say. But how the heck do I use a bidet? It’s easy!
- Use the toilet before cleaning up on the bidet. There is usually a towel rack nearby with a small towel. Some places even have a soap holder near the bidet. Because Europe is old, and so are its sewer systems, toilet paper is not recommended.
- Take a few seconds to study the faucets. Where will the water come out? There can be a few variations in design, and you probably don’t want to be surprised…
- Okay, now you can straddle! Sit facing front (like a toilet) or facing back, so you can control the water. You may need to strip from the waist to sit properly.
- Turn on the water, hot water first. Add cold water until the temperature is right for you. Just like with bath water, be careful. Don’t start until everything is comfortable.
- Scoot into position so the water is hitting all the places you want to clean. Use soap or body wash if you want, using your hands the same way you would in the shower. Rinse well.
- Dry off with a towel. Again, try to avoid toilet paper.
Need a visual? Here is a simple YouTube video. Here’s another one demonstrated by a young woman.
There you go. That’s how you use a bidet. Oh, and they’re for all genders.
Why didn’t Americans get on the bidet bandwagon? Well, the British didn’t like the French, and therefore rejected the whole concept. And since the United States came from England, that was that. Then, in World War II, soldiers who visited European prostitutes noticed bidets in the brothels. Bidets became a symbol of immorality.
Fun fact: In French, bidet is a small horse with short legs. Because a straddle position is used for the porcelain version, people started calling it a bidet.
If you have a funny or unusual bidet story, share it with us! Did you know how to use a bidet?
More travel tips:
I remember reading the instructions on how to use the commodes in Turkey. They ask that you do not flush toilet paper lest the old drain pipes become clogged. A water spout is located below the seat and a valve on the wall turns the water spray on. I learned to check its function before sitting down to business. Afterwards, wash using the left hand and then pat dry with paper. The used damp paper is put into a nearby canister. Not difficult to master with practice.
Turkey was definitely a “learning” experience! Definitely only wipe/wash with the left hand. I’m about to write about toilets in Europe–they have a special set of rules, too!
I’ve always wondered how these work! I’ve been some places that have the little sprayers which I love! Thanks for the advice…from all of us clueless folks!
Thanks, April! They are a puzzle to many travelers. Next time you have a chance, give it a try!
Interesting! I’ve traveled to countries where they specifically ask you not to flush toilet paper (Ecuador) but have not been told this in Europe. Surely if it caused issues they would make that known?
Leigh, one of my upcoming articles will be on NOT using toilet paper in some countries, especially the way Americans do. I’ll remember to add Ecuador to the list. Thank you!
Being an environmentalist that too from India, we have different versions of Bidet or sometimes not and have to manage with a small bucket or pan.. haha (yes, i am serious). But I am all in for such things as they save heaps of trees. I love the smart bidets in Japan. I did not know that bidet actually meant horse with short legs. Thanks for the info.
How interesting! Thank you for telling me–I can’t wait to visit India.
I get the bidet but sometimes towels are not available and when you try clean up with toilet paper its just difficult ! Ive seen those in many countries now, I am sure it will get more and more popular now. So its good to know how to use it 🙂
Good point! I’ve seen the same thing. It’s puzzling to use a bidet to avoid toilet paper, but only have toilet paper to dry with. Kind of defeats the purpose!
ha! I would have needed this during my stay in Europe. I was confused as to how to use the Bidet but I am familiar with the concept of cleaning yourself with water. It is something Muslims are brought up with.
Thanks for your comment. When I was researching the history for my post, I wondered if the Muslim culture had some influence on the “invention” of bidets. Seems very logical to me.
Amazing! One of a kind post, humorously instersting!! Being from India, we feel uncomfortable/incomplete/unclean using “Just” toilet papers, but even I do not understand the purpose of going through so much pain of having a bidet (installation/takes extra space/inconvenient) when “water jets” are just fine and so convenient to use?. I guess they just keep it for the sake of old times and maintain that old world CHARM (lol)
I agree! I wish more Americans understood about how bidets are much better than toilet paper. Thank you for taking time to comment!
Haha this is so awkward but very necessary. Wasn’t sure I was using it right until now so great job on sharing these tips.
I know, right?!?! I passed up the chance to use a bidet several times, because I just didn’t know what to do. I’m not sure there’s a wrong way to do it, but I like feeling confident. Thanks for your comment!
I grew up using a bidet vacationing in Haiti every summer so I’m very familiar but this post is super insightful and very humorous I might add! No toilet paper =)
Danielle, I appreciate your comment. Yes, Americans are so wasteful with toilet paper, never imagining the cost to the environment. Bidets are practical and cleanly. Thank you!
I’ve always been so curious about bidets, I’ve never come across one in the US, but I’m planning to visit Germany and France early next year so maybe I will come face to face with one soon. Thanks to you I’ll know what to expect!
Thank you so much for your comment! That’s how I came to write this post. I spent a few years curious about them and passing up the chance to use them. Then, I decided there must be a reason and purpose for bidets. I knew if I was wondering, so were others.
Hahahaha Biday ??. Before you mentioned I was still insisting on calling it BIDETTT. This is an informative piece!I have always seen them but nor sure how to use them!
I know! That’s the wonder of travel blogs…they help us learn. Go forth and “Bee-day!”
Bonita, we ALL make some kind of pronunciation error! Until someone tells us, we go around thinking how smart we are. I had a friend say “Mine-strohn” for the Italian soup, “Minn-es-stroh-nee.” (Minestrone….she was saying it phonetically!)