Bidets -- basins that stand alongside toilets so people can cleanse themselves after doing their business -- have long been common in Europe. Toilet seats with bidet functions are popular in Japan.
But in this country, to be delicate about it, the idea of rinsing with water before using toilet paper is, well, foreign. However, several people who have tried it say to just give it shot -- it might change the way you think of bidets.
"It doesn't sound very appealing," said Kevin Pine, owner of Kitchen Bath Plus, a Fresno, Calif., store that has a bidet toilet seat in its restroom for employees and customers. "But I'll be the first to say, once you know what you're expecting, it'll become an everyday occurrence. It's become an everyday occurrence for me."
While bidets aren't anything new, interest in them and bidet toilet seats has been growing in recent years, agree Pine and Eric Bailey, who is in charge of the plumbing department at an appliance super store in Fresno.
Pine remembers hearing about bidet toilet seats in 2000 from a representative of plumbing products manufacturer Toto. The Japanese-based conglomerate makes toilets, bidets and bidet-function toilet seats, which it calls Washlets. "I thought for the longest time it was more freaky, but it is a neat deal," he said of the Washlets.
Since installing a Toto Washlet when the store moved to its current location about two years ago, he has sold about eight to 10 bidets and three dozen Washlets a year, he said.
As more people travel to European and Asian countries and try them there, they bring back that experience and want to use them at home, Pine and Bailey say.
Another reason is that bidets and bidet toilet seats are better at cleaning than just using toilet paper.
"Certainly, there are people who believe, 'Well, I've been using toilet paper for how long now, why should I change that?'" said Shane Allis, senior product manger for Kohler toilet seats, in Kohler, Wis. "When you have children in diapers, it's not like we clean them with just dry paper. There are baby wipes that are wet." Bidets and bidet toilet seats, he said, "provide better cleaning than dry paper. ... They provide a much better cleaning solution."
Big hurdles, at least maybe for many Americans, are wrapping their minds around the concept of bidets and taking the initial steps of experiencing one.
"Personally, I think people think of them as being uncomfortable and not something normal to use," Bailey said
Installed near the toilet, the bidet looks like a hybrid between a toilet and a sink. It has a basin with sink fixtures to control the water but no toilet seat. There's a drain and a spray nozzle at the bottom of the basin. Some have the nozzles sticking out, kind of like a faucet, and are mounted on the deck with the water controls.
Bidet toilet seats are more straightforward to use. Push the buttons on the control panel to turn it on and change the temperature, water pressure or nozzle position. The control panel is attached to the side of the seat or is on a wall remote.
With either styles, when you're done with cleansing, you can use toilet paper to pat yourself dry. Some bidet toilet seats also have air-drying capability.
But trying a bidet or bidet toilet seat for the first time can be daunting. "It goes through everyone's mind -- Am I sitting on the right spot?" Emler said.
Other questions might roll through your mind, she said, such as: Am I doing it right? Will it feel comfortable?
"But I think once you try it the first time, especially in your own home, you will find it's really refreshing," she said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times