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National Coming Out Day

October 8, 2009

In honor of the upcoming National Coming Out Day, I want to disclose something that I feel a little bit embarrassed about. I know it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but our culture is so fond of heaping shame onto us for our personal choices that it’s hard to avoid accumulating some of it.

Recently, I made a big change in my lifestyle. Over the last few months, I’ve embarked on a new way of living, indeed even a whole new identity for myself, that has had an incalculable positive impact on my life. Ever since, I’ve been simultaneously wanting to share the news of my discovery and afraid to reveal my secret. You see, I’ve become a bidet user.

Waste for your waste?

Waste for your waste?

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with using toilet paper. Aside from the waste, I mean. Premium toilet papers—that is, anything other than recycled one-ply—use a lot of water to produce, burn up fossil fuels in transportation, and cause immense harm to our forests, not to mention that you’re throwing money into the toilet every time you flush. And then there’s the little matter of how clean does it actually get you? You’re not really washing yourself, just sort of…smearing. It’s not a pleasant thing to have to say or think about, but it’s true. But like I said, millions of people do it, and most people reading this blog probably grew up with it; it’s a perfectly fine way of life. Just not one I wanted for myself anymore.

Too luxe for me

Too luxe for me...

I did research on bidets for awhile, obsessively and in secret, trying to figure out if I might be a latent bidet user. I thought that in order to be a bidet user one would have to be prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on a new bathroom fixture, and somewhat with relief concluded that it wasn’t an option for me—not only can I not afford that, but I’m not a homeowner, and I’m also too lazy to install something complicated. Besides, getting a whole new bathroom fixture was even more wasteful than using toilet paper.

...and too complicated for me.

...and too complicated for me.

Then I saw the toilet seat models. They were still expensive, but not quite as expensive. They still required installation, but not quite as much installation. I could probably install one without damaging the toilet or the toilet seat. But the affordable ones seemed to be made of cheap plastic, and many of them were intended to be plugged in so that you could heat your spray, which again seemed wasteful. And then I moved to a place with a toilet that was too non-standard for one of those to work, and I had to go back to the drawing board.

There are these little travel bidets that all use batteries (more waste) and look like they hold about as much water as a dime-store squirt gun, which didn’t seem very effective. In fact, I found myself wondering if a squirt gun would do the trick. And that reminded me of the pump-action waterguns we used to run around with in college, which made me wonder—why isn’t there a simple container of water that you pump to pressurize, with a spray attachment?

Just right! This is the model I chose; it won't win a beauty contest but it does the job.

Just right! This is the model I chose; it won't win a beauty contest but it does the job.

Like, you know, a compression garden sprayer?

It was a perfect solution. Stainless steel compression sprayers can cost less than $40. They’re designed to contain really caustic substances, so they must be really durable and also pretty non-reactive. The spray is completely adjustable. They hold plenty of water for my needs. No one really needs to heat bidet water unless there is danger of freezing; the immediate vicinity is not very temperature-sensitive, I’ve noticed. No installation is necessary. Best of all, it allows for water conservation—I top up the tank with my excess shower water, which would otherwise just go down the drain.

You can do this too. The benefits are: healthier, more sanitary, and more pleasant toilet habits, as well as money and resources saved by not buying paper to flush down the loo. The costs are: from $10-$50, depending on garden sprayer model; about 1.5 gallons of water a week if you don’t use your spare shower water; slight risk of either being embarrassed about your bidet use or embarrassing your friends by becoming a bidetvangelist.

Here’s how to use a garden sprayer bidet:

1) Buy a compression garden sprayer new. Normally, I’m all for reusing, but I just don’t support spraying water that may have been contaminated with pesticides at one’s butt. Go to a garden store or shop online; choose plastic or metal based on your preferences; just don’t use a garden sprayer that has ever been used for pesticides, harsh cleaners, or chemical fertilizers.

2) Assemble the pump and spray arm, if necessary. Fill the tank and put it within reach of your toilet. Keep a dedicated hand-sized towel nearby as well.

3) When you go, instead of reaching for the toilet paper, give the sprayer a few pumps—two or three will probably be enough. Lean back a bit, aim the spray nozzle, and squeeze the handle. Spray off until you’re satisfied. Avoid letting the spray head touch your body during use, but if it does, just wash it off.

4) Most of the time you should only need to pat dry with the towel. At first, I dried off with toilet paper just to make sure I was getting myself clean. But once you get used to using the bidet, you shouldn’t need toilet paper very often. I mostly keep mine around for guests.

5) Refill the tank when you notice it getting low, preferably by catching your spare shower water—just open the top and set the bidet tank in the path of the shower spray while you’re showering. Or if it’s more convenient, use a bucket and pour the water from the bucket into the bidet.

That’s it! It’s easy! Furthermore, it’s actually pleasant. No matter how luxe the toilet paper you buy, it’s never really going to feel pleasant. This is one of those times that making the big sacrifice for the environment actually turns out to be the more hedonistic option. So go for it! Try it out for a week. If you decide you like it, don’t lock yourself away in the (water) closet—be out and proud!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. innocentwater permalink
    October 11, 2009 7:54 am

    …slight risk of either being embarrassed about your bidet use or embarrassing your friends by becoming a bidetvangelist.

    Ehh, your business is your business, buddy. …Pun really not intended, however appropriate. ;) Personally, I’d worry more about the water going everywhere. But hey, if you’re happy with it, and it’s good for a sustainable earth, that’s awesome by my book. Enjoy!

    Don’t lose your innovative streak, either. Today it’s a bidet, but tomorrow, who knows? Reminds me of that one time at the Art Festival when somebody saved up peoples’ plastic bags for months and filled a room with ’em– never felt anything as cushy in my life. I think they were recycled after, as opposed to kept, but when plastic bags are no longer in use, they can probably make some really safe cushioning. I wonder, if you had enough of ’em, whether you could take a thirty foot drop and land fine. I mean, I couldn’t hurt myself jumping into these when I TRIED. ANd they were just a few feet high.

    • Kerrick permalink*
      October 11, 2009 9:44 am

      Thanks for the encouragement! Water, I am pleased to say, does not go everywhere. The garden sprayer is designed for very targeted application of pesticide; if that just went everywhere, it would be a problem.

      I saw an art thing where someone filled a room with plastic garbage bags with all the CO2 that the average USAian causes to be emitted in a day. Rather than getting the message across that this is a huge problem, it looked like enormous fun.

      • Innocentwater permalink
        October 13, 2009 11:50 am

        Another question! You know, I started thinking, and you’ve got really stagnant water there, and if it’s after shower, probably warm or soon to be warm, don’t you worry a bit about germs? Or do you use some kind of product to keep them from growing? Or is the water used up quickly enough that it doesn’t really matter?

      • Kerrick permalink*
        October 17, 2009 8:18 pm

        @Innocentwater–

        The water isn’t that stagnant, actually—it’s in a sealed container, but one pumps air into the water in order to pressurize it, which helps keep down bacterial growth. It also gets cool quickly. I go through the water in about a week, but I haven’t noticed any sign of a problem (like a bad smell or cloudiness). I do wash out the canister every so often, and it seems to be fine so far.

  2. October 12, 2009 12:49 pm

    Oh my god, you are brilliant.

    In Asia we traditionally use squat toilets which are not only more efficient for washing yourself clean but are easier to clean. Part of my reverse culture shock on returning from Bali is the sit toilet, but you have a solution!

    Don’t mind if I recover from reverse culture shock in your bathroom…

    Splash away!

  3. Gabriella permalink
    October 12, 2009 1:34 pm

    I am also an avid user over here in Italy!!! In fact my parents are also so fond of the bidet that have created a hose hook up linking the bathtub faucet with a fancy nozzle and a holder that rests next to the toilet.
    The only drawback for me in Italy is that small washcloths for your face do not exist, they sell only small ‘bidet cloths’. People think I am nuts that I wash my face with something you traditionally use for the other end. C’est la vie!

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