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16 Historical Bidet Facts That Will Leave You Flushed

18 March 2024 · JOHN PHUNG · 8 min read
    Bidet Guide

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    As you stroll through the aisles of first-world supermarkets, toilet paper stands proudly as a home staple, nearly as essential as bread and milk. However, in developing nations, the financial outlook takes a dramatic turn. The toilet paper prices against average incomes transform it from a necessity into a luxurious item. That's where bidets swoop in as the money-saving heroes you didn't know you needed.

    French Bidet Ingenuity

    In the 1600s, the French introduced the world to bidets as the perfect bedroom companion to chamber pots. If you were in the chamber pot club, your next stop for a refresh was the bidet. These early versions weren't into water spray; instead, they were ceramic basins perched on wooden frames. The word "bidet" is French for a tiny horse, giving a whole new meaning to the term "ride the bidet."

    ceramic basin bidet french historic

    The Coronavirus Panic

    During the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, the bidet became more common worldwide due to fears about toilet paper shortages. In March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic imposed lockdowns across the US, many shoppers feared a toilet paper shortage. In response, some bought bidets, and sales rocketed.

    Evolution of Bidets

    Bidets moved from bedrooms to bathrooms in the 1800s as indoor plumbing became more common. The earliest bidets were more like wash basins than modern toilets. However, the bidet evolved as indoor plumbing grew more common in the 19th Century. Instead of storing bidets in the bedroom next to the chamber pot, Europeans moved the bidet into the bathroom.

    Bidet Rejection in the 1960s

    When the American Bidet Co. Created A 'Sitzbath' In The 1960s, Advertising just didn't work. In 1964, Arnold Cohen tried his hand at the bidet business as the founder of the American Bidet Company. Like Kellogg's invention, Cohen's American sitzbath placed a spritzer into the toilet seat. But once again, Americans rejected the bidet. "I installed thousands of my seats all over the suburbs of New York," Cohen claimed. "But advertising was a next-to-impossible challenge. Nobody wants to hear about Tushy Washing 101."

    american reto bidet toilet

    Americans Prefer 'Flushable' Wet Wipes

    Americans have instead embraced ‘flushable’ wet wipes, which are cheaper. Rather than using bidets, Americans turn to wet wipes as a more affordable alternative. Invented in the mid-20th Century, wet wipes used to be restricted to changing diapers or cleaning up after a barbecue. However, although wet wipes come at a lower price tag than a bidet, they have several downsides, such as being unsustainable and not environmentally friendly.

    Bidet Laws – Required Fixtures in Some European Countries

    In some European countries, bidets are required by law in bathrooms. Bidets were first invented in France and are often linked with French practices. But today, Italy is the European country that loves bidets the most. A building law even says that every Italian home must have a bidet.

    Japan's High-Tech Bidet Revolution

    Japan introduced electronic bidets called ‘Washlets’ in the 1980s, which were too weird and expensive for Americans. In the 1980s, the Japanese company Toto introduced a new milestone in bidet technology: the washlet. A luxurious take on the bidet, the washlet included a control panel to adjust water pressure, a deodorizer, and the option for seat warming. By 2007, Toto sold a million Washlets in Japan every year.

    sleek modern japanese bidet

    The British and a Tale of French Hedonism

    The British turned a cold shoulder to bidets, linking them to French indulgence, and this viewpoint travelled across the pond to the US. While French royals embraced bidets for their regal hygiene, making them a symbol of aristocratic luxury, even Marie Antoinette clung to one in prison. However, the British weren't having it. The bidet's French connections, especially with aristocrats and their lavish ways, left many English folks uninterested in the ‘tiny horse.’

    Bidets Were Unjustly Tied to Contraception Scandals

    During the early stages of bidet introduction, both Americans and the British mistakenly believed that douching could serve as an effective form of birth control. Consequently, bidets became unfairly entangled with negative associations related to contraception. Even though neither douching nor bidets proved effective in preventing pregnancy, the bidet bore the brunt of this misperception. Norman Haire, a notable advocate for birth control, went so far as to label the mere presence of a bidet as "almost a symbol of sin."

    Bidets Could Save 15 Million Trees Each Year in the US

    Each day, a staggering 270,000 trees meet their watery death through flushing as toilet paper. The question looms: with the potential to save a whopping 15 million trees, why has the United States yet to fully embrace bidets? The environmental toll of toilet paper production is undeniable, and bidets emerge as a sustainable solution, preserving our forest friends and curbing the carbon footprint that comes with paper manufacturing.

    Snooty Bidet Perceptions in the 2000s

    In 2008, Google installed electronic bidets in its office bathrooms, making Americans associate them with the snooty and privileged. Google's bidets reinforced that the fixtures were meant for wealthy elites rather than average Americans.

    The Islamic Influence

    The Islamic religion has strict rules about cleansing, so bidets are common in many Middle Eastern countries. Europe isn't the only continent to embrace the bidet. Today, bidets are common in South America and Asia. In fact, 19th-century Hindus believed stories about some Europeans wiping with paper were "vicious libel" because the practice seemed so wrong.

    The Unsuccessful American Bidet Bid

    In 1928, US Cornflakes creator John Harvey Kellogg invented a bidet-like toilet attachment that didn't sell. John Harvey Kellogg patented an American bidet in 1928. Instead of using a separate basin, Kellogg's bidet placed a small sprayer in the toilet bowl. But Kellogg's invention never caught on in the US, perhaps due to its unfortunate name - the "Anal Douche."

    Multipurpose Bidet

    Bidets were also helpful for menstruation. From the beginning, bidets were associated with women. Prostitutes used bidets for hygiene; French queens like Marie Antoinette required bidets even while in prison; and bidets also helped women during menstruation. Bidets assisted menstruating women in managing their periods, which made English and American men more likely to avoid adopting bidets.

    A War Legacy from WWII Brothels

    American soldiers discovered bidets in unexpected places like brothels during World War II. This led to a lasting connection between bidets and 'certain' activities in their minds. Most Americans hadn't seen bidets before the mid-20th Century. When these soldiers returned, they kept quiet about bidets to avoid revealing their visits to such places during the war.

    Bidet Renovation Woes in the 20th Century

    In the 20th Century, installing a bidet would mean expensive renovations. As more Americans visited Europe in the mid-20th Century, some tried to bring the bidet back to the US. But another barrier stood in their way: the high cost of bathroom renovations. Most American bathrooms simply were not designed to hold a toilet and a bidet.

    A Cleaner, Greener Future Awaits

    Despite historical setbacks and cultural resistance, bidets continue to make strides. They are the next frontier in hygiene, challenging our reliance on traditional toilet paper. And why we should look at giving up wiping altogether. As environmental awareness grows and bidet technology becomes more accessible, the bidet's popularity might just be on the rise. So, the next time you encounter a bidet, don't flush away the opportunity to experience a cleaner, greener future.

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    Products mentioned in Blog

    Bumwash Lite Bidet Spray Set

    Bumwash Pro Bidet Spray Set - Black

    Bumwash Pro Bidet Spray Set - Chrome

    Bumwash Pro Bidet Spray Set - Gold

    Bumwash Pro Dual Mode Bidet Spray Set

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