A bidet (pronounced bid-day) is a small low sink that is used for washing the genitalia after going to the bathroom. It is normally located next to a toilet, but shouldn’t be considered a sink. Bidets are popular in Europe and Asia, but much less common in the US. You can buy bidet attachments for toilet seats in the US, and some people may have a bidet in their bathroom. Usually bathroom size in modern homes in the US makes having both a bidet and a toilet practically impossible.
In Europe and Asia, where the bidet is much more common, it is also thought a great deal more sanitary than merely using toilet paper to wipe after using the toilet. There are a number of very complexly designed bidets that can feature warm water jets to clean off the genitalia, and warm air dryers to dry the area. Still it’s fairly common for the European bathroom to provide toilet paper too, since using the bidet can be a little time consuming.
Some US folks are a bit squeamish about washing their genitalia, especially outside the privacy of a shower. Yet in Europe and Asia this reluctance tends not to exist, and the washing tends to be a hands on process. In fact, some people feel that toilet paper is unsanitary as a means of cleaning up after using the toilet. Some Japanese styles of the bidet do have “hands off” styles, and may be electronically or remote controlled to spray water where it is needed. Other bidets are more like sinks, where you must turn on taps in order to get warm water for washing.
The bidet can be a helpful fixture for people with certain conditions. Those with hemorrhoids can find a good washing up in a bidet very helpful to their condition. Some hospitals also have bidets in use to help with people with mobility conditions, and these are thought a much easier way to help clean a person off. Some also suggest using the bidet to wash other parts of the body. This would probably be met with significant resistance, particularly in the US, and most especially when people suggest using the bidet as a baby bath.
Unless the bidet is not in use to wash the rectum and vulva, concern regarding transferring germs from one part of the body to the other does exist. It’s difficult to imagine washing a baby in a sink that has the purpose of cleaning the genitalia. On the other hand, a baby might benefit from a dip in the bidet to clean the bottom after a messy bowel movement.
If you’re interested in trying a bidet, you might consider first trying a bidet attachment. These cost about 20-30 US dollars (USD), and will fit onto most toilet seats. The average bidet in the US is still relatively expensive, about 400 USD, and you need both space and access to water pipes in order to install one. Trying out the attachment first to see if it is useful may be the best first choice. When traveling through countries where the bidet is common, it’s considered appropriate to use the toilet before using the bidet, and it’s a good thing to know the purpose of that low sink, usually located next to the toilet.