How My Favorite Travel-Inspired Purchase Is Helping Me Weather The Pandemic

Filed Under: Advice, Travel Technology

I know several people who have visited Japan for the first time and had their lives changed forever. Sure, the food is incredible, the public transportation is top-notch, and the culture is fascinating… but that’s not what I’m talking about.

It’s their toilets. They are amazing, thanks primarily to the built-in bidet function. (Though, admittedly, some are frightened by them.)

Once you’ve tried a built-in bidet, you’ll never be the same. Without being too explicit, it’s far more effective and hygienic than the toilet paper method.

Fairly basic bidet toilet in Tokyo

The classic argument in favor of bidets — and the thing that really convinced me — is the idea that if any other part of your body gets dirty, generally just wiping it with a piece of paper seems insufficient. Frankly, that same level of hygiene should apply to one’s nether regions.

“Flushable” wet wipes are an alternative that’s popular here in the US, but cities have been begging people not to use them because they clog municipal sewage systems, requiring very costly repairs. (Side note: if you’re interested in learning firsthand about the challenges faced by city sewers, check out the Musée des égouts in Paris… though I’m still a little bitter that they didn’t take my suggestion of marketing it as “the city’s number two tourist attraction.”)

Bidets, on the other hand, are environmentally friendly (turns out it takes a lot of water and carbon to make toilet paper), super hygienic, convenient, and cost-effective.

In the midst of this pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of panic buying. Toilet paper seems to be an especially popular target. This whole time, I’ve been thankful that I took that first trip to Tokyo several years ago (I highly recommend the Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, by the way — and the Toto Washlets they have in every guest room, which are basically the gold standard in Japanese-style bidets).

Toto Washlet – the Cadillac (or Lexus?) of bidet toilets.

While you can buy entire toilets with built-in bidets, a much more practical alternative is the bidet attachment. More elaborate models essentially replace your entire toilet seat, while simpler ones just hook onto the side of the bowl.

The model I have, the SmartBidet SB-2000, is terrific, and I recommend it highly. It has hot and cold water, a heated seat, and an air dryer. Installing it was a breeze — I’m barely handy enough to use a bottle opener, but I had this thing all set up in about a half an hour.

My SmartBidet SB-2000. Ain’t she a beaut?
SmartBidet controls

However, it doesn’t seem to be in stock right now, as I’m sure these products have been in high demand with the run on toilet paper.

Instead, you might consider this highly rated Bio Bidet. It has a ton of features, electronic controls, and a sleek look sure to please even the most discerning toilet users.

For a less expensive but very popular option, there’s the Neo 185. It operates mechanically, so requires no electricity. It only uses cold water (trust me, that’s perfectly fine) and you can adjust the water pressure.

Finally, there’s one called Tushy that I’ve heard good things about in the bidet community. (Ok, as far as I know, there is no bidet community — but there should be!) Their website is a bit too explicit for me — my Victorian sensibilities prefer a bit more euphemism and circumlocution. But for those of you who are a little more thick-skinned, have at it.

Bottom Line

I *highly* recommend considering a bidet. It was seriously one of the best decisions of my life.

Also, apropos of nothing, here is a picture of me demonstrating why putting mirrors on either side of a toilet (as they did in a room at this DoubleTree in Lisbon) might not be the best decorating idea, unless the aesthetic you’re going for is “infinite latrines.”

Who designed this bathroom?
  1. My mom bought a Toto toilet after her first visit to Japan. I thought she was crazy for spending 1,000+ on a toilet that my dad had to add a plug behind the toilet to work. Turns out she wasn’t.

  2. I went to Japan a decade ago and was fascinated by them. My parents went last year and immediately bought a bidet when they got home. Now I have one and LOVE it!

  3. Thank you for not showing “before I ran the bidet” and “after I ran the bidet” pics of your butthole.

  4. The electrical connection is the biggest hindrance – bathrooms in the US are not designed with outlets beside toilets. You can buy really inexpensive bidet attachments on Amazon that are spray only without the heating feature. These can be easily installed in 10 minutes on any toilet without any need for electricity.

  5. I spent 9 anxious hours in Incheon, waiting for my flight to Seattle just 2 weeks ago and by far the best part of the day was going to the toilet! I never felt more clean after ~22 hours of travel.

  6. After our trip to Tokyo a few years ago, I considered a Toto, but I didn’t want to get an electrician to run electricity. I ended up getting an add on bidet for our existing toilet. It’s very simple, just one physical knob. $18 Brondell Simplespa Thinline from Amazon, but I think they are all out of stock now. It’s unobtrusive. The bidet only attaches to cold water, but I never felt I needed warm water or the dryer from more fancy seats. We only need to use one or two sheets of TP to dry off.

  7. I’ve been wanting to get one since my last trip to Asia but the wife thought it was too much of extravaganza. Runs on toilet paper supplies justified my want, and last week we finally got our Toto 200 and installed it. The warm seat alone is worth the price on a cold morning!

  8. Haha. We got a Toto after our trip to Tokyo (and needed to have an electrical outlet installed). I don’t understand why Europe hasn’t changed to this system rather than separate toilet and bidet.

  9. In Thailand, one will notice a hose and spray gun attachment to conventional (non-cop-a-squat) toilets everywhere. Given that plumbing isn’t great there and most folks don’t have a lot of money, nearly every Thai washes their tushy off when finished rather than using toilet paper. The paper is used to dry one’s bum, not to wipe or clean, and is then thrown into a trash can next to the commode. It’s super hygienic and a great way to wash off any cling-ons on your bottom or Jackson Pollocks you’ve made in the bowl…just make sure you know the water pressure before bathing your booty!

  10. Er, maybe some people can have stronger butthole.
    But generally speaking, using cold running water for your ass is very bad for you.
    By all means get a electric one.
    Also, in Japan there’re fanciest bidets that have ventilation fan plug into apartment ventilation system. So you can do your work and smell barely anything.

  11. Same, also bought a fancy Toto bidet after my first trip to Japan. Was hesitant to spend $800+ on a toilet seat but it was so, so worth it :D!

  12. We got a Toto Washlet a few years ago and love it. Had to get an electrician to install an outlet in that room. It’s in our master bathroom. My wife didn’t want one in our main floor bathroom as she thought guests would get too confused.

  13. Toto Washlet from Costco Canada is (was?) CAD$439. Bought for elderly mother, who was appalled at the waste of money.

    Until Day Two.

    Power cord is long enough in her bathroom but an ordinary extension cord would solve the problem anyway. Everyone has volts somewhere in the bathroom, so the “no outlet” objection seems silly to me, for most.

    Difficult to find a place to try the product before buying it, in North America. Suggestion: try a Lexus dealer.

  14. I have a Brondell Swash 1400 bidet at home and I love it. Heated seat, Blue LED night light, remote control, great pressure, unlimited hot water, massage fonction, self cleaning, integrated fan…this might sound like an ad, but it’s not. When I renovated my house, I had outlets installed behind every toilets. Just have one in my master bath, but more to come.

  15. I’ve SO missed Andrew’s humor! Indeed, we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!
    Best post on OMAAT!

  16. Thanks for this “refreshing” article at such a tough time. I would classify myself as in the category of “frightened by them” as I have never come across one myself.

    Final note – I would ask anyone to please do as much homework as they can regarding “flushable wipes”. Not all “flushable” wipes are created equal. I do work for a major consumer products company and we have (and follow) very strict guidelines regarding flushability and ability to break-down. Unfortunately, many of the off-branded manufacturers out there don’t abide by the same guidelines and don’t put forth the research and $’s required to assure their products conform…and you end up with stories and videos like what you have shared.

  17. What is being discovered now in this part of the world has been a practice in most of the Middle East, Indian and Asian sub-continents for centuries. Though not the high tech devices with auto behind dryers. A device that actually resembles a tea pot.

    Which when someone comes from those parts of the world here actually find it revolting to know paper is to be used lol. Used the bidet at the ANA Lounge in Haneda. I don’t think an actual demonstration video will ever surface lol. Trial and Error!!!

  18. I could not agree more that these are amazing and once you use them it is hard to go back to a traditional toilet. My dilemma is I live in an apartment and cannot install an outlet and do not want to run an extension cord. I found a true travel life saver since you can use it anywhere and it is as close to the installed washlet as you can get….it is a toto portable washlet. This thing is amazing and I take it anywhere I travel as well as use at home and it only takes one AA battery that seems to last much longer than it should. I got mine on Amazon and highly recommend it.

  19. A few years ago I got sick of wasting money on TP so I installed a simple spray bidet on my toilet, $75. It sprays only cold water, has an elongated nozzle and an infinite variety of spray settings. For any one who wants mild soaps, I have them handy. I have a dozen rolled up spa towels handy also. My bum stays clean and well cared-for.

  20. I love my attachment. Except one time I sat too long with it on and accidentally gave myself an enema!!!

  21. Could someone please explain why there are separate controls for “her back” and “his back”?

    I mean… an ass is an ass, isn’t it?

  22. I highly recomend the Grand Hyatt Tokyo Roppongi Hills, which also has the Toto Washlets but are the more premium version. They have so many settings and looks like a true throne fit for a king. There the Mercedes of all toilets! It opens when you walk in, sounds like a loading gun (perhaps not ideal for Lucky 😉 ), has adjustable water temperature, pressure, and MULTIPLE ways to spray you (front, back, soft, wide, pinpointed – which you can move around with a button). It also dries (with adjustable temperature, ofcourse). Did I mention the massage function, and the “Power Deodorizer”.

  23. Maybe you should just get a Toto Washlet after all (if you enjoyed those stuff so much in Japan). The cheaper ones is about $400 each.

  24. You have to watch this less than 5 min snip-it of 90 Day Fiance. – Fast forward to 2 min 45 seconds to get to the bidet portion. “My whole family anal is so clean”! HILARIOUS! Anyway, after my first Tokyo trip 15+ years ago, my dream was a proper Toto. Just renovated my home in Greenwich Village, and we have 2 beautiful wall-hung Toto-Bidets. Even has a built in dryer! It’s magnificent!

  25. The alternative is very common in Asia: the ubiquitous ‘ bum gun’, ie a water outlet/hose with a spray jet connection. They cost $20 in any hardware store.
    That said I did retrofit the Japanese device on all toilets, several years ago. I got an electrician/plumber to connect them, as I struggle with light bulbs.

  26. I really can’t imagine too many Americans accustomed to a cotton-wool luxe existence being on board with having their backside sprayed with cold water! Winter in NYC anyone?

  27. There is a far, far better solution than anything mentioned in the article or in any of the comments. For about five years, I’ve been using a portable Blue Bidet bottle which costs maybe $15. You fill the bottle part and then wash with the nozzle, which never touches any part of your body, and then you dry off with perhaps three squares of toilet paper.

    A rather graphic example of why washing your bum is so much better than toilet paper: suppose you got feces on your arm. Would you wipe it off with toilet paper, or would you wash it off? That’s what makes this such a fantastic product. Yes you can install one of those bidet toilets for $500, or a simple hose/nozzle assembly for maybe $25, but that isn’t portable. This model weighs about the same as an empty water bottle bottle and comes with a waterproof carrying bag.

    Again, I’ve taken it all over the world, and this is one of the best travel products I’ve ever used. To find it, do a search on blue bidet bottle and BB20.

  28. To address some of the questions and comments about: the reason the Japanese toilet have a man and a woman picture on them is if you push the woman button, it washes your front.

    I’ve been to 60 countries and seen every possible variation on this.

    They have had the bidet toilets in Japan ever since I went there as a child. Google has bidet toilets in their New York and California offices. Someone mentioned India; unfortunately have the most barbaric solution, a cup of water. So you are supposed to use the water to wash your private parts with your left hand after doing #2, which is the most disgusting thing imaginable. (Before the PC police get me, I’m half Indian.) In India and some Arab countries you’re not supposed to eat with your left hand for this reason.

    Other countries have the hose and nozzle mentioned. This is a decent solution, except you have to be very careful not to have the water pressure too high or it will hurt, and water will get everywhere on the toilet seat and on the floor.

  29. @glenn t and @Dan Nainan – the fancier versions have temperature, pressure, and angles settings for the water that comes out as well as the heat on the seat. only thing it doesn’t have is a temperature setting for the dryer

  30. test the water pressure before aiming. i made that mistake in japan and felt like it almost bored another hole

  31. In 3 different homes in the US I have installed 10 Toto toilets. Even the regular ones are the most reliable low-water flushes out there. The porcelain is treated to resist anything sticking. In our home in Tokyo we have two Neorest Toto toilets, the gold standard. In the night the lid goes up and down automatically, there is a night light and it flushes automatically after use. The seat is heated. The biggest problem is when we travel my husband forgets to flush. We will definitely install a Neorest (we sold our house with a simple Washlet) when we move back to the US.

  32. I bought the Alpha JX bidet about week before a run on TP started. I highly recommend it to everyone. It is the only one that fits my Rialto, one piece toilet. I wished i got the air refresher feature. MY BEST INVESTMENT.

    Thank you BIDET KING!

  33. Thanks Andrew and all the hilarious commenters; an article providing great relief in these straining times.

  34. Save money. Buy a jet spray when you’re in india. No electric or electronic control. Just press a lever and wash the dirt away

  35. Got one as well. As gross as my story is, all it took was a trial of one while at a hotel in BKK. I did my business, flushed, activated the bidet, and then had a look at the uh “Klingons” that were washed off. That was it. There was no going back. Only savages shove wads of paper up there.

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