You’d be forgiven for thinking that a bidet is a foreign, unnecessary object only found in European countries or the depths of Asia.
But find any bidet fan, and they’ll tell you how effective they are at cleaning you while also trying to dispel myths about increased water consumption (hint: they use less than producing toilet paper!).
In this article, I clear up the most common misconceptions about bidets and ask: are bidets sanitary?
In case you’re after a quick answer:
Yes, bidets are sanitary. Water is a very effective cleaning agent, and lots of bidets come with self-cleaning features to keep the hardware germ-free.
Types of Bidet
Before we look at how sanitary bidets are, we need to clarify exactly what we mean by the term bidet. There are several different types of bidets, with some being cleaner than others.
Bidet attachments arguably provide the easiest transition into bidet use. They sit underneath your current toilet seat and have what’s called a spray wand attached, which is where the water comes from.
The bidet attachments will generally have a control panel where you can adjust the position of the spray wand, and some will also have different temperature and pressure settings.
Bidet Toilet Seats
Bidet seats tend to come with a lot of extra features such as heated seats, a drying function, and self-cleaning spray wands. They don’t require much movement to operate, so they’re great for people with reduced mobility.
Most bidet seats are electric and require a power source in the bathroom, but there are also a few non-electric options.
Standalone bidet units are completely self-contained and are separate from the toilet. While they’re common in some bathrooms, they’d be a surprising sight in an American bathroom.
Using them is much like using the toilet. You crouch down above the bidet, turn the bidet faucet on, and then wait until you feel sufficiently clean.
You can think of these as toilet showers.
The bidet hangs up next to your toilet, and the water comes via a spray hose that taps into your toilet’s water supply.
You have to position the spray wand yourself, which can take some getting used to, but is made easier with our guide to using a bidet correctly!
Portable bidets, also known as travel bidets, are small compact devices that you can carry around in your bag for use on-the-go.
They’re simply designed, with most consisting of a spray nozzle and a squeezy plastic bottle that you fill with water. You can also get battery-powered travel bidets that you operate with buttons.
These are great temporary options for renters or people who are recovering from surgery.
Are bidets sanitary?
We’ve broken down and examined each of the factors that affect how hygienic a bidet is.
You may think that the water sprayed from a bidet will cause a mess, possibly spreading harmful bacteria across your bathroom. While this is not entirely impossible, it is far from likely if you use the bidet properly.
Bidet toilet seats are a good way of ensuring that the spray is aimed directly at where it needs to hit, without running the risk of germs spreading outside the toilet bowl. So no, bidets don’t get poop on them!
Women don’t need to worry about germs spreading to their frontal regions either. Lots of bidets offer a separate rear and feminine wash mode. Both are perfectly positioned to clean just the area they’re meant to. For more information, check out our article on the best bidets for women.
Some bidet seats even have a sensor that detects when you’re sitting on the seat before allowing the spray function to start. The same logic also applies to standalone bidets, where you need to physically sit or squat over the bidet spray.
When it comes to handheld bidets, the answer is a little more complex. With proper use, a handheld bidet can be sanitary and hygienic, but this is largely dependent on the user. People who are overweight or can’t stretch might find bidet seats easier to use.
Look for handheld bidets with an adjustable water pressure setting – this will help ensure that the spray is not too powerful or overwhelming.
The water source
Another misconception people have is that bidets use dirty toilet water. This is completely and utterly false.
In fact, in most cases, the bidet uses exactly the same water as the sink does. Bidets never use contaminated water.
Some of the more luxurious bidet toilet seats even have built-in water sterilization mechanisms. For example, some have nanosilver filters in the spray wands.
The only case where the water might not be fresh is if you’re using a portable bidet. You need to fill these bidets up with water yourself before you can use them. Usually, this is easy and you can use a nearby tap. But if there’s no clean water source, then you come a bit unstuck.
The cleaning power – bidets vs toilet paper
The most significant debate regarding how sanitary a bidet is is how it compares to toilet paper.
I scoured the internet for a scientifically backed answer to this question but couldn’t find anything that looked like solid evidence for either side.
One thing seems certain though, using a bidet makes you feel cleaner.
Take this analogy –
“If you get poop anywhere else on your body, would you just use toilet paper to wipe it off?”
If, like most, you answer “of course not!”, then maybe it’s worth reconsidering taking such a different approach when cleaning your bottom. We’ve found that using warm water over cold water gives us the freshest feeling.
Also, toilet paper can be an irritant. If you have a sensitive bottom or suffer from itchiness, ditching the toilet paper in favor of a bidet can help.
Of course, what most people end up doing is using a mixture of the two. First, you rinse with a bidet and then use a small amount of toilet paper (reusable toilet paper is more eco-friendly!) to pat yourself dry. This way, you get the best of both worlds.
Can you use soap with a bidet?
We use soap to clean every other part of our body, which begs the question, shouldn’t we use it to clean our bums too.
However, it’s a common misconception that you need to use soap with a bidet.
Using soap with a bidet isn’t recommended because it can dry your skin out and cause irritation. Water is more than enough to clean the area effectively. If you’ve had a messy day and you feel the need to use a cleaning agent, use a soap-free, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic cleanser.
Reasons you don’t need soap with a bidet
No soap with a bidet?!
Sounds a bit mad when poop is involved, so what’s the reasoning?
You don’t use soap with toilet paper, so why would you need it with a bidet?
Most people use toilet paper to clean themselves after going to the toilet and are perfectly happy with this. No soap involved, or even water!
Before you got your bidet or were considering one were you okay with using toilet paper and no soap?
Because a bidet uses water, and we’re used to using soap with water, it’s natural instinct to want to use soap. Soap can make you feel cleaner and as if you’ve got rid of more germs.
But in actual fact, pressurized water is more than enough to get you clean after a bowel movement. The water blasts any debris off your bum and leaves it squeaky clean.
Soap can be irritating
Medical professionals advise not putting soap anywhere near your private parts. If you’ve got problems downstairs, the first thing to go will be the soap.
I’m certainly not a medical expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know that private areas are sensitive (I learned the hard way).
Your ‘normal’ skin is hardy and has no problem handling soap.
But the skin around your private parts is thinner and more sensitive. Your body knows this and protects itself with natural oils and good bacteria.
Soap is the enemy of these natural oils.
Harsh soaps will strip the area of its protective layer, leaving your skin dry and itchy.
Think of it like wearing gloves on a cold day. If someone comes along and steals your gloves, your skin will spend the day exposed to the elements and will be sore and irritated at the end of the day.
Itchy skin down there is less than ideal.
But itching could be the least of your problems. Dry, irritated skin around the bum can lead to further issues such as minor legions and even hemorrhoids.
Soaps are equally irritating for your frontal regions. Not only will they dry the area out, but they can upset the pH balance (thrush?! No thanks).
If you’re dead set on using soap with your bidet, we’d suggest erring on the side of caution and looking for a mild, soap-free wash.
Dove, Euricin, CeraVE, Aveeno, and Vanicream are all excellent brands for mild cleaners. They all have a range of sensitive skin, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic products that would be suitable for use on your private parts (occasionally).
Bidets where you do use soap
I know of only one electric bidet that uses soap in its cleaning cycle – the Bio Bidet BB-i3000.
However, Bio Bidet has discontinued the model, so it’s no longer available to buy. And nothing has sprung up to replace it.
The other type of bidet where soap can help the process is a standalone bidet without a water jet. These types of bidets simply fill up the basin, so the washing process is more similar to a bath than a shower.
To get yourself clean in a standalone bidet, you may have to use your hands, and most people feel more comfortable using soap. In this situation, opt for a soap-free, fragrance-free cleanser that’s gentle on the skin. This will reduce the risk of irritation.
Does a bidet get dirty?
It’s not unusual to wonder about the bidet itself getting dirty. Of course, just like a toilet can get dirty, so can a bidet. But lots of bidets are self-cleaning.
Yep, you heard right! Self-cleaning bidets are a real thing and come in very useful for those worried about the cleanliness of regular bidets.
Even the most basic bidet attachments have self-cleaning wands that rinse themselves with water before and after use. Modern electric bidet toilet seats go even further and use technologies such as UV sanitation to clean the toilet bowl.
Other hygiene features you can find in bidet toilet seats include air deodorizers and antimicrobial plastics. Many also come with quick-release hinges so you can easily take the bidet off and clean the underneath.
Other types of bidet, like the stand-alone bidet or handheld bidets don’t come with these self-cleaning functions, so they require slightly more effort to keep clean.
How to clean a bidet
Bidet manufacturers recommend using a mild antibacterial soap and a soft cloth to clean your bidet.
Vinegar is an excellent natural disinfectant, so add a splash of this to your cloth if you want some extra cleaning power.
If you have a bidet seat or attachment, it’s advisable to take the whole thing off and clean underneath it once per year. Also, if the wands aren’t self-cleaning, the advice is to clean them once a month.
Hopefully, this article has answered your question about whether bidets are sanitary or not.
In short – yes, they are!