Though bidets were once found almost solely in European, Middle Eastern, and Latin American bathrooms, they have sprouted up in more and more North American homes during the past decade. In fact, in some regions of the United States, bidets are expected fixtures in high-end bathrooms. Nevertheless, because bidets are relatively new to most Americans and a bit of a mystery, they’re often the, well, butt of jokes.

Matching china bidet and toilet © Marcin Bogda?ski |

Although a bidet looks like a toilet without a seat, it is actually more like a sink or small bathtub. It is intended for personal hygiene after using the toilet or for other washing up, such as washing feet.

The word bidet derives from the French word for pony, no doubt indicating the way one sits astride the bowl.

Several types of bidets are made. The bowl is usually a china basin with a drain that can be plugged so the bowl may be filled to serve as a footbath or general-purpose sink.

If you’re in the market for a bidet, be sure to buy one that will accept the type of faucet or spray that you prefer. Some have a hot-and-cold tap that pours water into the bowl; others have a nozzle that shoots an arc of water up from the bowl’s center; still others have a horizontal nozzle that sprays over the bowl’s rim.

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If you don’t have the space nor inclination to install a stand-alone bidet, you can buy a spray nozzle that can be assembled on a conventional toilet. Or, you might consider an electronic bidet toilet seat attachment. Some models offer temperature and water-pressure controls that can be adjusted remotely, a heated hydraulic seat, warm air dry, and even a deodorizer. Before purchasing one of these, however, you will need to make sure that it fits your toilet, depending on whether it is a one- or two-piece unit and has an elongated-oval or round seat.

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About Don Vandervort
An avid builder and remodeler, Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years, as Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort