This isn’t a load of crap: The bidet is having a rebranding moment.
If you’re familiar with the term “bidet,” you might know it as a bougie bathroom fixture. But companies are angling for the device to be part of America’s go-to sustainable and smart toilet.
The bidet can be an attachment to an ordinary toilet, or it can be a separate bathroom device used in addition to a toilet. What’s it do? Primarily, it provides a cleansing spurt of water to the user’s rear.
A common fixture in the bathrooms of many Asian and southern European countries, the bidet has, until recently, largely been considered an upper-class-only washlet in the U.S. But a positive push from comedians, the arrival of new toilet technology and an awareness of toilet-paper pollution seem to be changing people’s pooping preferences.
Butt cleaning = comedic hilarity
“People need to know about bidets. I just got one and it’s changed my life,” comedian Michael Che said on “Saturday Night Live” in December while waxing poetic about his love for a butt-spritzing toilet attachment. “It’s glorious. Food tastes better. I can jump higher. I want children now,” he continued in a Weekend Update segment. “The first time I used it, I cried.”
Che’s strong reaction to a bidet isn’t unique. Bidets are evangelized in Reddit threads, YouTube comments and other sites. Comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who’s spoken about his love for bidets publicly on more than one occasion, told Conan O’Brien in 2014 that his “life will be divided into two sections: Before I ever used a bidet, and the Age of Enlightenment.”
According to a forthcoming 2019 trends study out in February and conducted by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, designers consider a toilet with a bidet squirting feature the most important thing to put in a new bathroom today, with more than half of the 500+ designers surveyed saying they install cleansing toilets as opposed to regular ones, for clients. Meanwhile, more and more people are considering upgrading their iron thrones: HomeAdvisor’s 2018 True Cost report shows that bathroom remodels have become more popular than kitchen remodels, in a reversal of a long-held trend.
Bidet seats and bidet toilets in the U.S. are currently a $106 million category expected to grow 15 percent annually through 2021, according to BRG Building Solutions’ October 2018 North American Shower Toilet & Bidet Seat Markets report. And online retailer BidetKing.com has been seeing a sales growth of 30 percent year over year since 2016, says president James Lin.
New tech for a clean tush makes bidets appealing
The butt-cleaning bowls and seats range wildly in price, from Tushy charging $69 for a bidet accessory that attaches to a regular toilet and offers a stream of water at the turn of nob, to Kohler’s $7,000 “Numi 2.0” toilet with bidet unveiled at the recent Consumer Electronics Show that has ambient colored lighting, Bluetooth music syncing, a seat heater and a warm-air dryer.
Overseas, restrooms tend to have both bidet seats and typical toilets. But in America, a total of one smart seat, whether it’s a new bidet or an old potty with a fresh water-spouting gizmo added, is enough.
It makes sense that Americans today are more open to upgrading their current crapping conditions. After all, toilet foot-rest Squatty Potty has made $140 million in sales since its 2014 debut, becoming one of the top “Shark Tank” products of all time.
Reducing waste could drive bidet interest
Tushy founder Miki Agrawal, who started her company in 2016 after also starting period underwear brand Thinx, says her profits have more than doubled year over year because America is in the midst of a behavioral shift when it comes to the environment – and their lavatories.
“People understand that we have more CO2 in the atmosphere today than we have had. Gen Z-ers are trying to live a zero-waste life,” she says. Basically: Eschewing tree-killing toilet paper or pipe-clogging wet wipes in favor of a spray of water seems altruistic, cool and hygienic.
“You wouldn’t wash your dirty dishes with dry paper,” she says. A bidet provides the cleansing wetness, so all the user might need is a TP pat dry.
Or some bidet-users might opt for a paper-free bathroom experience, the way James Franco’s young, rich tech guy character does in the 2016 meet-the-parents comedy “Why Him?” In the movie, Franco’s house doesn’t have toilet paper but does have a Japanese bidet with buttons for front and back cleansing and cologne spritzing.
Bro-y Franco doesn’t initially vibe with his girlfriend’s dad, played by Bryan Cranston. In the end, though, spoiler alert, they do forge a connection over the blissful bathroom.
“I can’t stop thinking about your toilets,” Cranston tells Franco in the film’s finale. “If you could get the controls in English and lower your price point a little bit, we could have a potentially untapped market here in America.”
Although “Why Him?” writer/director John Hamburg had yet to experience a bidet when the movie was written – the potty plot point was inspired by co-writer Ian Helfer’s recent trip to Japan – “I recently put a Toto bidet toilet in my house, and let me say, it’s a game-changer,” Hamburg tells USA TODAY in an email. “As Keegan Michael-Key’s character, Gustav, might say: ‘It’s all about the sploosh.'”