Despite the fact that a recent post was really about baby wipes for grownups, just about all of the comments were fixated on the fact that I spent $1200 on a toilet seat – a fancy Toto bidet seat. Many people suggested that there are far cheaper alternatives and indeed, they are correct.
In much of the world, particularly in Islamic countries, the hand sprayer or shataff is standard equipment in any bathroom. It does the job but probably makes a mess until you learn how to use it properly, and is probably better suited to squat toilets than it is to sitting down. It would be nice to have a drain on your bathroom floor if you are using this, but they are inexpensive, $49 at Bidet.org, whose owner and CEO, Kyle Bazylo, advised on this post.
I actually started with this, a rebranded Brondell that I wrote about in TreeHugger here. They come in cold water and dual water versions, but if your toilet is not beside the sink it is hard to get hot water connected so I had cold only. Even though our northern water supply is quite cold out of the tap it was never that much of a problem. The wand has to be cleaned manually every now and again because it doesn't retract, and you do have to use some toilet paper to dry your bottom. But it did work well and I recommend it if you can't afford more or don't have a convenient electric outlet. More info at Bidet.org. where these start at $ 43, which is a whole lot less than my $ 1200 toilet seat.
There are a few companies, primarily from the Middle East, who are producing all stainless units like this Rim Bidet. You have to work the controls, moving the wand manually into place, but they are built to last forever.
I have nothing but praise for my Toto seat, but it appears that there are alternatives that cost much less. Kyle explains:
Our top selling unit by a wide margin is the Brondell Swash 1000. Brondell has established themselves as a leading brand in the bidet seat industry, and the Swash 1000 is their top model. With a price of $599, it's an affordable option to some of the other bidets that exceed $1000. It has all the bells and whistles, heated seat, remote control, air dryer, adjustable water temperature, deodorizer and more.
In fact, it offers some features that look better than the Toto. I asked Kyle whether people start with a cheap one or upgrade to it later.
For the most part if people can afford a high end bidet, that's the one they go for right from the start. They've either read about it, or tried one while traveling or at a friend or family member's house, and that's the one they want. For others, it's budget restrictions. Some of the less expensive models may not have all the features the luxury ones do, but they do what they are intended to do, get you clean.
Having used both, I can attest that having warm water and an air dryer is definitely nicer and easier. However it is using electricity to heat the water and run the dryer, and obviously costs a lot more money to serve essentially the same function- to get you clean. I asked Kyle if he is seeing a growing interest in bidets in North America:
Year after year it's having a snowball effect. When people try it, they love it and wonder how they've used only toilet paper in the past. The more people that buy bidets, the more the word spreads, whether it's from media outlets, word of mouth, or social media. I also believe people today are more open to not only trying new things but openly talking about it, specifically bathroom practices. Ten years ago it was unheard of.
High end integrated toilets
Of course you don't have to stop at $600 or $1200 for the Toto; there are also fully integrated units like Kohler's Numi or the Lixil Satis that have even fancier features like iPhone or voice control, music, lights, air purifiers and more. They can all cost upwards of $ 6,000 and are probably in our wretched excess category.
But any version will save lots of paper, water (because making toilet paper uses far more than using a bidet) and once you use a bidet for a while the idea of toilet paper seems, well, as Kyle notes, "you will never look at toilet paper the same again."