How to Use a Bidet

An American encountering a bidet for the first time.
Image credit:

I saw this image on social media the other day, and obviously chuckled. But it reminded me of one of the first things I found “odd” in Italy: every (or almost every) private bathroom has a bidet!

In America, bidets are mostly seen as something only very wealthy (usually European) people have in their bathrooms. So my first thought when I saw one in a regular, average person’s home bathroom was “I’m not fancy enough to use this!!”

I didn’t want the first thing I asked my future husband upon arriving at his apartment for the first time ever to be something that made me sound ignorant and unworldly… so I had no choice but to head straight to the internet and Google “how to use a bidet.”

Some of the stuff I found was a bit weird (as is often the case with bathroom-related things on the internet…), so I’m going to give you the least embarrassing explanation possible. Here’s hoping that you found this post before you found the weird ones!


What Is a Bidet?

Okay, let’s start with the basics. A bidet is not, as the image above implies, a drinking fountain, even if the nozzle sometimes can be moved around so it looks like one! (As a side note, I have found that Italy is extremely lacking in those metal water fountains we Americans are used to seeing in airports and schools and malls and everything… but I’ll save that for a future post).

A bidet is actually a porcelain, bowl-like receptacle with a small faucet on it that is meant to be used for washing your bottom (and other parts) after using the bathroom. It is usually located right next to the toilet, and, if you are in a place where it is used frequently, there should be a little towel somewhere near it to be used for patting dry when you’re done.

Most bidets have their own water supply and are connected to the bathroom’s plumbing. Most of the time, they look almost just like a toilet, except instead of having a lid, it has a handle where you can turn the flow of water on and off.


How Do I Use a Bidet?

First of all, you don’t have to use the bidet if you are not so inclined. Even if every bathroom has one, not everyone uses them, and some find them to be outdated. But, if you actually do want to embrace your inner European and use the bidet, here’s how:

Step 1

Use the toilet as normal. Just because you are going to use the bidet doesn’t mean you still don’t have to wipe, so be sure to do that!

Step 2

Step over to the bidet. This is where you have two options. The first is to sit on the bidet with your legs on either side of it, facing the faucet. This option is a bit more awkward with your pants around your ankles, but some say it is more hygienic for the ladies after they go “number 1” because it washes things away from front to back.

The other approach, which is better suited for those who have just eliminated the other kind of waste, is to sit on it much like you would the toilet, with your back to the faucet, leaving enough space between it and you to let the water flow.

Step 3

Turn on the water with the faucet. On most of the bidets I’ve seen, there is a handle which, when turned to the left, releases hot water, and when turned to the right puts out cold water. Some older models, however, have a knob for hot and a knob for cold. Find the temperature you like and turn it on by lifting the handle up (or turning the knob). But go slowly! That faucet can put out a lot of pressure and water can shoot out like a rocket. No one wants that hitting such a vulnerable spot!!

Step 4

Let the water run for a bit to get things clean, then shut it off (Don’t use your hands to splash the water onto yourself if you can avoid it, as this isn’t very hygienic unless you washed them first. Instead, turn the little nozzle on the end of the faucet to direct the flow to the right spot). If there is a specifically designated bidet towel or paper towels nearby, use it (or toilet paper in a pinch) to dab yourself dry (don’t use the hand towel by the sink!!) and voila! You did it! You are officially a bidet user now.


Alternate Uses

Ella rethinking her decision to take a nap in the bidet.
Image credit: Jessica Scott Romano

Okay, this is where I make myself look bad and say that I personally am not a frequent user of the bidet… at least in the way that bidets are meant to be used. I am an American and honestly don’t really see the need for it after 26 years of never using one… but that’s just my opinion! Our bidet isn’t one that sees a lot of post-bathroom trip action from either my husband or me, but it does come in handy for lots of other things.

For example, it can be used to wash one’s feet (or making one’s husband wash his feet…) after a long day of walking outside in old shoes. Depending on its placement in the bathroom, I have also found that it makes a pretty decent place to shave your legs if you don’t have a bathtub and don’t want to stand on one leg and do it in the shower.

My favorite use of it, though, is as a cat holder. It makes the perfect place to keep your mischievous kitten! (Although, as you can see, she may regret its placement when she sees what else happens in the bathroom!)

What are your thoughts on bidets? Do you find them useful, unnecessary, or something in between? Discuss in the comments!

I consider a bird bath and use it irregularly. After all, I’m American. I might be just as inclined to use the shower quickly instead.

Thank you, Thomas! I know it was an uncomfortable thing for me, so I was trying to make it less awkward for others! (And your bird bath comment made me laugh!)

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