I’m sure many people reading this are familiar with Linked-In, the business based networking site. Currently there is a lively discussion on the subject of bidets, specifically, are bidet seats replacing the traditional bidet in modern bathrooms?
Most people I know are a little uncomfortable discussing bidets and I think I can understand why. That said, the bidet is a very useful fixture and the advent of the bidet seat is bringing benefits to more people than ever.
First a little history. The word “bidet” is derived from a French word for pony (it is assumed that this derives from the fact that one straddles the bidet the same way one might ride a horse). The exact origin is unknown but it is thought to have been the creation of French furniture makers. The earliest known written reference is from 1710 (more here).
When I began in the decorative plumbing industry in the early 1990s bidets were making a come back. Many urban showrooms displayed most toilets with matching bidets and most decorative faucet lines included at least one style of bidet faucet. People with enough space often added a bidet to their remodeling project. People also often had definite opinions about the type of bidet they wanted.
Generally speaking there are two types of free-standing bidets; Horizontal spray and vertical spray and each requires a specific type of faucet.
The simplest is horizontal or “over-the-rim”. This style faucet looks very much like a lavatory faucet but is fitted with a swivel spray nozzle that points in a more forward direction. There is also a pop-up drain that allows the bidet bowl to be filled with water.
A vertical spray bidet incorporates a nozzle in the bottom of the bowl that sprays vertically. Handles for hot and cold are set on the deck of the bidet. Vertical spray bidet faucets require the addition of a vacuum breaker to prevent a back-flow of contaminated water.
Traditional bidets were designed for a specific function and work very well. But for a variety of reasons (small bathrooms, additional plumbing, expense, cultural norms) few Americans today think of installing one. Still, the concept is useful and an alternative exists.
It has many names, bidet seat, Washlet, spa seat, shower toilet and high-tech bidet among others. The idea is that instead of having a separate unit requiring the user to move from toilet to bidet, a set of spray nozzles are incorporated into a toilet seat. It’s a good idea and makes having a bidet possible for far more people.
A bidet seat is much more than a toilet seat with water sprays. There are now many manufacturers offering these seats in some form and in a range of prices. Here are some features to look for when shopping for a bidet seat.
• Front and Rear Cleanse with separate nozzles (wands)
• Water Position adjustment (position wand more forward or back)
• Water Pressure adjustment
• Water Temperature adjustment
• Hot water – pre-heated reservoir or in-line heater
• Air purifier or Deodorizer and can it be turned on/off?
• Heated Seat (temperature adjustable?)
• Oscillating (massage ) cleanse
• Soft close hinges
• Control is seat mounted or remote
• Control easy to understand and use
• Self-cleaning wands
• Seat sensor (to detect if someone is sitting on seat before water sprays engage)
• Energy Saving option
• Cord length
• Overall construction
Deciding which features are important to you may take a little time. It is important to consider who will be using the seat and which model will accommodate all users. For example, a seat mounted control panel may work fine for younger members of the family but may be difficult for someone with restricted mobility (or just a stiff neck). Next, is the control easy to understand and to use? Is there someone with limits of sight or hand function and will the control work for them? People have differing sensitivities to temperature and pressure so adjustability of those can be important. Is a dryer function important? It may be critical for someone without a full range of motion or with certain medical conditions.
Once you have identified the important features check out how each model of seat performs those functions. For example, one seat may offer three temperature settings while another has five settings. Not a big difference except that the three setting model ranges between 89 to 99.5 degrees while the five setting model’s range is 86 to 104 degrees. Is 99 degrees warm enough? Another example is the seat sensor; is it line of sight or by weight? It may make a difference if a user is a small person who does not put a lot of weight on the seat. These may sound like small details but can make a big difference in daily use.
Over the years General Plumbing has sold several models of seats. For the last couple of years we have sold primarily Toto. Toto in fact has become well known for their Washlet seats and for good reason. It is a well thought out product with much attention given to detail. We have recently added Inax to our bidet seat collection. Inax is a new player in the American market and they have modeled themselves on Toto. Porcher has also recently introduced a line of bidet seats. We have yet to receive our display but early information looks promising. Finally, Duravit this year brought their “Starck” and “D-Code” models to the market. True to Duravit these seats are stylist and functional; definately worth a look if beauty is as important to you as function.
We currently display a working model of the Toto S300 in our showroom. In addition we will be adding the Inax, Porcher and Duravit over the next few weeks. Please fell free to visit, call or email for more information.