Surveys today show Americans are open to all kinds of home innovation, and the bathroom is no exception.
But acceptance of the bidet – the common personal cleaning fixture that graces commodes throughout much of Europe and Asia – has been a bit of a tough sell.
It’s unquestioned that the quality of cleaning with a bidet fixture is superior to toilet paper alone, so why the American reluctance?
One of the keys to selling a better toilet is marketing. And in America, talking about the best ways to clean up after the loo has always been a bit taboo.
Many anthropologists believe American GIs coming back from World War II associated the bidet with bordellos visited overseas.
Given America’s puritanical past, they may have been uncomfortable introducing the bidet to neighbors, afraid they might have to explain exactly where they first saw these wonderful appliances.
The Baby Boomers who followed probably learned from their parents not to confront such indelicate subject matter.
But in the last 10 years, as younger homeowners with more information hit the toilet scene, U.S. sales of bidet-toilets have grown 10 times faster than standard models.
Nearly ubiquitous in Japanese households, “smart bidets,” feature amenities such as heated seats, music systems and odor control.
But these units run several hundred dollars, plus hundreds more for installation. America’s bidet emergence is still somewhat blocked.
Some distributors have installed combination bidet-toilets in U.S. hotels to increase exposure. A few others have introduced simpler, more affordable versions.
One is a non-electric attachment that resembles a detachable shower head next to the toilet. Another is simply a small spigot mounted between the toilet seat and bowl.
Ranging in price from $20 to $150, these are powered by a home’s water pressure, and aimed by knobs or levers.
Aggressive marketing appears to be working. The word “bidet” appeared in 3,333 listings on the real estate website Zillow in the first half of 2018 alone – up 78 percent from the entirety of 2014.
Targeted properly, bidets may become American bathroom mainstays.