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I bought a bidet. And I’m totally OK

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Several weeks ago, when the COVID-19 crisis seemed so far away from home, I walked into Walgreen’s and came to a customer by a shopping cart full of toilet paper. She took me aside and said in Spanish, “Mija, come here. See all this — they won’t let me take it. But you can take some. Hurry, take some before we run out!”

I told the woman that I wasn’t worried. We were well stocked at home. I had done my monthly run for supplies not more than a couple weeks prior to all this. A couple days later we were on our last four rolls so I headed to the store. Five stores later, I gave up. 

On the way home, I thought, “There has to be another way.” I Googled, “Going paperless in the bathroom.”

The first thing that came up was the Filipino tabo, which requires a designated bottle, cup, or spray bottle. After YouTubing “how to use tabo” I felt confident enough and experimented in the bathroom. And surprisingly it worked.

I figured, this is a temporary fix, things will go back to normal. I was so wrong. 

Seven days in and people were still hoarding toilet paper. I got stories of my aunt going into Walmart and asking the stockers, “Hey where’s the toilet paper” and they would tell her in a whisper to “Go to the back.” Suddenly our grocery stores have become speakeasies for toilet paper.

Going with the bidet

In hearing these stories, I decided that either we continue to tabo or we go bidet. After a quick conversation with my husband, who was very open about it, I bought the bidet. Well, to be clear, I bought a bidet-attachment. It’s actually a sprayer that you hook up to the water valve on your toilet. 

A bidet device can be easily attached to a standard household toilet. (Alex Hinojosa/El Paso Matters)

I wasn’t the only one. I discovered a shortage of bidets and bidet-like products. And the wait to get them was about two weeks. I was lucky and found one on Amazon that was supposed to come in three days later.

My husband installed it when it arrived. No need for a plumber; he just followed the pictures on the instruction manual and within 20 minutes we used it.

It’s faster than tabo and much more refreshing than the one-ply toilet paper available in stores now. 

Finding bidet benefits

Additionally, we found a whole bunch of benefits that come with using a bidet. We live in an older home with older pipes. Our landlord told us not to put too much toilet paper in the toilets when we first signed the lease. 

In our previous home, we had to get the plumbers to redo pipes because of toilet paper issues. With a bidet we don’t run into clogging pipes with toilet paper because we won’t be using toilet paper.

Additionally, bidets are supposed to be cleaner. According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, bidets reduce your contact with disease-causing germs. The MDA adds that bidet users report that they help prevent hemorrhoids, constipation and could reduce vaginal and urinary tract infections in women. 

For those who are trying to minimize environmental waste, using a bidet reduces the use of toilet paper and saves water.

Advice from a plumber

When shopping for the bidet, I discovered there are different kinds, including bidet toilet seats and bidet attachments, all with different functions and the option to have a water warmer or not.  I found different price ranges.

A bidet attachment is added to the toilet’s water line. (Alex Hinojosa/El Paso Matters)

Jeffrey Foght of Jeff’s Westside Plumbing said he’s installed a few traditional bidets in homes. He said a traditional bidet is a separate basin from the toilet itself and requires a large bathroom and a plumbing permit. 

“We don’t do a lot of those. This is all new. Not new to the world, but new to the U.S.,” Foght said. “But the thing with a bidet, you got to have the space first of all, because it’s a fixture like a toilet, and then it shoots water out from the center.” 

The cost, Foght said, is upwards to a few thousand dollars per installation and requires a permit because plumbers have to jack hammer the floor. 

“It’s a project,” Foght said. “You have to run water to it, hot and cold water, then you have to run a drain from your floor down to your sewer. Again, you have to space in your bathroom.” 

I wasn’t looking to jack hammer the floor. First of all, we rent; secondly, we don’t have the space. Foght then suggested a bidet attachment or a bidet toilet seat could be purchased online instead.

“I don’t see why they wouldn’t work,” he said. “That would probably be the way to go – and it would be one of your cheapest installations, one of those add-ons. In the meantime, all the other countries have been doing it forever. We’re just the only country that seems to like toilet paper for some reason.” 

It takes some getting used to

Alex Hinojosa shows off the bidet attachment she and her husband bought for their home bathroom. (Alex Hinojosa/El Paso Matters)

Our bidet attachment cost $52, and we bought one for each bathroom. Total cost was about $110, including shipping. Our bidet attachment connects directly to the water supply valve, which is why it’s on the less expensive end. 

The water comes out a bit cold. But we figured it was better to deal with the cold water rather than the headache of worrying about toilet paper. Besides, you get used to it after a while. 

Now, some women might ask: What about when I’m on my monthlies? Within two days of installing it and using it, I started. After using the bidet attachment and spraying the area, it felt like I had just showered. 

After speaking with Foght and telling everyone I knew about our new bathroom habits, I wondered why didn’t I do this ages ago? Given COVID-19, all it took was a few YouTube videos to learn how to go about cleaning myself. 

For those of you afraid of “butt germs” or the ick factor, here’s what you do. You can designate a hand towel for each member of the family to use and launder them at the end of the week. 

My husband and I have been made fun of by friends and family. We shrug it off and when the giggles stop, we say, “Keep laughing. All we know is we don’t need toilet paper. We’re good. Are you?”

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Alex Hinojosa

Alex Hinojosa is an El Paso freelance journalist and a mass communications instructor at El Paso Community College.

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