The U.S. has long prided itself on being a cleanliness-first nation. All throughout my childhood, I heard about "dirty" Europeans and "smelly" French folk. My school friends, and sometimes even their parents, would joke about how women in other countries didn't shave legs or armpits and how glad they were that kind of behavior didn't fly in America — unless one was a "dirty" hippie, that is. 


We have been through the toxic wringer and back in attempting to keep our homes not only sparkling clean, but germ-free (which very well might be contributing to supergerms and auto-immune diseases per the "hygiene hypothesis"). And we spend tons of money in pursuit of that elusive state. Thankfully, many of us have realized the irony of bringing a plethora of chemicals into our homes to make it "clean," and nontoxic product use is on the rise. Nonetheless, we are still a dirt- and germ-avoiding nation. 


Which is why it has always surprised me that bidets — which can be separate basins or integrated into a regular toilet (if one is lacking space) — are so uncommon in America. 


Also on MNN: What's better, toilet paper or bidet?


After all, what could be cleaner than actually washing oneself after using the bathroom? Relying on toilet paper is often insufficient, and not only does extra TP usage mean toilet clogging is more common, it is clearly wasteful to use TP for a job that's beyond its powers. Bidets are a far greener solution to using reams of extra toilet paper to make sure you're clean.


And ironically, bidets save water too (even though they use it). How? Well, think about how many times you have taken a full-on shower when you didn't really need one, because you felt a bit sweaty (after sports), uncomfortable (from wearing restrictive clothing), or just not clean down below (after sex)? (Or for women, while menstruating?). Not only is it a hassle and a time-waster to take more than one shower a day, but it's a waste of water and fossil fuels for all that extra hot water. 


Bidets are found throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia (especially Japan) and pretty commonly in South America (basically everywhere besides the U.S., Canada and Australia), but I know exactly one person who has one, and he is originally from South Africa. 


But bidets are growing in popularity in the U.S. - the Toto Washlet being a specific brand that is popping up in all kinds of home renovations and new buildings. (I've seen them featured on house-hunting shows on TLC as well as in listings for NYC apartments; for now they are always considered a "perk" or "extra.") Here's one trend I hope will trickle down — pun intended. 


The next time I know I'll be living somewhere for more than a year, I'm going to invest in an in-toilet unit bidet for myself and my partner. How about you: would you consider a bidet during your next bathroom upgrade? 


Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Why aren't bidets more popular in America?
It's rare to find a bidet in the United States, despite an almost obsessional level of cleanliness on other fronts. I can't figure out why.