While most Chicagoans are comfortable with their standard toilet, plenty of other homeowners are looking at their bathrooms with fresh eyes for the first time.

“Why,” they ask themselves, “must our bathrooms be so different from others around the world?”

So while that old toilet is all well and good – assuming it’s in working order and getting the job done – it never hurts to rethink your bathroom setup. You never know – making a few small changes could lead to a greener, cleaner, and all around superior bathroom experience. Home urinals, for example, are easier to access for the elderly and can help conserve water; a hyper-efficient dual-flush toilet can help you save on your utility bills with every use.

And there’s one other bathroom appliance popular around the world that’s getting renewed buzz with savvy homeowners here in the US: The bidet. Let’s explore this bathroom luxury – what it is, what it does, what it can cost, and whether it’s the right fit for your home:

What Is a Bidet?

Most commonly, a bidet is a small porcelain basin hooked up a water line next to the toilet, though there are other varieties available (more on them in a second).

Functionally, a bidet is used to clean your private areas after using the bathroom. You sit on the bidet, turn on the faucet, and a stream of water jets out, helping you clean your… ahem… harder to reach spots.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Bidets?

Though fairly commonplace in Europe and some of the more affluent parts of Asia, bidets are considered a luxury appliance here in the US; fans of the systems, however, argue that they have a lot of practical benefits to offer – some of which will help save money in the long run.

First and foremost, using a bidet can help cut down on – if not eliminate – your toilet paper usage; the average American uses 50 pounds of toilet paper every year, and a lot of that waste ends up leading to clogs and blockages in plumbing, many of which require professional attention. With a bidet in place, you can cut back on clogs and stop shelling out for toilet paper every few weeks; and with the average bidet using just an eighth of a gallon of water per wash (substantially less than even a low-flow toilet), your water bill won’t rise dramatically, either, meaning that you may actually save money in the long run.

On the other hand, there isn’t a lot of evidence that using a bidet is necessarily more hygienic than wiping; in fact, at least one study has demonstrated that regularly using a bidet may actually lead to a greater risk of infection, particularly in women. Anecdotally, however, many people report improved cleanliness with a bidet in place. This tells us that your personal experience may vary.

How Much Does a Bidet Cost?

As we mentioned earlier, there are several types of bidets, each of which will set you back differently. A standalone fixture – the sort of porcelain basin that most people picture when they hear “bidet” – will set you back between $250 and $700.

For homeowners without enough room to fit a standalone fixture – or enough cash to justify the expense – a washlet may be the next best thing; a washlet is an electric toilet seat which offers options for dispensing water like a bidet. Prices vary, but you should be able to find a washlet for less than $300 online.

The cheapest option? For $30 to $100, plus installation costs, you can buy a water-spraying attachment that hooks to your toilet bowl; for many, this is the least intimidating option, and it does give you a certain level of personal control that a regular bidet may not.

Curious about installing a bidet or any other fixture in your Chicago bathroom? Want to talk shop? Whatever your plumbing needs, J. Blanton Plumbing would love to help. Drop us a line today to put our team to work!