Meet the bidet: dos, don’ts and my easy 5 step guide to using it like a pro

Photo credit: Roca

So you’re in Portugal and go to the bathroom. Next to the loo there’s this… thing. It just stands there with an aura of mystery. It looks vaguely like a seat with a tap in front (or is it the back?) but why, you think to yourself, would anyone sit on that?! What does it do?! You can almost hear it whispering “use me, you dirty little thing”.
Well, meet the bidet!

Just for starters, before you begin bashing the Portuguese for such an apparently pointless object, let me tell you it was the French who invented it in the 17th century. Yes, the same country that gave the world the stethoscope and the etch-a-sketch (both lifesavers, although in different contexts) also came up with the bidet. Portugal isn’t the only country with bidets, by the way. Spain, France and Italy also use them and, Wikipedia tells me, they can also be found in Central and Eastern Europe.

Photo credit: Roca

Generally speaking, we use bidets to wash our feet and our nether regions (I never thought I’d live to write this on my blog). Yes, before you ask, we also take baths and showers.

Want some dirty details? A lot of women will use the bidet more often while menstruating (squeaky clean!), many use it for washing themselves after sex and, as well as some men, for washing their butts after going for a number 2 (also the first time I’m using this expression on the blog. Let us hope it will be the last!).

Some uses are common for both men and women: for washing their feet; to fill up with ice and use as a handy beer cooling station for parties (bathtubs also serve this purpose when there are lots of bottles); to place your feet while polishing/clipping toe nails (practical, let’s face it!); to let your dog and/or cat have a drink; to let your toddler splash around a bit while you brush your teeth and need those 30 seconds of peace and quiet. But I’m betting there are more possible uses: the sky’s the limit!

Do you finally feel like giving the bidet a try? Here’s my easy 5 step guide to using a bidet like a pro:
1 – Approach the bidet with full confidence: remember, you’re the one in charge! Either undress from the waist down or just get your clothes out of the way so you can comfortably sit on the bidet facing the tap (lots of different contexts here. Do I really have to explain everything?!). Some people will actually sit with their backs to the faucet but unless you’ve worked at the Cirque du Soleil before I’d say that’s a no.
2 – If you’re feeling fancy or if you’re in the coldest month of the past 200 years you can use warm water; if not, just hold your breath and splash some cold water on your bits. Admit it: It kinda makes ya feel alive!
3 – Use your soap/intimate wash gel/whatever of preference and just… wash yourself like you normally do when showering (pretty basic, right?).
4 – Use a small towel to pat yourself dry. You’re supposed to have one towel for each family member*.
5 – Enjoy that invigorating freshness down there. Aaaah, feels good doesn’t it?!

If, after all this, you still think bidets are simply too odd just remember you’re totally free to *not* use them (unless some bidet freak points a gun at your head, in which case I would strongly advise you to, yes, use a bidet).

Ready to show your bidet some love? Don’t say you hate it before you try it!

* If you ever buy towel sets in traditional Portuguese shops you’ll find they come with bidet towels, which are about a third or so the size of hand towels. I was surprised to see that some people believed there would be one single bidet towel for the whole family. That’s a no: a big, round, fat no! Usually bidet towels are changed as often as you change hand towels unless they’re dirty and need to be changed before that, of course. But, hey: your house, your rules, I’m not judging!

Photo credit: Roca

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6 comments

  1. Be careful when using “warm” water. Many years ago, I decided to try using a bidet in Europe for the first time, and to my shock when I turned on the faucet, it was scalding HOT! And it went inside me! Needless to say, I have never tried it since and don’t plan to ever again. I wouldn’t want anyone else to experience this.

  2. For the life of me I don’t understand how the bidet didn’t persist in America. It’s one of my favorite things about European travel. Who doesn’t want to be squeaky clean?

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