May 24 2017, updated 2:47am

To bidet or not to bidet, that is the bathroom question

Last updated 05:00 19/05/2017

Is two a crowd?

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The bidet blends right in to this crisp, white bathroom.
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Here's another bidet that's barely noticeable.
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A toilet and bidet are installed side by side in a contemporary marbled bathroom.

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A popular fixture in bathrooms of the European continent since the 1700s, the bidet is a piece of technology for down under that ironically has yet to become popular, Down Under.

Bathrooms in New Zealand and Australia appear to be bidet-less 99 per cent of time.

However, this may be changing. Bidets are apparently "becoming more popular", with Bathroom Direct selling more each year than ever before.

So it's likely that if you're hesitant about using or installing a bidet at your place, you may be operating on outdated information or simply don't know how one works. Let's clear things up.

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WHO ARE THEY FOR?

"A lot of New Zealanders truly do not know how to use [a bidet]. They don't understand how they work," says bathroom designer Sue Glatt. "Most New Zealanders that have them in their bathrooms usually use them for washing their socks and underwear."

That, or they presume they are only for women - which is not true.

The movement capabilities of the modern edition is flexible, making it a tool for everyone.

"It's not just targeted at women. It 'changes'," says Charles West, product specialist at Bathroom Direct.

SO HOW DOES ONE USE IT?

In the bidet models of the past (mock Victorian 1980s additions, anyone?), one "crouched in front of it and it sprayed water at you, while you looked at the wall".

This is clearly not the contemporary state of affairs.

"What the modern one does, you sit as you normally would on the toilet.

"What they do is they wash the front and back, and the water is warm, [and] the water can pulse," says West.




WHO DOES A BIDET BENEFIT?

Those with health or mobility issues get the most benefits.

"It's ideal for people with health issues, haemorrhoids or similar, and for people who have big bellies and have problems wiping."

"As people get older, they have problems sitting down, getting up, and doing all the appropriate things. So it's easier," West says.

A high-end bidet that does it all can also benefit the environment.

"They're sold as what you call an eco toilet because, as they wash everything, you don't need to use toilet paper."

In terms of who's buying, the bathroom fixture is apparently most popular with "older folks' homes", Asian nationalities and those who are quite keen on cleanliness.

BIDETS AND BATHROOM DESIGN

"Well, I have to say that New Zealanders are not wild supporters of the concept of the bidet," says Glatt. "And I really rarely put them into bathrooms - I more frequently take them out."

"However, anybody with a European background definitely wants one. So yeah, New Zealanders might just need a little bit of educating."

"In the American new hotels and in Asia, they are virtually standard," says West.

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So people who install a bidet in their New Zealand home may be well-travelled and looking to keep up with the overseas Joneses.

From a design perspective, there are "whole collections" now available "that will fit various people and various requirements".

"Our latest model, the princess, doesn't even have a cistern on it," says West. "And, of course, with no cistern, it makes your bathroom look nice and tidy. No buttons against the back wall either."

For those wanting a solution that looks to the future, designer Natalie DuBois recommends the SensoWash by Metrix for a modern take on the bidet. It adds a water spray and heating options to a conventional toilet seat, making it a good compromise that also won't freak out your guests.

"I think there's a reason why people stopped having them," said DuBois. "It was kind of an 80s thing. But I think for the people that do like them, the all-in-one toilet and cleaning toilet is a good option."

BUYER BEWARE

There are two areas of concern if you want a bidet - a building permit and getting the buttons right.

"The plumbing's not as bad as for a full toilet because you don't have that great big waste pipe. So they're a little bit cheaper to install as well," says Glatt.

West warns that if "you've got a toilet already installed in the house, to put a separate bidet in, you have to go for a permit because you're connecting another item to the sewerage system".

Some of the American models in particular can be complicated to operate, so make sure to read your installation manual.

"If you're not sitting on it and you push the wrong button, you're gonna get sprayed with water," says West.

- Stuff

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