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Published: Tuesday, 10/4/2005

Background on Bidets

To Europeans, the bidet is a common bathroom fixture found right next to the toilet. But most Americans have never even seen a bidet, nor know about its purpose.

A bidet uses a stream or bath of water to cleanse the private areas after your use the bathroom, providing a hands-free form of personal hygiene. Used by millions of men, women and children every day in Europe, it is especially popular among senior citizens, the disabled, and those with impaired motor functions or incontinence.

The bidet originated in France to be used in between scheduled baths and for horsemen who were constantly in contact with saddles. Until the 1900s, the bidet was only found in the bedroom. But modern plumbing brought it to the bathroom and next to the toilet.

Today, a European bathroom isn t complete without a bidet. While the trend hasn t caught on in America, American plumbing manufacturers are the top producers and exporters of bidets.

Just like the toilet, the bidet comes in various styles ranging from contemporary to classic. But the four basic types are:

* Over the rim: the bowl fills with water like a sink

* Heated rim: water enters the bowl below the rim of the basin

* Spray: has a vertical fountain jet in the center of the bowl or a horizontal jet near the rim

* Combination: combines heated rim and vertical spray.

Some are equipped with an air dryer, while others require that you pat skin dry with toilet paper or a towel. Some have toilet-like seats and some don t. A wall-mounted bar helps the user get up and down easily.

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