Bidets aren't toilets; rather, they're an adjunct to a toilet. This separate basin or toilet attachment is used to wash one's nether regions after using the bathroom, before or after intimacy or whenever you feel the need for extra cleanliness. Stand-alone bidets can also be used to wash feet or for a sponge bath, almost like an extra sink.
Common in Europe, bidets can help save both water and paper. They eliminate the need to shower just because you don't feel fresh, and you use less toilet paper since you clean first with water. Cleansing with a bidet is also thought to be more sanitary than just wiping with dry paper. Bidets are becoming increasingly popular in America and are often featured on popular home-renovation shows.
The Astor Bidet Fresh Water Spray Non-Electric Mechanical Bidet Toilet Seat Attachment (Est. $75) is a simple toilet seat attachment that installs in about 15 to 20 minutes. It has no fancy features, drying functions or water-heating mechanism, but it does the job and does it well, reviewers say. It requires no electricity and is constructed of heavy-duty plastic to resist rust.
Amazon.com owners say you don't need a plumber to install this bidet, but you do need a screwdriver. It attaches to any standard toilet seat and is unobtrusive when not in use. Simply turn a knob to activate the water stream to the desired pressure, but be aware that it uses only cold water. Some find this a bit shocking, but most say the cold water feels refreshing and isn't at all bothersome. Owners call the Astor Bidet a great alternative to moist wipes, which can damage septic systems and even standard plumbing. After using this bidet, you need only a small piece of toilet paper to dry off.
Another standard toilet seat attachment, the Luxe Bidet MB110 (Est. $60) costs slightly less than the Astor Bidet. It also lacks a warm water function, but it does have a pressure-control knob for maximum user comfort. A few owners who post complaints at Amazon.com say that even at the lowest pressure, the Luxe Bidet's water stream is too strong. One standout feature is a retracting nozzle that tucks away when not in use. This not only makes it less obvious next to the toilet seat but also reduces bacterial contamination and improves overall hygiene.
Both the Astor and Luxe bidets come in white and are backed by a one-year warranty. Although they won't blend in with bathroom fixtures of other colors, they're a great way to test out what's probably the future of the American toilet without a huge monetary investment.