Are Bidets More Environmentally Friendly Than Toilet Paper?

While bidets remain unpopular in America, they’re a familiar fixture in bathrooms all over the world. And they raise an inevitable question: Is it better for the environment if you wipe, or should you wash instead?

The answer may surprise you — and could lead you to rethink your next bathroom remodel.

When you hear the word “bidet,” you may picture a standalone bathroom fixture that sits next to the toilet, with water and temperature controls allowing the user to briefly spray their nether regions after going to the bathroom.

However, some bidets are actually mounted inside the toilet itself. A number of companies produce special toilet seats or bidet attachment kits, so you can use the toilet and then activate the bidet when you’re finished.

If you’re new to bidets, expect a gentle spray of warm water, followed by a jet of warm air — no need to pat dry with toilet paper!

But doesn’t this process waste water?

After all, the water you use to wash up after using the restroom is contaminated with urine and/or feces. And this sewage — also known as blackwater — must be processed in a septic tank or sewage plant. Depending on where you live, that water may be used in landscaping or reclaimed in other ways, but it still requires energy to process and transport.

So toilet paper might seem like the better option if you want to conserve water, right?

Not so fast, cautions Scientific American, because you’re not accounting for the water and chemicals used to manufacture toilet tissue. Even recycled, minimally processed tissue eats up a lot of resources. And over a lifetime, you’ll pay more for toilet paper than you will for a bidet — even a top-of-the-line model.

In the United States, we use up to 15 million trees, 473,587,500,000 gallons of water, 253 tons of chlorine and 17.3 terawatts of electricity to meet our annual demand for toilet paper — and that’s just manufacturing. That toilet paper also has to be packaged and then transported to stores.

Additionally, toilet paper can clog plumbing lines and cause problems at sewer plants. In particular, modern thick, quilted paper and wet wipes can wreak havoc on aging sewage infrastructure.

Bidets, by contrast, use about one-eighth of a gallon of water for each cleanup session. And if you don’t have a lot of money — or room — to spend on a standalone fixture, toilet-mounted options are a terrific alternative at a range of price points. Many are so easy to install that you don’t even need to hire a plumber.

Some claim that bidets offer health benefits, but take that with a grain of salt — especially when that assertion comes from a bidet manufacturer. In some cases, using a bidet and air dryer can reduce irritation for people experiencing itchiness or hemorrhoids, or those recovering from having a baby.

However, it’s very important to make sure the heat and pressure settings are safe, because very hot water can injure people, and a powerful jet of water can cause discomfort.

If you want to get really efficient in the bathroom, consider ditching your flushable toilet. Going low-flow — or sticking a few bricks in the tank for a cost-effective alternative — is great, but composting and incinerating toilets are fantastic alternatives. Every year, manufacturers are improving technology to cut down on odors and make these options feel like a natural fit in any bathroom.

The less water you use in the bathroom, the better.

Photo credit: Ted and Dani Percival

41 comments

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Krzysztof J
Krzysztof J8 months ago

Ty

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Leanne K
Leanne K8 months ago

I make the supreme sacrifice for the environment - I only ever get the Planet Ark recycled stuff... Im a martyr!!

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Marzena B
Marzena B8 months ago

Thanks

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Marcin J
Marcin J8 months ago

Thanks

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heather g
heather g8 months ago

When I first moved to Canada, particularly because of the French-speaking community, I was really disappointed when I discovered that bidets are not found everywhere. Quite the opposite.

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Beryl Ludwig
Beryl Ludwig8 months ago

Thank you. While visiting some other countries I was surprised to find a totally different toilet that was simply a round hole in the tiled floor that you squatted over, no flushing and no smell from all that was down there... It was much healthier for you as the position we used on Mr. Crappers invention is all wrong and bad for the bowels. We were intended to squat, which was easier on the insides, and didn't crimp the colon. Well anyway, that saved lots of water but a bidet was commonplace in some other countries. I learned a lot in our travels. and I learned that people pooped differently... It was much easier for your body to expel waste. Bidets were very nice and felt so clean.

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Michele B
Michele B8 months ago

thanx

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maria r
maria reis8 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE8 months ago

Thank you

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