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Who Invented the Bidet? Meet Christophe des Rosiers

America is finally starting to catch onto something the rest of the world has known for a long time: bidets are a must-have for better bathroom hygiene. Bidets use water to cleanse your buns—something we know works. (It's why we shower after a long day, right?)

The benefits of washing with water are crystal clear. You wouldn't just grab a paper towel if your hands were dirty—you’d wash them. But who was the first person to apply washing with water to butts? Who invented the bidet?

When was the bidet invented? 

Before we get into the bidet origin story, it’s important to note that the bidet was not the first system for washing after going to the bathroom. The ancient Greeks and Romans used what was essentially an old-school loofah for the task: they’d reach down and wipe with a sponge on a stick, which would then be cleaned in salt water or vinegar. 

Wiping with a vinegar-soaked sponge doesn’t sound like a particularly pleasant experience, but luckily humanity has come up with better alternatives since our time in togas. Around 1710, the game got a major upgrade with the invention of the first bidet.

Who invented the bidet?

You might know already that the word “bidet” is French, so you can probably guess where the bidet originated. The history of the bidet began when a French craftsman invented a piece of furniture with a basin for water set into a stand with legs.

In 1710, the royal family’s furniture-maker, Christophe des Rosiers, installed the first bidet in the palace. Not much is known about des Rosiers, but he paved the way for a tradition of refreshing cleanliness that continues to this day. One of the bidet’s first users, Napoleon Bonaparte himself, loved his silver bidet so much that he took it around the world with him when he traveled! It was important enough to him that he specified in his will that this prized possession would go to his son when he died. 

And how did one use this early version of the bidet, you might ask? Well, “bidet” is actually the French word for “pony.” It’s likely that this term was coined as a euphemism to describe the way that one would straddle the fancy bowl to clean themselves. 

Washing up no longer requires awkwardly straddling a silver basin. But the bidet’s original purpose remains the same—to get you cleaner after using the toilet. 

Porcelain bidets and beyond

While the original purpose of the bidet hasn’t changed, butt washing has come a long way since the ancient Greek sponge-on-a-stick method and the silver thrones of Napoleon’s day.

But before a better bidet could be created, something else had to be invented first: indoor plumbing. Once cities had the ability to bring running water into people's homes, porcelain bidets started popping up in bathrooms across Europe. Finally, you didn’t have to be a royal to wash up after the flush. 

Porcelain bidets were cheaper and easier to use than the fancy silver bidets of yore, but they still required extra plumbing and quite a bit of space in your bathroom. Luckily, standalone bidets weren't the final step in bidet evolution—not by a long shot. Nowadays, we have bidets that can be attached to your existing toilet, saving space and making use even easier. 

Enter the bidet attachment

A bidet attachment is a simple and cost-effective way to install a bidet in your own bathroom—without having to get a seperate bathroom fixture. Who invented the bidet attachment? Let’s fast forward to the 1960s to get the answer.

Originally called the American Sitzbath by inventor Arnold Cohen, this type of bidet came on the scene when Cohen made it his mission to help his aging father get clean after going to the bathroom. It took two years and a bit of old-fashioned elbow grease before Cohen finally invented the bidet attachment. He even added a hose to the apparatus for “feminine douching and colonic irrigation.” 

Cohen’s invention piqued the interest of a Japanese trading company, which decided to import the idea to Japan. It took a few decades to catch on—and a bit of tinkering with Cohen’s original design. The company combined the washing and drying features of the American Sitzbath with a high-tech, electronic toilet seat. By the 1980s, this cutting-edge device started making a splash in the Japanese market, and thus, the modern bidet toilet seat was born.

The bidet toilet seat today

Thanks to Cohen’s Sitzbath and the Japanese electronic bidet toilet seat, there are more clean butts around the world than ever before. Bidet fans exist all around the world in places like Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. And Americans are finally catching on following the toilet paper shortages of 2020.

Why are these things so popular? For starters, they're a breeze to install—they simply replace your seat, connect to your toilet's plumbing, and plug in. Bada bing bada boomit’s like a whole new bathroom. 

And let's not forget all of the luxurious features that electronic bidets come with, like a heated seat, a built-in carbon deodorizer (for obvious reasons), a warm-air dryer, and a nightlight to guide you when nature calls in the middle of the night. They may no longer be made of silver, but high-tech modern bidet seats are worth their weight in gold.

Luckily, you don't have to have precious metals—or a palace—to own a bidet. There are bidets that install right on your toilet, under your existing seat, and even collapsible travel bidets you can take with you on the go. Imagine what Christophe des Rosiers and Napoleon Bonaparte would think of that!

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