All hail to the mighty washlet

Photo by Kit Flynn.


By Kit Flynn

Rarely am I accused of being up to date with modern practices, but today I’d like to point out that I’m actually ahead of the game when it comes to the washlet. Recently, there has been a spate of articles extolling this technological marvel, causing me to preen my feathers.

My first exposure to the French bidet was in 1957 when I spied a monster in our hotel bathroom and asked my mother what on earth it was. Amid peals of laughter, she explained and then, because her feet hurt, she demonstrated that it was the perfect utensil for soaking sore feet. As Americans, we were pretty smug as our toilet paper was far superior to European versions: What could they teach us about cleanliness?

I’m embarrassed to say that we didn’t have the curiosity even to give the bidet a proper try.

That truly was the culmination of my bidet education until I happened to read an article in 2015 in The New York Times by Farhad Manjoo that assured me that a miracle toilet seat had arrived, one I wouldn’t want to live without. Suddenly, everything clicked, including instant gratification, and I ordered two Toto washlets from Amazon. Obviously, washlets were meant to be part of my future.

The reactions of my friends and four sons amazed me. Here I thought I had a winning prize and my friends and family proved that they hadn’t moved one inch beyond 1957 when it came to bathing bottoms. Sounds of disbelieving amazement arose from my nearest and dearest. Still, I persevered in my sudden quest for washlet happiness.

The installation is not the easiest, primarily because American bathrooms typically do not have an electrical outlet close to the toilet. Now there is a good reason to install this outlet even if you belong to the I-will-never-use-a-washlet camp, because everyone—and I mean everyone—loves having a warm toilet seat. Once you get used to a warm seat, you will never return to the harsh reality of a cold seat in the middle of the night.

I was lucky in that I had previously installed Toto toilets, figuring that the Japanese had the jump on everyone when it came to cleanliness. Therefore, I could order Toto washlets, confident that they would fit. When I mailed my daughter-in-law a Toto washlet as a thank you (now, you will agree, that was an original gift), it didn’t fit her toilet, so I bought her a Toto toilet so that my thank you gift could be used.

Manjoo assured his readers that the extra drying mechanism was unnecessary. Here I have to add my two cents worth of information: Women love and appreciate the drying feature—spring for it.

I also recommend the models that use a remote control. Hung in close proximity of the toilet, they give you a wider command than do the models with the side panel of controls.

Photo by Kit Flynn.

A plumber is recommended for installation purposes. And then, you’re on your own. With fear and trepidation, as you push that first button, you’ll be relatively surprised—and most of you will never revert back to old habits and practices.

Half the members of my knitting group now have acquired washlets. While half of our group was panicking over the recent Great Toilet Paper Shortage, we elite washlet owners sat smugly by, toilet paper has become an item we could survive without. Happiness is facing a severe shortage that doesn’t really affect you.

The washlet washes the basin after use while the spraying wand is self-cleaning. As you approach the toilet, it will greet you with almost a gurgling sound, thereby surprising people.

There are many benefits to using the washlet, which you can read about here. You will also find out that the word “bidet” is derived from the French word for a breed of a particular small horse that became extinct when larger horses proved to be economically more viable.

Of all the technological advances in the last twenty years, the washlet ranks near the top of my list. Try it out. You, too, may become hooked.

After being an active member of the Durham County Extension Master Gardeners for 13 years, Kit Flynn now holds emeritus status. For five years she was the gardening correspondent for “Senior Correspondent” and shared “The Absentee Gardener” column with fellow Master Gardener Lise Jenkins. She has given numerous presentations on various gardening topics to Triangle organizations and can be reached at
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