Picture this. You’re on vacation in bella Italia and you’ve just checked into your B&B in Florence. You drop your bags, walk into the bathroom to check it out and… you see a little basin next to the toilet.
What is this toilet buddy? Is it a second toilet? A mini laundry sink? A drinking fountain?
No – it’s an Italian bidet!
What is a Bidet?
A bidet is a small basin located near the toilet that you use to wash your private parts after using the toilet.
So, instead of just wiping with toilet paper, you use soap and water to clean the area.
You can also use a bidet to ‘freshen up’ and wash ‘down there’ as you feel necessary. For example, if you’ve been out exploring Bolzano on a hot day, you may not need a whole-body shower, but it would feel nice to wash your private areas.
Important: The bidet is not a toilet. Make sure you first do your business in the toilet and then wash in the bidet.
In Italy, most bidets are standalone (a separate basin next to the toilet), in contrast to the bidet toilet seat style (the bidet is part of the normal toilet).
Common Questions about Bidets in Italy
Why do I need to use the bidet if I use toilet paper?
A common scenario: You’re out walking your dog and he poops. You clean it up, but get some on your hand. Do you:
- Wipe the poop with a paper towel and continue with your day.
- Wash with soap and water as soon as possible.
I’m guessing you wash your hand. Now just transfer that idea to your bum – wouldn’t you rather spend your day walking around with a clean one?
Is using a bidet clean? Won’t my hands get dirty?
Using a bidet is very hygienic. If you feel more comfortable, you can also use a wash cloth or small hand towel to help you wash. Think about how you wash your private parts when you take a shower, and replicate that with the bidet.
When you’re finished using the bidet, you can wash your hands with soap and water.
Can I sit on the bidet or do I need to squat?
You can sit on the edge of the basin, unless you have quads of steel and can squat while you wash. If you’re concerned about the cleanliness of the basin, wipe it down with a sanitizing wipe before you use it.
Do I use toilet paper after using the toilet if I’m going to use the bidet?
It’s up to you. Some people wipe quickly before using the bidet. Others just move directly over to the bidet to wash.
Remember that toilet paper must go in the toilet, not in the bidet.
How do I dry off after using the Italian bidet?
You can use toilet paper or a cloth towel.
Can my child use the bidet?
Yes, children can be taught to use the bidet. Small children may need help getting up onto the bidet and with the washing. Older kids can usually master the bidet if they know how to wipe.
Can my baby use the bidet?
Yes, you can use the bidet to wash your baby after he/she poops. In Italy, we wash a baby’s bum after every poop. You can use the sink or the bidet. You can sit your baby on the edge (holding him/her tightly) and wash the bum and dry with a cloth towel.
Should I use the bidet while visiting Italian family or friends for dinner?
Generally, just use the bidet at your accommodation in Italy. So, if you go to have dinner at a friend’s or cousin’s house, don’t use the bidet. Wipe with toilet paper and save your bidet session for when you get back to your hotel and your bidet.
Italian Bidet Types
- Bidet with Faucet
- Bidet that Fills
- Bidet with Hose
- Old Faithful Bidet
Good To Know: In Italy, toilet seat bidets are rare. You will almost exclusively find standalone bidets in Italy.
Fun Fact: Italian homes are required by law to have at least one bidet (Ministerial decree of July 5, 1975 – Article 7). Per ciascun alloggio, almeno una stanza da bagno deve essere dotato dei seguenti impianti igienici: vaso, bidet, vasca da bagno o doccia, lavabo. Translation: For each home, at least one bathroom must have the following sanitary facilities: toilet, bidet, bathtub or shower, sink.
How to Use a Bidet in Italy
First of all, don’t be intim-bidet-ted (see what I did there?). The bidet is simple to use!
1. Pull your clothing down or away – you don’t want to get it wet!
2. Take a seat. Face toward the controls and jets, or away from it. Note: How you sit will depend on the type of bidet. The important thing is to be comfortable and have access to the controls (water pressure and temperature).
3. Turn on the water or fill the basin with water (depending on the type of bidet).
4. Use the water (and soap) to clean your private parts.
5. Dry off using a cloth towel or toilet paper. In Italy, there’s usually a small towel rack or ring next to the bidet. Each person should have their own small towel. Toilet paper can be used but can be tricky because it can rip or stick to your skin.
Helpful Tips for Using the Bidet
- Check the water flow and temperature before you sit on the bidet. This will help you avoid soaking your clothing or burning your skin.
- Notice where the water comes out of the bidet. You can then plan for where it will hit your body, or for how close you need to get.
- If you’re a female who practices ‘wipe from the front to the back’ it’s usually easiest to face the controls and water spray. That way the water is moving from front to back.
- You can use regular soap or detergente intimo (aka sapone intimo), which is a special pH-balanced soap that helps prevent bacteria and yeast overgrowth. At the grocery store or pharmacy, you’ll find detergente intimo for females, males, and kids – who all have different natural pH levels.
Italian Bidet Accessories
- Soap – Use regular soap, body wash, or pH-balanced detergente intimo. You can purchase all of these at grocery stores (supermercati) or pharmacies (farmacie). Common brands include Chilly and Saugella, but you can even find luxe sapone intimo by brands like Santa Maria Novella Farmacia.
- Towel – Use a cloth towel (one per person!) or toilet paper.
Alternative Uses For the Bidet
So, we know what the bidet’s intended use is. But(t), are there any other ways it’s used? There are documented cases of people using a bidet for:
- Keeping beer on ice
- Washing feet
- Storing toilet paper or toiletries
- Shaving legs
- Keeping pets hydrated
- Bathing babies
- Doing laundry
- An emergency potty (pee only) for young children
Italian Bidet Vocabulary
- Bidè – bidet
- Vaso – toilet
- Carta igienica – toilet paper
- Sapone intimo – special soap for down there
- Detergente intimo – special soap for down there
- Asciugamano – towel
- Acqua calda – hot water
- Acqua fredda – cold water
- Acqua tiepida – warm water
- Mano – hand
- Pulito – clean
How do you pronounce bidet in Italian?
In Italy, bidet is bidè, and pronounced bee-DAY.
Can I use the bidet if I have hemorrhoids?
Yes, you can use the bidet if you have hemorrhoids. In fact, cleansing with a bidet and patting the area dry is less irritating than wiping with toilet paper.
Do you wipe before using the bidet?
It’s up to you. You may want to do a mini wipe to ‘tidy things up’ before you wash. But, you can also just move from the toilet to the bidet without using any toilet paper.
Does every Italian bathroom have a bidet?
Most public bathrooms to do not have a bidet, but you’ll find at least one bidet in almost all Italian private homes. A 1975 law requires all Italian homes to have at least one bidet.
Do bidets in Italy have heated seats?
No, Italian bidets don’t have heated seats. In fact, Italian bidets don’t have seats – they’re seatless basins. Most Italian bidets are standalone bidets, in contrast to bidets you’ll find in the US, which are usually seats that are part of the toilet (and not a separate fixture).