It's taken decades, but bidets are finally catching on in North America as a result of the "Great Toilet Paper Shortage" of early 2020. If you're not familiar with the bidet, the term is getting used more loosely now, but the original definition is the freestanding bathroom amenity that you sit astride for cleaning your private parts with a spray of water after doing your business next door on the toilet. Typically, these freestanding basins are installed next to the toilet at least 30 inches apart.
Building codes specify a minimum of 30 inches between a bidet and a toilet.
Bidet and Toilet Clearance Dimensions
If you're installing a bidet, it requires essentially the same floor space as a toilet — roughly 30 by 48 inches. The drainage system only requires a 1 1/2-inch drain pipe, like a shower or sink, since there's no human waste involved, per se.
With toilets and bidets, the code is essentially the same — a minimum of 15 inches is required on either side of the toilet, measured from the center of the bowl out. The distance between them should be a minimum of 30 inches under most building codes. Better Homes & Gardens recommends going with 36 inches between the two facilities, though, which echoes the National Kitchen & Bath Association's recommendations in its NKBA Kitchen & Bathroom Planning Guidelines with Access Standards.
But Are Bidets Really Necessary?
The bidet is a freestanding device plumbed with both hot and cold water for use in cleaning your private parts, but the term has been used interchangeably when people are actually talking about a "washlet." As the Handy Man Home Remodeling Center explains, a washlet is a simple toilet attachment, or a specialty toilet seat, with a spraying nozzle that accomplishes the same thing as a bidet: It makes your tushy clean.
Those freestanding bidets are certainly handy, but that's a lot of prime, expensive real estate to give up. Plus, it's a whole other amenity that needs cleaning! Standalone bidets are traditional in Europe, but over in Asia, the robo-toilet is the star of the clean-tushy show. They can do everything from spraying in user-selected modes from hard sprays to mists to air-drying your privates.
But if you haven't got the $1,500 or so for some of those fancy washlet-aided toilets, you can switch out the whole seat for one that has a washlet installed. Or if you want to save some money, products like the Tushy are available for under $100, and you could kit out every toilet in your home and still have money left over.
Cleaning Up for Mother Earth
When toilet paper became scarce during the 2020 pandemic, Americans realized how much a bidet would cut down on the amount of toilet paper they needed. As some folks championed the bidet and washlets for their reduction in paper use, others shouted that water consumption was rising. But the truth is, by using less toilet paper, less water is used overall. In fact, according to Big Think, making each roll of toilet paper requires 37 gallons of water.
Whether you install a bidet that's recommended to be 30 to 36 inches away from your toilet or you convert your toilet with a washlet, you're making a great sanitation choice that's better for your hygiene, better for your plumbing, takes strain off your back, will help save the environment and, ultimately, will save you money.
Steffani Cameron is the daughter of a realtor and interior decorator mother and a home contractor father. Steffani is a professional writer with over five years' experience writing about the home for BuildDirect and Bob Vila. Raised with a mad love for decorating, Steffani gave up her Art Deco apartment to travel and work remotely for five years. She's in love with experiencing traditional decor around the world, including stays in Thai teak plantations on the Mekong River and cave homes in Turkey.