Can Bidets Be Shared? Tips for Sanitation and Etiquette

Can Bidets Be Shared

Today we’re looking at whether bidets can be shared. First, there’s the hygiene concern. Is sharing bidets sanitary? Are bidets sanitary for multiple users? Then there’s the etiquette concern. Folks often want to know if they can use someone else’s bidet when in another’s bathroom or if permission needs to be asked first.

Bidets can be shared. The practice of sharing bidets is sanitary and there’s no reason to consider it any less hygienic than the commonplace practice of using another’s toilet. Also, unlike regular toilets, modern bidets often clean themselves as many have self-sanitizing bowls and wands/nozzles.

Keep in mind, the info in this article refers to normal situations involving friends and family. One study tested the bidet cleaning wands of toilets in a Japanese hospital–toilest that saw lots of traffic from random people, many of which were sick–and found over 80% of the nozzles to be contaminated with harmful bacteria like E coli (source).

But for 99% of situations, sharing bidets is fine and shouldn’t be considered any less hygienic than housemates sitting on the same toilet seat. Toilet seat surfaces are safe if cleaned regularly, and the same goes for bidets.

What we’ll do here is look at some common questions surrounding the idea of using another person’s bidet, taking into consideration both hygiene and etiquette.

Sharing Bidets Is Hygienic if…

…you keep up with the cleaning schedule. Most bidet owner’s manuals advise cleaning the nozzle once per month with a toothbrush and vinegar water or a mild cleaning solution.

One ick factor when it comes to using devices for personal hygiene is the thought of sharing those devices. And for good reason, as personal hygiene accessories often come in contact with potentially infectious bodily fluids. But for several reasons, sharing bidets turns out to be normal, safe, and hygienic when cleaned regularly.

  • Many modern bidets are self-cleaning. Some models clean the bowl regularly, as well as before and after every use with a self-misting function. The best self-cleaning bidets have nozzles that resist microbial growth. Some are made of antimicrobial material (high-quality plastic treated with antimicrobial additives). Others self-rinse with a solution that sanitizes the nozzle–for example, Brondell uses silver and TOTO uses something they call Ewater.
  • Modern bidets have retractable wands. Contrary to a pervasive myth, bidets don’t get poop all over them. Most folks know that the newer models shoot water from a wand up at your butt from underneath. This can create the image that the toilet has some kind of fixed nozzle in the toilet bowl that is subject to both pee and poo on a daily basis. This is not the case. Not only are wands retractable, but some models have self-cleaning wands.
  • Toilets and standalone bidets are used separately. The traditional European-style bidet is meant to be used only after you’ve used the toilet. So, bidets are not routinely soiled with feces. While some contaminated water does contact the basin, you have no reason to touch the basin anymore than you’d have a reason to touch the inside of a toilet bowl.

Can I Use a Bidet at Someone Else’s Place?

This is a question that comes from folks who are concerned about sanitation, but also those who are wondering about the etiquette of using another person’s bidet (are there customs to follow, etc.).

You can use a bidet at someone else’s place. If you have permission to use the restroom, then it should follow that you can use the bidet—no extra consent is needed.  

When it comes to etiquette around permission, bidets (regardless of the kind) are considered an extension of the toilet. So, it’s more like using someone’s commode or sink as opposed to borrowing a person’s razor or deodorant.

Asking to use the restroom is considered good manners, but there’s no need to ask permission to use the bidet specifically.

Keep in mind, a lot of what we consider suitable to share is based on cultural ideas and customs more so than any scientific knowledge around sanitation and hygiene.

For example, I doubt many of you have considered purchasing used underwear. There are probably several reasons for that—for one, most underwear is fairly cheap—but for the most part, it just seems unsanitary.

That really shouldn’t be the case if you think about it. After all, garments tend to be thoroughly cleaned with detergent as well as washing and drying machines that reach temperatures sufficient to kill most germs.

Considerations When Using Someone Else’s Bidet

On Using Someone Else’s Handheld Sprayer

Handheld bidets look like the sprayer you’d see in kitchen sinks. It’s one of the more primitive versions, but remains popular because it is very effective in cleaning—it often just lacks some of the newer bells and whistles like temperature control.

I can see how some might find this version unsanitary. After all, the owner does use it by reaching down into the toilet bowl between their legs to target the soiled area.

It’s not hard to imagine that it may come in contact with contaminated surfaces and soiled skin. If you’re wary of using another person’s “bum gun”, just avoid touching anything but your hands (the hands will be washed anyway).

Avoid Dedicated Bidet Towels

If you see a small towel hanging next to the bidet—especially the standalone kind—it ain’t a face towel! These are used for dabbing dry after washing the soiled area.

Even when someone uses soap when cleansing, it’s unlikely that the area they’re dabbing dry would be free of contamination.

Not to mention, anything moist is bound to lead to the growth of microbes as water is needed for bacterial growth.

So, try to avoid using these for drying for any reason—butt, hands, or face.

Your host will appreciate it too.

Wipe First if Using a Standalone Bidet

In fact, wiping before using a bidet is common practice regardless of the type.

This has more to do with etiquette. For those new to the subject, it may seem like the traditional bidet would be used to do all the cleaning, but that’s not the case.

You’ll use the toilet as usual, then wipe the area with toilet paper. You don’t have to be super thorough, because most of the cleaning will be done after with water.

But not wiping first could reduce the likelihood that any reside will be left behind in the basin.

Is It Sanitary to Buy a Used Bidet?

This is a question I get from time to time from folks who are looking to make a purchase but want to save money.

Purchasing a used bidet is considered safe and sanitary. While the idea of purchasing a used toilet might be off-putting to some, keep in mind that most people moving into a new house or apartment use the pre-existing toilet—a commode that random strangers have used up to that point.

As with using toilets at another’s residence, be it a friend or an Airbnb property, the main consideration would be making sure the unit is sanitized. When you go to a rental property, like a hotel, the sanitation is done for you.

And, I’d imagine that whoever sells the device to you will do some cleaning. But, as the old saying goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself.

If you decide to purchase a bidet, ensure that you clean it from time to time per the manufacturer’s instructions. That goes for both new and used units.

Traditional standalone bidets are made of materials that standard toilets are comprised of—so, you’d approach cleaning one like you would cleaning your toilet.

But, whether we’re talking about a modern high-tech toilet or a European-style bidet, always make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Some cleaning solvents and tools can be damaging and corrosive to certain materials, so you’ll want to make sure you’re following the cleaning directions for your model.

Using Public Restrooms with Bidets: Are Public Bidets Sanitary?

A picture of a bidet in a public restroom. The image zooms in on the dual nozzles that show a significant buildup of dirt and grime.
I picture taken when traveling. Bidets in public restrooms are common in SE Asia

Bidet Toilets and Toilet Seats

Public bidets are not sanitary. The bidet nozzle surfaces aren’t manually cleaned often enough to ensure a sanitary cleansing experience. While public bidets are often equipped with self-cleaning nozzles, such nozzle cleaning functions don’t sanitize surfaces.

Even when a bidet comes with a self-sanitizing nozzle (Brondell’s silver oxide or TOTO’s EWATER+, etc.), the directions that come with such bidets still state that manual nozzle cleaning is required on a regularly basis. Also, public toilets see so much traffic which would necessitate an even more stringent cleaning schedule.

There’s no way to know how often the nozzles are cleaned and whether they’re cleaned correctly.

Finally, there are no studies that indicate how often a public bidet would need to be cleaned to remain sanitary. Even when a bathroom fixture appears clean, it might not be sanitary, which is why we use toilet seat covers and TP to cover the seat surface before sitting down on a public toilet seat.

I have yet to encounter a public restroom here in the US that uses bidets of any kind. But in some countries, they tend to be common. If you run across a bidet seat on a public toilet, I’d use TP or bring a portable sprayer.

Standalone Bidets

In Europe, you’ll sometimes find standalone bidets in hotels. Sitting on one of these is like sitting on a toilet, so you should be fine. If the hotel is fancy enough to have such a bidet, you won’t need to worry about sanitation.

If you’re someone who likes to cover your toilet seat with paper, even in hotel rooms, you can do the same with the sitting surface of the bidet basin.

Handheld Sprayers

These are quite common in public restrooms in some parts of the world.

When it comes to using public restrooms, it’s always advisable to avoid letting anything in the restroom contact skin surfaces that won’t be cleaned before leaving.

This is why health experts advise always washing your hands before leaving the restroom and why some have gone as far as to suggest not touching the door directly on your way out (using your shirt or a piece of paper to guard your hand).

When it comes to the toilet itself, most people follow the age-old practice of covering the seat with toilet paper. This can be done on standalone bidets as well—just cover the area you’ll be sitting on.

Touching the handheld sprayer shouldn’t be an issue, since you’ll be washing your hands on the way out. However, you’ll want to avoid touching your thighs and nether regions when reaching down to use it.

But, avoiding contact with the hands is the main thing to remember because the hands are what come in contact with the face, eyes, and nose throughout the day—areas of the body that can easily be infected.

Is Sharing Bidets Sanitary? Conclusion

So, there you have it.

For home use (family and friends), shared bidets are sanitary if the nozzles are cleaned regularly (per manufacturer’s instructions). Bidets in public restrooms should be avoided, as there is no way to know how often the unit is cleaned and studies have shown public bidet nozzles to be contaminated.

Bidets can be shared. Not only is it a normal practice, but many countries have them in their public restrooms.

You needn’t ask for permission. If you have permission to use the restroom, it only follows that you can make use of the bidet.

Covering surfaces that you sit on or straddle is usually a good idea if you’re using one in public. And it may be something you want to do if you’re using the restroom of a friend or acquaintance.

Thanks for reading.

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