How Do Portable Bidets Work? Full Explanation with Pictures


Today’s question is all about how portable bidets work. They’re commonly referred to and marketed as travel bidets.

Bidets take so many forms that the terminology can be quite confusing. Even within the category of portable bidets, there are several types—each of which we’ll be getting into in this article—and each type functions a bit differently.

But, in short, how do portable bidets work?

Portable bidets, aka travel bidets, work by allowing the user to perform a manual cleanse. A water-filled reservoir with a nozzle is placed under the toilet seat and directed at the desired area. Depending on the model, the reservoir is squeezed or a battery-powered motor produces the water stream.

The term bidet usually describes a unit that’s meant for cleaning up after a bowel movement. But, in my experience, the cheaper varieties (manual squeeze bottle type) can go by several different descriptions.

For example, they’re often advertised for postpartum care, general perennial cleansing, feminine hygiene, etc. 

Basically, they can be marketed for about anything that squirting water would be useful for.

Again, how a portable bidet works depends on what type of unit it is. So, here we’ll go over the function of each based on the category.

The Different Types of Portable Bidets: Function, Comparison, Benefits

AA Battery Powered Bidets

Most of the higher quality travel bidets come as handheld units with small motors that run on batteries. The motor sends the water from the reservoir through an adjustable nozzle straight to the area you want to clean.

The nozzles typically fold into the unit so they take up less room.

These come in several different looks, some larger than others. To me, they tend to resemble large electric toothbrushes when fully extended.

Positioning looks like this.

My favorite travel bidet (the one I own and always recommend) is the TOTO Travel Handy Washlet (non-affiliate link). It has a unique look, much more compact than the one shown above.

I like it because the cleansing I get is closest to what I receive from my bidet seat (a toilet seat with a built-in bidet).

I was surprised at how strong the motor is. Electric bidets, even those that plug into an outlet, tend to be weaker than non-electric bidets. The non-electric kind, namely bidet attachments and sprayers, work with your home’s water pressure system so they’re pretty powerful.

Electric bidets contain a motor that propels the water. Given how non-electric bidets are more powerful than the electric kind, I expected a battery-powered unit to be noticeably weaker than one plugged into a power socket.

That did not turn out to be the case. When it comes to water pressure, I find the above model to be on par with my fancy seat.

The motor sprays the water, but does not warm the water up.

I bring this up because some are advertised for being able to cleanse with warm water, but if war water is important, you will have to put warm water in the reservoir. This goes for all portable bidets on the market today.

Keep in mind the reservoir isn’t insulated like a tumbler. So, if you want warm water, you’ll need to fill it up soon before using it.

Also, having a motor, this kind emits a noise. It’s not a loud grating noise or anything, but it is noticeable. So, if you don’t like the idea of making noises in a public restroom, you may want to get a manual model.

Rechargeable Battery-Powered Bidets

These function like the ones described above but you don’t have to worry with purchasing and swapping out batteries.

I know a brand called Sonny (not SONY) has a sleek looking model that’s rechargeable with a USB plug.

I personally wouldn’t recommend a unit just because it’s rechargeable unless you plan to use it daily as a sole bidet in your arsenal. Most don’t use portable bidets nearly as often as permanent fixtures, so the AA batteries usually last a good long time.

But, there are some nice rechargeable models. I’ve never used the Sonny model but it seems to get good feedback.

Squeeze Bottle Bidets

Now we’re getting really primitive.

With this kind, you simply squeeze the reservoir manually which creates a pressure difference that sends the water through the nozzle.

These are the least sophisticated bidets on the market and this goes for all categories, not just portable bidets.

And, as you’d imagine, they are the cheapest. If you get a decent model, it really will get the job done.

You can fill them up before usage, but you’ll have to carry around a water bottle that may end up leaking. No matter the model, they’re bound to leak eventually.

The lower price and ease of use are the main perks for getting a squeeze bottle bidet.

Not all models are what I’d consider super cheap (under $10). They range anywhere from $8 to about $30 with those in the $30 range being the most durable and leak-resistant.

If you really want a manual bidet, TUSHY puts out one that’s collapsible and folds up like an accordion. From the reviews I’ve read, it seems that leaking is not a problem.

Bottle Top Bidets

These come as both manual and battery-powered. They’re nozzles that universally fit threads on disposable water bottles. Otherwise, they function like any other squeeze bottle or motorized bidet.

I think the idea is that they’re convenient and take up less room.

I’m not sure what the appeal is. After all, you’re only managing to save room by doing away with a permanent water bottle.

But, you’ll have to source a water bottle each time you need to use it. I’d imagine this would prove to be more inconvenient than carrying around a reservoir.  

If you want an electric one, you’ll need to look for a battery-powered unit where the head is detachable. The detachable head will need to fit the threads/bottleneck on most water bottles.

Keep in mind that both the neck and threads of water bottles do vary in size so they’re not truly universal.

Here’s an example of a bottle top bidet that fits the reservoir it came in as well as most small disposable plastic water bottles.

For the non-motorized kind, a disposable water bottle stands in for a squeeze bottle.

The nozzle should be similar to the ones seen on the squeeze bottle bidet shown above, but models do vary. For example, there’s one called the CuloClean that doesn’t have a long neck on it.

Portable Handheld Bidets

First a quick distinction…

Handheld vs. Portable Bidets

All portables are handheld, but the opposite isn’t true.

The terminology can be confusing. All portable bidets are handheld, as in you hold them in your hand to perform a manual cleansing.

However, “handheld bidet” is usually synonymous with handheld sprayers that are installed in bathrooms and hooked up to your current toilet’s water supply.

Handheld bidets resemble the sprayers common in kitchen sinks.

These are often referred to as bidet showers. Because they work with the water routed to your toilet tank’s water supply, a standard handheld bidet is far from portable.

Some are designed to be hooked up to a faucet (to allow for warm water flow), and I suppose these could be considered portable, but they’re not intended to be used for travel.

After all, you never know if you’ll have a faucet that’s close enough to the toilet for these to work in a given restroom and the connector isn’t always compatible with the spigot.

If you prefer using a traditional handheld sprayer and want to have one that’s suitable for travel and short-term stays in rental properties, then there is a better option: a portable handheld bidet.

The Best Handheld Sprayer That’s Portable

These are much less common, but they are awesome. For those who really like the handheld sprayers, this may be the way to go.

They do offer the most thorough clean of any portable bidet.

They use a battery-powered motor that sends water from one end of the supply hose through the spray nozzle.

Unlike the above portable bidets, these are ideal for short-term stays (e.g. Airbnb rentals, hotels), but are not suited to public restrooms.

They’re carried in a small case and don’t require installation so they’re considered portable in that sense. While they fit in a suitcase, they are not suitable for purses or small handbags so if you need a portable bidet to use on the go anywhere in public, this isn’t the kind for you.

If you’re going to go with this kind, I would recommend the MyPortaWash Model-T portable rechargeable bidet. It comes with its own collapsible water container.

It even comes with a  water filter to make sure you’re only spraying clean water.

Portable Bidets vs. Other Kinds

One common question is how portable bidets stack up against other bidets on the market. After all, a unit that works when you’re out and about can work just fine at home.

And renters sometimes want to avoid making any changes, even temporary tweaks, to the bathroom setup on their rental property.

Just so you know, most modern bidets are fine for renters. For more info, make sure to read the article on which bidets are best for apartments and other rental properties.

In case you’re new to the subject, bidets are usually categorized the following way:

  • Electric bidet seats and bidet-toilet combos. Seats come as a seat/lid combination that replaces the seat on a standard toilet. With the toilet, you get the seat plus a full commode (tank, basin, etc.). Both come with all of the fancy features associated with modern-day bidets like temperature control, retractable self-cleaning nozzles, dryers for your butt, remote controls, self-cleaning bowls, self-closing seats, etc.
  • Handheld sprayers. Like those common in kitchen sinks, these sprayers come with a hose, handle, and nozzle. Being non-electric they spray cold water—the water that normally goes to the tank. Special plumbing or faucet attachments can allow for warm water, but most prefer to use these the traditional way. For more info make sure to check out the article on bidet showers.
  • Attachments and non-electric seats. Non-electric seats are like the seats above but don’t have any technology other than the mechanical extension and retraction of the wand. Bidet attachments are fixed to a standard toilet but don’t replace the seat. You install them under your current seat/lid in the same bolt holes. Like sprayers, they’re non-electric so they only spray cool water. These are usually considered the next best thing if you don’t want to opt for a seat. But, they are more affordable—seats usually go for a couple hundred dollars or more.

On the bidet rating tier list, most users put high-end portable bidets somewhere middle of the road—even for home use.

In fact, I recommend portable bidets as one of several good options for those with tankless and skirted toilets.

They’re certainly less effective than a bidet seat (the seats usually go for a couple hundred) but they offer a few perks that bidet attachments lack.

You will get much better pressure with a bidet attachment compared to portable bidets.

But, portable bidets more easily allow for warm water cleansing—something a lot of bidet users find to be indispensable.

Personally, if a bidet seat or toilet is out of the question, I’d choose an attachment over a portable bidet for home use.

But, it’s ultimately a matter of preference and a lot of folks find that portable bidets work just fine as a daily driver whether at home or out and about.

Conclusion

That should sum it up.

All portable aka travel bidets function via manual pressure or a motor that sends water from a reservoir through a nozzle.

Portable bidets lack features of modern high-tech seats and toilets but they get the job done. You don’t need all the bells and whistles listed above to get a cleansing that far surpasses anything offered by toilet paper.

Good portable models offer a decent amount of pressure and warm water can be used if you have access to a faucet before using the toilet.

Although the water in public restrooms is chemically treated and should be fine, some find the idea of cleaning with strange water unsettling. If that’s you, then you may want to pre-fill your reservoir prior to leaving home.

And, if you’ll be pre-filling your bidet, make sure to find a model that’s known to be leak-resistant.

Thanks for reading.

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