Bathtubs and Bidets – What Makes a Healthy Bathroom?

It’s the cultural “boxers or briefs” questions — do you use paper or a bidet? Squat or sit? Around the world, different cultures have different solutions for personal hygiene issues — from bidets to squat toilets to walk-in bathtubs.

The Sink

Most cultures incorporate sinks in their bathroom designs. Even in societies with no running water, basins and pitchers provide a way for people to groom themselves as well as wash hands and faces. Washing your hands with soap after using the toilet reduces the chance of fecal matter spreading. However, to be the most effective for hand washing, your sink’s tap should be easy to turn on and off — even with soapy hands. Also, the tap should be cleaned regularly to make sure unhealthy bacteria doesn’t thrive on it and transfer to clean hands.

The Bidet

Most famous for being used in France, the bidet is found throughout Europe and is gaining popularity in America. In Japan, travelers may find sit-down toilets with attachments that have a bidet function. While different bidet designs function differently, the idea is to direct a cleansing stream of water at your body. Some environmentalists looking to lessen environmental impact have suggested bidets as an alternative to toilet paper. They’re said to be healthy for your body as they provide an abrasion-free cleansing alternative when suffering from vaginitis, hemorrhoids or other ailments. The regular use of bidets supposedly reduces the occurrence of urinary tract and other infections as well.

The Sit-Down Toilet

The toilet most Americans and Western Europeans own, the sit-down flush toilet has been used widespread only for a few hundred years. The biggest benefit of a sit-down toilet is comfort. Elderly or disabled people have an easier time using this toilet, too. Sit-toilets have been criticized from some doctors for the posture users adapt while sitting. This posture doesn’t allow the body to evacuate waste without straining, these doctors say.

The Squat Toilet

Popular in Asia, the Middle East and parts of Europe, some doctors say the squat toilet is healthier for human bodies than the sit-down toilet, because the angle of your internal organs makes it easier to release waste in a squat position. The squat is also arguably easier to clean — with less moving parts and areas for bacteria to build up. A squat toilet can be cleaned quickly and more efficiently without having to touch many surfaces. However, squat toilets also have more potential to release bacteria onto the floor, where it can be tracked to other parts of the house.

The Shower

Taking a bath or a shower seems to be most Americans’ standard of daily personal hygiene. But what is healthier? Showers get rid of the excess dirt and oils that build up throughout the day, and make it easier to eliminate dead skin cells. They also can save water (depending on your style of showering) so they’re healthier for the planet. But some shower critics say, some people don’t wash themselves thoroughly enough in the shower, even when they think they are doing so.

The Bathtub

Your bathtub can be a great health benefit to you, but it can be a hazard when not properly cleaned. Soaking in hot water, and with various salts and essential oils helps skin infections, joint aches, pains and stress. Elderly people especially can benefit from a soaking in a (well-cleaned) bathtub. Walk-in bathtubs make it possible for even mobility-limited people to enjoy a hot soak.

Cold baths, at certain times of year, can also help you stay clean and regulate body temperature. But, the use of improperly cleaned bathtubs over a period of time can cause fungal infections. Mildew build-up in the tub or in the grout around an inadequately sealed tub can cause mild to severe allergic reactions in some people, too.

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