One of the key ideas behind the Toto Washlet is that it benefits the environment by reducing the amount of toilet paper people need to use. Americans alone use 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper -- or the equivalent of 15 million trees -- each year. On top of that, simply producing the soft ply uses up more than 473 billion gallons of water, and then packaging and shipping require energy and resources, too [source: Thomas]. Bidet supporters argue that toilet paper is also detrimental to sewer systems because of frequent clogs and the constant need to be emptied. Although people sometimes still use toilet paper after using the bidet, they likely use less than they would without it.
The Washlet may help to reduce the use of toilet paper, but what about the water supply needed for the spray mechanism? According to Toto, the device uses less than a gallon of water per day for the average family. Users can determine the length of the cleansing cycle (can be as brief as 20 seconds), but the water usage ranges from about 9 to 30 ounces per minute for front and rear cleanses [source: Toto]. This doesn't affect the water used for flushing, however.
Another environmental benefit the Washlet boasts is its energy efficiency. You can set the entire unit to shut down after a pre-determined length of time (three, six or nine hours) to prevent wasting energy [source: Toto]. However, it should be noted that energy and water are still expended with each use, as well as through the manufacturing and shipping of the Washlet.
Besides the environmental benefits, are there any personal pluses? One big question is whether bidets are really as sanitary as wiping. On one hand, one might argue that wiping isn't so sanitary to begin with, and not properly washing your hands afterward can spread germs. However, some experts caution that bacteria can build up in the Washlet's or bidet's spray faucet and also lead to infection. But new advancements -- such as the self-cleaning nozzle -- may make that less of a concern. In fact, the water jet may even be more soothing for people with rashes, hemorrhoids or even rough skin from excessive wiping [source: WebMD]. Bidets also may help relieve symptoms of urinary tract infections and inflammatory bowel diseases.
From bidets and squat toilets to self-cleaning stalls and composters, experts are working diligently to create the next toilet that's best for the planet and our bottoms.
Keep reading for lots more information on the Toto Washlet and other toilet technology.