In Defense of the Butt Hose

Warning: What follows is somewhat graphic in nature. That said, parents with children between the ages of three and eleven might actually enjoy reading it aloud to them.

People sometimes ask what's our favorite thing about living in Chennai, India, or what we'll miss most when we leave. We've been living here a year now. We've experienced the vibrant culture, exquisitely spicy food, low cost of living, and beaches with bathwater warm waves. There is plenty to appreciate about India. But my answer is always the same.

I am fanatic about the butt hose.

In Praise of the Butt Hose

The butt hose, also called a bidet hose or hand-held bidet sprayer, is a small hose with a pressurized nozzle attached to the side of every toilet in India and most of Southeast Asia and most Muslim countries. It is similar to the spray hose sometimes found in kitchen sinks, only much longer. Do not confuse it with a built-in bidet that you might find in a French or Japanese toilet, which is comparatively impractical in design.

Before I describe in great detail the reasons for my own personal affinity for the butt hose, let me first explain its many varied uses, noting that they are not all butt-related. Yes, as its name implies, there is some hosing down of bums involved with the butt hose, but there are many other uses, too.

For example, every two weeks or so, I have to clean the screens in all the air conditioning units and dehumidifiers in the house. I pop them out, carry them into the shower, and proceed to spray them with high pressure and wonderful precision using the butt hose.

Have a baby? Need to rinse the baby without giving him or her a full bath? Dangle your small child above the toilet and give a few quick sprays.

In a hot and humid climate, women easily develop their own reasons they might like a personal rinse: a post-sex spritz, to wash off during menstruation, or simply cool off down there on a hot and humid day.

The butt hose therefore is a high value item with multiple purposes for people of all ages and sexes.

How Does It Work? FAQs

A few years ago in the U.S., a new product came to market: moistened, disposable towelettes for toilet use. The person who invented these wet wipes for adults once made this analogy: When your hands are dirty from gardening, do you take a dry paper towel and rub it vigorously on them? No. You wash with water and soap. The same principle applies here. After doing your business, the wipe will be much more effective if there's a quick rinse first.

I'm still shocked more people don't agree emphatically with me every time I talk about how much I'm going to miss the butt hose after we leave India. But I'm even more surprised at the follow-up questions they ask about how it works. Are other Westerners not using this genius invention of personal hygiene?

Now, I'm sure small children who are raised in the region learn from their parents proper butt hose etiquette, but all my knowledge comes from experimentation. So don't take my experience as gospel. Here are some common questions people ask me and my answers based on trial and error.​

How do you do it?

I like to reach in and underneath from the front, angle the sprayer at whatever needs spraying, and lightly squeeze the trigger until I get a sense of the water pressure. I usually do four, five, or six quick sprays, followed by a little dab with toilet paper, and I'm on my merry way. You can go in through the back, but I find it less practical.

Aren't you soaking wet afterward?

No. The butt hose has a targeted nozzle. You only rinse what you need to rinse, and you do it while sitting on the toilet.

Thanks to gravity, all the water drips off your bum and labia and into the bowl. Just as women wipe after they pee and miraculously don't leave the bathroom drenched in urine, you can blot or dab yourself with toilet paper after a little spray and be just fine.

In a pinch, like when there's no toilet paper or only very thin, useless toilet paper, a little shake-shake drip-dry will do just fine. Remember, it's India. The temperature is likely to be above 90 degrees, and you'll either be completely dry or sweating again in no time.

Doesn't it splash everywhere?

Again, thanks to sitting on the toilet and gravity, the water stays in the toilet.

But let's say you somehow manage to splash a little. Bathrooms in Southeast Asian tend to be 100 percent tile with a drain built into the floor. So it doesn't matter if they get wet. They drain off on their own.

Plus, everyone owns a squeegee. If the puddles don't run off, you can push the water down the drain with a squeegee. (If you are living in Southeast Asia without a squeegee, go buy at least two of them now. They will change your life.)

How do you, you know, actually clean your butt hole?

I'm not a hands-on kind of gal, but I get the sense that the traditional local method is—or maybe "was" in the old days—to give a good scrub with the left hand. In India, people only use the right hand to eat, exchange money, and shake hands because the left hand is thought to be unclean.

For me (and I reckon a lot of others), it's more of a hands-free, high-pressure hosing off before wiping with paper.

Ew. Oh my god. Don't tell me about rinsing your lady parts!

Sorry, but we women have been silenced too long about too many things. We need to talk about this stuff to share with one another, but also to educate all the men out there who design and build so many things that they think we enjoy using.

Rinsing the labia area is amazing. When I go back to Western toilets and have to once again dry the pee off my pubes without any water, it feels totally disgusting.

As I mentioned already, it's also refreshing. Imagine weeks on end when the temperature never dips below 95 degrees, even at night. A little cooling off every few hours feels great.

Additionally, it makes using a menstrual cup possible! Having a butt hose eliminates all the obstacles to using a cup in a public toilet. A menstrual cup is a reusable silicone cup inserted in place of a tampon to collect blood during menstruation. You have to dump it every so often, and you need to rinse it before reinserting it. In a Western bathroom, it requires having a private sink, and public bathroom, including those in office buildings, usually have stalls with communal sinks instead. There's no privacy for rinsing the cup, so it's next to impossible to use them unless you plan to stay home all day. In Southeast Asia, there's always free flowing water in every private toilet stall.

When I mentioned all these benefits of the butt hose to my sister, who has kids, she said that after giving birth, she had to carry around a water bottle with a sports top specifically for rinsing after she went to the bathroom. After having a baby, women often have lacerations or stitches or just raw skin that burns when you pee and needs to stay clean to reduce the risk of infection. No need for a water bottle if you have a butt hose.

You Can Try It in the U.S.

A friend of mine recently told me that there are hand-held bidet sprayers that connect to U.S. toilets without any special plumbing for about $40. I am definitely looking into it for when we return to the U.S.

In the meantime, I highly encourage everyone who comes across a butt hose to not be shy about experimenting with it. Figure out a few use cases that most benefit you, and you might never go back to rubbing your butt with dry paper again.