The Future of Water Is (And Toilets) Recycled Sewage, You’ll Drink It And You’ll Like It😹😂🤣
Faced with another historic dry spell, California has overcome its squeamishness about “toilet-to-tap.” So should we all. The Future of Water (And Toilets) Is Recycled Sewage, You’ll Drink It And You’ll Like It😹😂🤣
More than a few dystopian fantasies depict a future in which humanity’s water supply derives from recycled human waste. As Frank Herbert imagined it in his 1965 novel “Dune” — now a much-anticipated fall 2021 blockbuster — the humans inhabiting a dessicated, rainless planet must wear “stillsuits”— a rubbery second skin that captures sweat, urine and feces and recycles them into drinking water.
Today, elements of this vision are becoming a reality. While no climate models predict a future without rain on Earth, all show severe disturbances in hydrology: increasingly excessive rain and flooding in some regions, and intensifying drought in others.
California has now become a leading example of the latter. Suffering through a prolonged dry period, utilities are increasingly relying on sewage to generate the state’s water needs.
Known in industry parlance as “recycled wastewater” and in lay terms as “toilet to tap,” this water source understandably triggers a gag reflex in some consumers — but it shouldn’t.
Recycled wastewater is quickly becoming the single most important element of a drought-proof water supply in the climate-change era, and it happens to be as pure and delicious as anything you might buy bottled from the Swiss Alps.
In fact, some southern Californians already have been drinking recycled wastewater for years, thanks to a pilot project in Orange County. And the $5.1 billion drought-response package Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week focuses heavily on making this sustainable source more widely available.
But this shouldn’t remain just another California experiment. The federal government should prioritize infrastructure spending on wastewater recycling facilities, as should the growing number of water-insecure states nationwide, including Texas, which now is also experiencing severe drought, and Florida.
There’s no state in our union that faces more economic peril from an unstable water supply than California — and the repercussions will affect all of us. Roughly 80% of the water developed for agricultural and urban use flows to California farms, which in turn grow more than half of all the fruits, nuts and vegetables produced in the U.S.
California farmers have long faced water insecurity — John Steinbeck wrote in his 1952 novel East of Eden that dry years were inevitable in central California and “put a terror on the valley” — but the stresses are now increasingly severe. In the next thirty years, the severity of widespread summer drought is projected to almost triple.
Southern California depends entirely on Northern California and the increasingly strained Colorado River to hydrate its lands and 24 million inhabitants. There’s no question that the region needs new water sources to remain habitable.
One option that’s been explored is desalination, a filtration method that strips salt from ocean water. In 2015 a $1.5 billion desalination plant was built in Carlsbad, California, that now supplies 10% of San Diego’s water.
Both types of water are treated mechanically, pumped through a multi-step filtration process that culminates with reverse-osmosis membranes that pull out impurities — including not just visible particles, but viruses, pathogens, hormone-disrupting chemicals and salt. The most difficult impurity to remove is, in fact, salt (which isn’t suspended in water, but dissolved).
Sewage is easier and cheaper to filter than ocean brine simply because it has far lower salinity and therefore requires less energy to pump through the membranes. It’s also more universally available; not every farm or city is located next to an ocean, but everybody has sewage.
In 2008, Orange County Water District opened a $490 million toilet-to-tap facility (which they prefer to call showers-to-flowers) next to the county’s sewage plant and began to shift the paradigm.
It pumped 70 million gallons of recycled sewage water into the underground reservoirs that supply Orange County’s taps.
The plant has been so successful that production was expanded to 100 million gallons a day in 2018, making it the world’s largest recycled wastewater plant; another expansion to 130 gallons a day was recently announced.
Singapore and Israel, among other countries with limited freshwater resources, have been recycling their wastewater for decades while the U.S. resisted. Twenty years ago, Los Angeles County spent millions on a recycled wastewater plant only to shut it downwithin weeks of its opening after an outcry from residents who objected to the idea of drinking their own sewage. Similar objections have scuttled efforts to build recycled wastewater plants in San Diego.
I get it: Even amid the desperation of drought, consuming your own waste is nobody’s first choice. Paul Rozin, a social psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who’s researched consumer response to toilet-to-tap programs told me that “accepting recycled wastewater is kind of like being asked to wear Hitler’s sweater. No matter how many times you clean the sweater, you just can’t take the Hitler out of it.”
Here’s what’s changed: The realities of climate change, and even Herbert’s dystopia, are increasingly upon us. The technology has gotten better, too, producing an excellent product.
I’ve drunk the water flowing out of both of the Carlsbad and Orange County plants, water that hours earlier had been ocean brine and sewage.
Both tasted crystal clean without a trace of their origins. No water expert I’ve interviewed questions that the single biggest source of new water supply going forward will be recycled wastewater. Our state and federal lawmakers are now obligated to prepare and adapt our infrastructure to this new reality.
Eco-Friendly Toilets: The Full Guide To Eco-Friendly Flushing
Water flushing toilets account for 30% of household water use in the United States. That’s more than we use for bathing and more than we use for laundry! Eco-friendly toilets are a great alternative that cut down water use and prevent many other negative environmental impacts.
So, what are the alternatives? And which is the best option for you? Are they safe, effective, and sanitary?
In this guide, we look at everything you need to know about eco-friendly toilets. We cover the environmental impacts of water flush toilets, what makes a toilet eco-friendly, and the options available to choose from.
We then list 6 of the best options to buy when you’re in the market for a new, eco-friendly toilet for your home or development.
The options we have selected are suitable for an upgrade to an existing bathroom or the installation of a new bathroom. They’re all completely safe, effective, and sanitary – for you and the environment!
Let’s jump right in!
How Do Water Flushed Toilets Impact The Environment?
The environmental impacts of flush toilets come down to four main factors: water use, energy use, paper use, and ecological pollution from wastewater that ends up back in the environment. These factors amount to a hefty impact on the environment!
Let’s look at each factor in a little more detail:
Flushing And Water Use
Toilets use a lot of clean, treated, water. The water feeding to the toilet in most homes is the same water feeding to the taps – clean, treated water that is suitable for drinking.
As illogical as this may be, the reality is that most homes are not set up to do things differently and toilets account for approximately 30% to 40% of water usage in any home. That’s more than we use for bathing and more than we use for laundry.
As more and more areas face water scarcity, drought, and extreme weather conditions due to climate change, we’re increasingly looking at new ways to save water.
Water scarcity is a global problem that needs our full attention. The graphic below illustrates global water stress levels:
Traditional flush toilets use gallons of water for each flush. The modern standard in North America is 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) but older, less efficient models use as much as 6 gpf!
Recent advances have cut the amount of water per flush to around 1.28 gpf, with the most efficient models as low as 0.8 gpf. When it comes to reducing the amount of water used, low-flow toilets are the answer!
Replacing old, water-heavy toilets with modern, low-flow toilets can save as much as 60% of a household’s water use. This also results in significant cost savings, a win-win for the environment and the homeowner.
Toilet Energy Use
Most flush toilets and sewers use a gravity-fed system that does not require electricity to move water from A to B. However, many buildings require water to be pumped to bathrooms, especially those on upper floors and in elevated locations.
In addition to this, many toilets, such as macerating toilets, use electricity for their mechanisms to work.
On a broader scale, using clean water to flush toilets is an energy heavy process. Energy is used to pump water from the source in the natural environment before it is sent to the treatment works for purification before it goes to individual properties.
Water treatment plants also use energy in the treatment process, as do the treatment plants that treat wastewater from sewers. Overall, even largely gravity-fed systems still use a lot of energy to move the water around and to treat the water.
Toilet Paper And Environment
The majority of traditional flush toilets require the use of toilet tissue. Exceptions include options like the bidet where water is used instead of paper.
For those concerned with sustainability, the environment, and zero-waste lifestyles, toilet paper or wet wipes is a complex and contentious issue.
The Main Impacts of Toilet Paper Use On The Environment Include:
Deforestation and habitat loss due to unsustainable and unregulated logging practices
Carbon emissions from areas left barren by logging activities
Single-use product with little potential for reuse or recycling (other than the cardboard inner tubes)
Often made with virgin paper pulp, rather than recycled paper, due to consumer preferences for quality and texture
Environmental/water pollution from the chemicals used in the manufacturing process
Water intensive manufacturing process
Impacts associated with plastic packaging and supply-chain distribution
As a widely used single-use product (for obvious reasons) toilet paper is a huge contributor to the environmental impact of flush toilets. To negate this, many consumers have chosen to use different methods such as bidet toilets or washable and reusable cloth wipes.
Check Out This Short BBC Reel On The History of Toilet Paper Use:
Ecological Pollution From Toilet Waste Water
With every flush clean water is mixed with human waste and sent to the sewer in areas with a waterborne sewer system or into a septic tank for those without a sewer connection. This dilutes the waste and contaminates gallons of water at every flush.
Water contaminated by human waste carries a huge number of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It also contains high levels of nutrients, nitrogen, and phosphorous, as well as chemicals from substances that are commonly flushed by irresponsible (or uninformed) people.
In a water-borne sewer system, this contaminated water is piped to a treatment plant, treated, and then released back into the environment.
The problem with this is that the treatment process releases nitrogen to the atmosphere, where it evaporates as a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and the rise of global temperatures.
Harsh chemicals are also used to sterilize the water, which can lead to chemical pollution of downstream watercourses.
Treatment works, especially those in developing nations, also frequently suffer from infrastructural challenges, overloading, and malfunction.
When wastewater that has not been treated effectively, or at all, is released into the natural environment it causes disease in humans and animals, pollutes water resources, and results in algae blooms and the death of aquatic organisms.
So, How Do We Mitigate And Minimize The Negative Impacts Of Our Toilet Use?
On an individual level, the answer is to use an eco-friendly toilet in your home or to fit them into your commercial property if you can.
Let’s look at what makes a toilet eco-friendly and then we will look at some of the options you can choose from when you’re in the market for an eco-friendly solution:
What Makes A Toilet Eco-Friendly?
In the simplest terms, an eco-friendly toilet reduces the impact of our toilet use on the environment. This means conserving water and energy resources and preventing environmental pollution from contaminated wastewater.
There are many solutions available to choose from. The type of eco-friendly toilet you choose is ultimately a matter of personal preference and what will work best for your location and environment.
Across the world, there are thousands of different ways to manage human waste. The options we have chosen to focus on here are the ones we feel are the most convenient and suitable for use in place of a traditional flush toilet.
In This Guide, We’re Going To Look At The Following Types Of Eco-Friendly Toilets:
Low-flow WaterSense Toilets
Low-flow single flush systems
Dual flush systems
Bidet Fittings and Toilets
Waterless Composting Toilets
Waterless Incinerating Toilets
How To Set Up An Eco-Friendly Toilet: What Are Your Options?
When it comes to choosing the best eco-friendly toilets for your needs, there are hundreds of options to choose from!
Let’s look at some of the different types of eco-friendly toilet available to narrow down your options and make it easier to choose the best type for your needs:
Low-Flow Single Flush Toilets
Low-flow single flush toilets are the same as a traditional single flush toilet except that they use less water. To be a ‘low-flow toilet’ the toilet needs to use 1.6 gallons or less per flush. Older toilets use as much as 6 gallons per flush, so 1.6 gallons or less is a significant water use reduction.
The nice thing about these toilets is that they save water and they’re easy to install – they do not need any special plumbing features to be installed and a low-flow cistern can be added to most older toilet bowls and still work well.
However, some ultra-low-flow options require a special, elongated, bowl to be effective. Replacing the bowl as well as the cistern and mechanism is a bit more expensive and requires more work, but the cost savings of an ultra-low-flow toilet will make up for this in the long run.
These options are especially useful for areas with water restrictions, as they use very little water – as little as 0.8 gallons per flush – and will result in water use reduction of up to 60%, depending on the specifications of the toilet they’re replacing.
Dual-flush toilets have two buttons, one for full flush (around 1.6 gpf) and one for a half flush (around 0.8 gpf). This gives you the option to use the minimum amount of water when you don’t need a full flush.
Dual-flush toilets have been widely adopted as an easy way to save water and are used in many commercial buildings. You have most likely seen toilets with the two buttons on top, for half and full flush.
One of the nice things about this system is that you can retrofit a dual flush mechanism to most standard toilet cisterns, without replacing the cistern or bowl.
WaterSense toiletsare those developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States. They identifiable by the WaterSense sticker and are designed to be as efficientas possible, in line with the efficiency standards set out by the EPA.
Mass manufacturers make toilets that meet their standards and can then use the WaterSense sticker to encourage consumers to make an eco-friendlier toilet purchase.
The specifications require a 20% or more water use reduction from the standard minimum manufacturing specifications. This translates to 1.28 gpf, rather than the standard 1.6 gpf required by the minimum standards.
According to the EPA, switching to WaterSense toilets allows users to save up to 60% of the water they would use without it. This means an average of 13 000 gallons of water saved by an average American family in a year and significant cost savings in the process!
Taking water use reduction to the highest level are waterless toilets. Composting toilets use little or no water to function as they do not flush waste into a sewer or septic system. As their name suggests, composting toilets turn human waste into nutrient-rich compost that can be safely used as fertilizer or returned to the natural environment.
How Does A Composting Toilet Work?
Composting toilets utilize natural decomposition processes to break down waste and convert it to compost. This may occur in a closed unit attached to the toilet or in a separate system outside. If the system is not attached to the toilet itself, the waste will need to be flushed away to a separate system.
There are various ways to achieve this and water is not always required. Where water is not used, electricity (mains or battery) may be required to power the flushing mechanism that blows or sucks the waste away (similar to the toilet on a plane).
Some composting toilets separate liquids from solids as the urea in urine may hinder the decomposition of solid waste in a closed system. The composting chamber is vented to the outside, preventing odors and allowing oxygen to enter the chamber.
Check out this video by This Off Grid Life on their DIY composting toilet and a quick explainer of how the composting process works:
Where Can You Install A Composting Toilet?
Composting toilets are a great option for areas where there is no access to a septic or sewer system, such as cabins or vacation homes. However, installing one in an urban area may require special permission from local authorities.
Composting toilets are inexpensive to install (downright cheap if you choose a DIY option) and they’re cheap to maintain.
They minimize your water use and reduce your environmental impact and can even be beneficial to the environment if the compost is used effectively. As an eco-friendly toilet option, they’re great!
The drawback is that they require more ongoing maintenance and care to keep them working effectively. This can be done by an outside service or you can do it yourself, which some might find to be an unpleasant task.
Some models also require electricity for a heat source or ventilation, however, the power used is minimal and only required when the toilet is in use.
Incinerating toilets incinerate your waste into a small amount of sterile ash that can be safely disposed of in the natural environment or your household trash. They use electricity to burn the waste and require no water to function.
While incinerating toilets do use electricity, they only use it when in use and are an economical option that can be powered using renewable energy if you have a solar or wind power system for your property. They’re a popular option in remote areas where there is no access to sewers or septic systems.
For those following a zero-waste lifestyle, bidet toilets are the way to go. They eliminate the need for toilet paper, which has great benefits for the environment and reduces your household spend in the process.
A bidet toilet uses a jet of water, either in a fixed system or handheld device to clean the user off after each use. The toilet is then flushed like any regular flushing toilet.
While they use a little more water because of the additional washing process, you can also use a low-flow or dual-flush system to reduce/offset your water usage.
You can install a bidet toilet or you can buy the fittings and retrofit a handheld or fixed feature that attaches to the toilet seat rather than the bowl of the toilet.
If you’re looking for easy-to-install and maintain eco-friendly toilets, the bidet is a great option. They’re inexpensive and require no special permissions so they’re a great choice for urban areas and apartments where the plumbing is already in place.
6 Best Eco-Friendly Toilets To Buy
Now that we have covered what eco-friendly toilets are and some of the best options available to choose from, let’s look at some great options to buy.
We have included one of each type discussed above but there are many models of each type available. We recommend that you do some research and find the best fit for your needs and your budget.
In conclusion, traditional flush toilets are not great for the environment. Thankfully, there are loads of great alternatives that reduce or eliminate the negative impacts of our toilet use!
In this guide, we have looked at the environmental impacts of using a water flushed toilet, what makes a toilet eco-friendly and some of best the eco-friendly toilets available. We have also outlined 6 of the best options to buy if you’re in the market for an eco-friendly toilet.
You now have all the info you need to start your research and find the best solution to your eco-conscious toilet needs!
Are Consumers Ready For A Toilet Equipped With Alexa?
Connected toilets, AI-empowered scales, make their way into the bathroom. Are Consumers Ready For A Toilet Equipped With Alexa?
The bathroom is poised to become one of your home’s smarter rooms thanks to a raft of new fixtures, furnishings and, yes, toilets.
Kohler Co., Toto Ltd. and other companies that outfit bathrooms are adding sensors, artificial intelligence and smart speakers into their products, many of which were on display earlier this month at the CES consumer technology showcase in Las Vegas.
These premium products, some costing thousands of dollars, included a toilet embedded with an Alexa smart speaker and a bath mat with sensors that capture data on a person’s weight and posture, so they can be analyzed.
Is it a case of too much information? Market researcher IDC has found that security and privacy concerns are among the leading reasons holding back adopting smart-home technology.
Yet Adam Wright, a senior analyst covering smart home research at International Data Corp., said consumers are more willing to accept products for the so-called connected home if their developers emphasize user privacy and explain how data is collected and used.
Bathroom product companies are betting that at least some consumers are ready for the connected home, bathroom and all, and see opportunities for selling premium products and collecting data and insights valuable to consumers and vendors alike.
“At a high level, the thought process of bringing Alexa into the bathroom is every consumer starts their day in the bathroom and they end their day in the bathroom, typically.
So it is a really great place for access to information—so think weather, news, traffic, all those things Alexa does,” said Jonathan Bradley, a product manager for Kohler’s smart home team.
At CES, Kohler displayed its $10,000 Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet, which takes steps to reinvent the familiar throne. Shaped like a box, it features an automated square lid and lighting that runs around the base and back panel.
The toilet also has a proximity sensor that senses when a person approaches it and raises its lid automatically, and a pressure sensor on the seat detects when a user stands up, triggering a flush.
Additionally, a Kohler app lets people personalize the position of the toilet’s bidet wand and choose the color of the lighting around the base and back panel.
The Numi 2.0 is embedded with Amazon Alexa, enabling voice control of the toilet’s features. It also can play music or check the news and weather, and allow the user to control other devices in the smart home.
Kohler also displayed a shower system, the DTV+, that enables users to preset temperature and water flow with a touch-screen interface outside the stall. Users can also start their shower, with their personal settings, through a Kohler app or by voice control.
The Numi 2.0 will be available in the second quarter. The DTV+ shower system is available now for around $4,000.
Mateo Inc., a startup set to launch commercially this quarter, displayed its prototype Smart Bathroom Mat, which captures health data when a person steps on it.
The mat has 7,000 pressure sensors that enable it to identify individuals by their footprints. It analyzes posture as well as weight.
The mat sends information wirelessly to a smartphone app and the data can be uploaded to the cloud for analysis, if a user wishes. Mateo’s AI can establish patterns and alert someone if, for instance, their weight increases or decreases unexpectedly.
The data can be shared with other health and wellness apps.
Data collected from such connected devices could have value for marketers, providing a basis for health and wellness insights that people are willing to pay for, according to IDC.
“That serves as new monetization streams for them in the form of services and data collection and analysis,” said IDC’s Mr. Wright.
Bidet Makers See Their Moment and Scramble to Make a Splash
A global toilet-paper shortage has broken American cultural taboos, but with sudden growth comes new hazards.
Jason Ojalvo, CEO of direct-to-consumer bidet company Tushy, knew that America’s backsides couldn’t wait. Watching demand skyrocket on his online sales dashboard as America’s great toilet-paper crisis of 2020 left store shelves bare and shoppers panicking, he decided to take drastic measures to guarantee ongoing supply.
He would ship bidets directly from China by air.
It wasn’t exactly the Berlin airlift, but if Americans ever adopt bidets en masse, scholars may some day view it as a pivotal moment in the history of U.S. bathroom habits.
In the midst of a global pandemic, relatively inexpensive add-on bidets—widespread in many parts of the world but never popular in the U.S.—are experiencing a hyperaccelerated transition through the life cycle of a new direct-to-consumer fad.
Suddenly these bidet companies are approaching their “Casper Moment,” when a fad becomes a new consumer-goods category, epitomized by a handful of companies.
This draws the attention of competitors as well as consumers—and requires tough choices about how best to take advantage of demand that may prove fleeting.
“We’re having the cultural moment that we spent the past five years preparing for and we’re not going to blow it,” says Mr. Ojalvo, who previously spent nearly a decade at Amazon’s Audible unit.
Launched in relative obscurity, bidet specialists including Tushy and Omigo spent investor cash on customer acquisition through targeted advertising on Instagram, Facebook, Google and Amazon.
It’s the classic direct-to-consumer playbook, popularized by Casper, Allbirds and Dollar Shave Club: simple product, sophisticated marketing.
Casper, for anyone who missed it, became the avatar of a nationwide turn toward buying mattresses online, something unthinkable before Americans realized that the kind made from foam could be rolled up and shipped and, for many people, worked as well as the bulky versions sold in showrooms.
Investors once had high hopes for the company, but ongoing losses going into its public offering led to a lackluster IPO.
Bidet companies might also find that sudden growth in demand doesn’t necessarily translate into long-term success. They have already started to encounter the headwinds that come with mass adoption, including the potential entry of big retailers, and competition from cheap Chinese knockoffs on Amazon.
For tens of thousands of Americans, including my household, the time for a bidet has arrived. At about the moment I found myself, as part of my preparation for obeying a stay-at-home order, filling a shopping cart with toilet paper, a bidet suddenly made a whole lot of sense.
I had never tried one, and its operation was a mystery to me. But members of my household had been aggressively targeted by online advertising for it in the past, leading to a discussion about whether it would work for a house that included a crew of high-spirited kids.
The French invented the bidet in the 1600s, as a way to freshen up without taking a full bath. In 1980, the Japanese company Toto released the modern, add-on bidet toilet seat, an invention on par in the bidet business with the iPhone in terms of the debt owed to it by all subsequent designs.
Toto then introduced the bidet seat to the U.S. in 1990 and domestic competitors began offering alternatives by the early 2000s.
Spikes in sales of bidets could have long-term implications for the entire toilet-paper industry, says Svetlana Uduslivaia, head of home and tech research at Euromonitor.
Research suggests that households that adopt them reduce their toilet-paper consumption by up to 75%, she adds. In Japan, 80% of households with two or more people have bidets, but it took decades for the country to reach that level of adoption.
Market penetration of bidets in the U.S. is in the single digits. Historically, that may be because Americans associated them with bordellos, sexuality and other matters that seemed vaguely scandalous and French. But demand began spiking in early March.
On March 8, Chicago-based BioBidet, which was incorporated in 2008, got an unprecedented 4,000 orders for its entry-level SlimEdge bidet attachment on Amazon alone. Almost immediately, BioBidet ordered more than 50,000 more bidets from its suppliers in East Asia, says senior marketing director James Amburgey.
In San Francisco, Brondell, founded in 2003, saw sales growth throughout March that put it a year ahead of where it had projected it would be before the crisis, says Steve Scheer, president of Brondell.
The company’s online offerings are almost completely sold out.
Kohler, the Wisconsin-based plumbing, bathroom and kitchen giant, saw bidet orders increase eight times compared with a year ago in March, says a spokeswoman.
Two-year-old Omigo, newest of the online-only bidet startups, experienced a 12-fold increase in daily sales on March 12, says Tom Lotrecchiano, its co-founder.
The company is now sold out entirely of its two models of bidet attachments and is quickly running through its stock of much pricier bidet toilet seats. Reorders are on the way, but “we’re scrambling,” says Mr. Lotrecchiano.
Tushy realized in the second week in March that if sales through Amazon and its own website maintained their pace, the company would be completely out of bidets by the weekend.
By that Thursday, sales were 10 times normal. Mr. Ojalvo, along with company founder Miki Agrawal, formerly of reusable period underwear company Thinx, examined their supply chain to figure out how they could keep up with demand.
That was when they chose to start shipping their bidets on planes.
That meant shipping costs would be three times what they had been spending before. The Tushy team immediately put designers on the task of shrinking the packaging for their bidets to limit the damage.
Airfreight is usually reserved for the smallest, highest-value items, like iPhones. But trans-Pacific passage in a shipping container can take 30 days, and Tushy couldn’t wait.
Companies like Brondell, BioBidet and Kohler, built in an age dominated by traditional retail, have simply run out online. But Omigo and Tushy, having always been direct-to-consumer, are able to manipulate their online advertising spend in order to address shortages.
For Omigo,that’s meant giving up on what could easily be three to four times the volume of orders the company is currently shipping, says Mr. Lotrecchiano.
The company’s leaders decided to keep Omigo’s ad spend steady rather than increase it to capture surging interest because it would lead to too many disappointed customers as wait times stretch out, adds Mr. Lotrecchiano.
Tushy, by contrast, first zeroed out its online advertising budget for a few days, and then began bringing it up again slowly, deciding that the crisis has created so much interest that it no longer needs as many targeted ads on giant platforms like Amazon, Google and Facebook as before the crisis.
Where before Tushy might spend a big chunk of the $79 price for its entry-level bidet on advertising—direct-to-consumer companies often spend a third of revenue on marketing—it has been able to redirect that money to its higher shipping costs, says Mr. Ojalvo.
Airfreight costs are still squeezing Tushy’s margins, but the company’s leaders have decided that, because people who buy their products tend to become bidet evangelists, every one they can get into customer’s hands now will lead to more sales in the future.
Booming demand for bidets hasn’t gone unnoticed by the direct-to-consumer sellers on Amazon’s marketplace. As of this writing, the add-on bidet Amazon has designated as “Best Seller” is from an outfit called Tibbers Home, which has no easily findable web presence outside of its Amazon seller page.
One model of Tibbers Bidet costs $124 and ships free to Prime members. A bidet listed as the same make and model costs $33, including shipping, on the bargain shopping marketplace Wish, where goods often come directly from manufacturers in China and can take weeks to arrive.
U.S. makers of bidets I talked to decry the quality of inexpensive models direct from China, of which there are an endless variety. But the kind of bare-bones add-on bidets sold by all of these companies vary little in their design.
All are slim enough to be installed underneath an existing toilet seat in about 10 minutes, and consist of a hose that attaches to a toilet’s water supply, a valve to control water pressure and a nozzle that sprays water. That’s about it.
The simplicity of these add-on bidets is one way they are similar to mattresses, another category that was “disrupted” by upstarts that capitalized on a straightforward and inexpensive technology.
For mattresses, it was the replacement of bulky springs with high-density foam. Mattress startups made what is one of the cheapest and most abundant forms of plastic on earth more appealing mainly through clever marketing.
The low barriers to entry for companies offering basic bidets, plus the spike in demand, are reasons Omigo’s Mr. Lotrecchiano is convinced we’ll see major retailers release their own house-brand bidets in the next six months—just as happened in direct-to-consumer mattresses, where Walmart created a subbrand as its answer to Casper mattresses.
Paradoxically, the functional equivalence of all these bidets is one reason Tushy could come out ahead in the end, fulfilling its leaders’ aspirations to make it the Casper of its category.
By focusing on aesthetics, the company hopes to position itself as the hip alternative to stodgy, traditional bidets.
“People care about design, especially if you live in a small place in New York City and you want to look at things that feel good,” says Ms. Agrawal.
For now, the biggest barrier for all of these companies remains Americans’ historical reluctance to use a bidet at all. “Our competitor is toilet paper,” says Mr. Ojalvo.
It took some getting used to, but eventually everyone in my own household, including the kids, figured out how to use our new bidet.
We’re now using a fraction of the toilet paper we once did, and the thought of ever going back to plain old toilet paper is about as appealing as cleaning my hands with a dry paper towel instead of soap and water.