Inventing is something I always figured other people do. Me, I’m more of a “try everything and iterate” sort of guy. This story covers one example of my process which I wanted to share so it might inspire others.
About 18 months ago I got my first bidet at home, and it was a fantastic experience. I have a bit of a skin issue that means that toilet paper is a no go, and using as many “flushable” wipes as I needed each time to clean up was only slightly better. With a bidet I could get by with just one wipe, and saw some pretty quick improvement.
So the problem became — what do I do when I’m not at home. I briefly considered asking my dermatologist for a note and seeing what I might be able to get done at work. But realistically that would be a long process and kind of expensive, and I still would have no solution for trips or other places.
“Great”, I thought, “let’s take a look on Amazon. I’m sure other people have the same issue.”
Based on what I found there, a lot of other people had the same issue, and most of them were disappointed in what was out there. I couldn’t find any good review of the portable options, and what few writeups I found often led to products that weren’t even available any more. I ended up saving for a couple months and bought several of the squeeze bottle bidets, several of the attachments to water bottle bidets, and several of the portable electric bidets.
It didn’t take long to rule out the squeeze bottle ones. Most of them leaked (because they would need some kind of valve to let air in so you could squeeze more than once), and the pressure wasn’t very good or steady. They also tended to have a limited amount of volume — leading to many reviews stating that folks had to refill more than once to do the job.
Most of the attachment options had similar issues (and yes I tried the one that had the successful Kickstarter). They had more volume (water bottles are anywhere from 400ml to 1000ml), but tended to be awkward and at the end of the day just got me wet — not really clean.
On to the electronics. The first one was the Toto “Mobile Shower”. Having a Toto bidet at home, I had high hopes for this. But I quickly learned that this and many other of the electronic models used two AA batteries that limited the amount of power for their pumps. Most of these were a little better in pressure than the squeeze bottles, and the pressure was more consistent, but you didn’t get enough volume.
Back to the drawing board (i.e. Amazon). Now I could narrow down what I looked for, and found a few electronic ones that had a special port to let them be recharged via USB. I figured that with more battery being available, they would be stronger. With one exception, that turned out not to be the case, and even the exception was only slightly more powerful — although it had a special attachment to let you use a water bottle as the tank which meant you could almost get clean.
At this point I was out a few hundred dollars, and still didn’t have a great option. I could continue to just get by, but… I just felt like I needed to keep looking.
It was at this point that I noticed that there were also these portable electric water flossers that were available. Having used a Water Pik for years on a daily basis, I wondered if these might be an option.
Put down a little money and ordered just one this time… and had an eye opening experience. Yes, these were MUCH more powerful. To the extent that the 10 seconds before I could shut it off was actually painful.
I did a little digging, and discovered that the Electric Portable Bidets all used pumps that were powered by a 3V, .5A motor. IOW, even the USB ones were essentially copying the Toto model which was restricted by the power you could get from two AA batteries. I purchased two more water flossers, and found they were also all copying each other, but in this case they all had a 1A, 5V motor. Studying the tips — the bidet tips all had 4 or five holes, while the flossers all had just the one hole and a smaller hole at that to amp up the pressure.
So I arrived at the “logical” conclusion — I needed to find a way to put a bidet tip on a water flosser. Unfortunately, while all the water flosser tips were removable, and interchangeable within one of two standards (IOW not universally interchangeable, but able to be used by more than one brand), all of the bidet tips were permanently attached.
This brings us back around to the image I started this story with. The top right tip is just a regular water flosser tip with the end cut slightly to make a larger hole. This worked ok, but it was harder to hit everywhere you needed, and it was still a bit more pressure than I wanted. The other three examples were tips from bidets I had cut off of their arms, and then used heat shrink wrap to build into a Frankenstein-like tip.
All of this led to my final design. I will be posting a complete “How-To” for building your own in a bit, but here is what I ended up with -
- It had to be rechargeable, but with a sealed charger — i.e. an induction charge flosser so I didn’t have to worry about water getting into the electronics
- It had to have at least 300ml capacity for the tank — since it’s really not convenient to refill mid-clean, and measuring the use of the home bidet showed that’s the amount I usually needed
- It had to have a plastic tip — so I could easily cut it with the same tool I used to cut the bidet arms, and to allow the tip to be bent a bit forward to deal with the way you have to hold the flosser
- It had to cost less than $100 for all the parts — because I didn’t want to be spending as much as a good electric seat, and because I knew other folks wouldn’t even try it if it was over that
So there it is — how I went from a dissatisfied buyer of squeeze bottles to the designer of a “Franken-Bidet”. Comments welcome as always!