As millions of Americans face the reality of being quarantined, many are stocking up on essential goods — namely toilet paper.
Although 90 percent of the toilet paper sold in the United States is made domestically and can be quickly supplied, that isn’t stopping panicked shoppers from calling 911 as they walk down barren toilet paper isles.
“It’s hard to believe that we even have to post this,” the Newport Oregon Police Department announced according to an article by The New York Post. “Do not call 9-1-1 just because you ran out of toilet paper. You will survive without our assistance.”
However, a large swath of Americans are taking another approach to their bathroom woes — buying bidets. Once considered a somewhat frivolous purchase by the wealthy, homeowners are rethinking their attitude toward the 18th-century invention.
For example, bidet startup Tushy’s sales have tripled over the past week, with its two at-home models, the Tushy Classic ($79) and Tushy Spa ($109) being out of stock until the end of April. Its travel bidet is still available, for $29.
“[The sales pace] shows no signs of slowing,” Tushy CEO Jason Ojalvo told Crunchbase on March 12. “I think it’s definitely the toilet paper hoarding, no question.”
“We’re noticing a lot of articles about the toilet paper shortage and it’s not until the comments that people say ‘get a bidet’,” Ojalvo added.
HomeAdvisor Home Expert and Smart Home Strategist Dan DiClerico told Inman he expects an uptick in bidet installment requests on HomeAdvisor in the upcoming weeks, as people begin searching for ways to avoid stressed crowds fighting over toilet paper.
“In terms of hard data from HomeAdvisor on service requests, we don’t have those figures yet,” DiClerico said. “In the meantime, it’s mainly anecdotal, but homeowners are certainly interested in adding this feature. I do expect that we will start to see a measurable uptick in interest around smart toilets.”
“I didn’t put a smart toilet in the master bathroom when we renovated a couple of years ago, and it’s been one of my biggest regrets,” he added on a personal note. “I think I’m finally going to take the plunge, in large part due to everything that’s happening in the world.”
DiClerico said the interest in smart toilets, which include a bidet feature, has been rising over the past few years as older Americans work to make their homes more accessible. As a result, smart toilets are easier to find and manufacturers have rolled out cheaper options to meet mainstream demand.
“I think [smart toilets] are a smart investment regardless,” he said after noting much of the new interest is driven by the coronavirus-induced toilet paper shortages. “But, I would caution that it’s a significant investment.”
DiClerico said the average smart toilet costs anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 with the installation of a GFCI electricity outlet costing $500. High-end options that include seat warming and UV lighting may cost closer to $10,000.
“However, manufacturers have been able to bring prices down by just offering the bidet seat, which could be a good way to go for someone that doesn’t want to spend several thousand dollars on a smart toilet,” he said.
Bidet seats, which replace a standard toilet seat, will cost $300 to $500 for a baseline model. More expensive models with built-in air dryers will cost up to $1,500 and also require the installation of a GFCI outlet.
“The upkeep shouldn’t be any different than a standard toilet,” DiClerico said. “The real premium products have a lot of built-in maintenance features, such as UV lights and glazing for antibacterial qualities.”
For homeowners who don’t have the extra cash or just don’t want to invest thousands into a smart toilet, W+R Studios Co-Founder Greg Robertson told Inman that he swears by the now sold-out Tushy bidet.
“A couple of Christmases ago, one of my team members at work had bought us a Tushy, which is a device that you can use to make your toilet like a bidet,” he said. “At first we thought it was one of those kinds of White Elephant gifts, but he was like, ‘No, I swear by this thing, and it’s going to change your life.'”
“I left it in the box for a couple of months, then I installed it,” he added. “This thing is legit, and I’m never going back.”
Robertson was able to order a few more for his family before the Tushy rush, and his team members have asked him to install Tushys in W+R Studios offices once they come back in stock.