Toto Washlet: My Japanese butt-washing robot toiletseat

Toto Washlet on Offbeat Home
My fancy butt-washing toilet seat control panel, with contrasting hippie bathroom decor.

15 years ago, the gay interior designer who lived in my aunt's guesthouse installed a Toto Washlet in the bathroom. At the time, I dismissed the whole thing — leave it to the Japanese to invent a toilet seat with a robotic, mechanized wand that washes your butt! Leave it to the folly of a gay interior designer to install one! I tried it, laughed, made a friend try it, laughed some more at the sounds coming out of the bathroom, and moved on with my life.

Then, earlier this year, I was staying with my friend Jon, one of the co-founders of the Lovesick Expo. He lives in a LEED-certified house that's meticulously dedicated to sustainable, greener living. I took one look at his Japanese butt-washing robot toilet and was all, "Really, bitch? How does this ridiculously expensive, hilariously indulgent Japanese butt-washing robot toilet seat fit into your sustainable home?"

"Dude," he said. "You don't have to shower as much when your butt's clean."

That might be true, I conceded… while laughing.

"And you don't use toilet paper any more," he said.

That also might be true, I conceded… while laughing.

"And they're not that expensive any more."

I checked: Oh! What used to be a few thousand dollars is now around $300.

"Ok," I said. "Tell me more."

"You know when you get the runs, how sometimes you'll wipe your butt raw?" Jon said. "…And then you have the runs AND a raw butt?"

Yes, I did know about that, and it's awful. Then Jon's wife chimed in.

"It's the best for when you're having your period," she said. "It has a 'front wash' option that takes care of bloody messes."

Interesting, I thought to myself.

And then I bought one. And now I'm a convert! Toilet paper? BARBARIAN!

Ok, first: WTF is this thing?

A Toto Washlet is essentially an electrical toilet seat that washes your butt with a little wand. It connects to a power supply (via a three-prong outlet) and your water supply (via a small hose), and then you press buttons to make it do its thing.

When you're talking about the model that I got, "its thing" includes Rear Wash (a very focused stream of water pointed right at your butt hole), Soft Rear Wash (more gentle streams of water pointed more generally at your butt hole region), Front Wash (water pointed at your vulva), and Dryer (a fan that blows warm air all over your bits both front and back.) You can control all sorts of things like water temperature, pressure, and angle.

There are other bells and whistles too — a heated toilet seat being one, and a "pre-mist" function that basically wets down the inside of your toilet seat so that your poo doesn't stick to the porcelain. These things don't matter that much to me, but one friend went so far as to say that the pre-mist function was cool enough that he'd buy one for that alone. (Different people have different sticky-poo issues, I guess.)

How to install a Toto Washlet

If you're me, this is a one-step process: CALL A PLUMBER.

Even though installation is super easy, a friend gave me the tip that if a plumber installed my Toto Washlet, I could then call that plumber if something went wrong in the future, which is a nice perk. So, when my kitchen sink faucet finally disintegrated and needed to be replaced, I bundled the jobs together and called a plumber. Installation took less than half an hour, since the Toto Washlet basically just gets plugged into the wall and then attached to your water supply via one quick hose. If you're handy, you could easily DIY it in like 15 minutes. I am just lazy and wanted to be able to rely on someone else if the thing stopped working right because, again, lazy.

Ok, so what's it feel like?

  • Rear Wash: it feels like a pointy stream of water going up your butt.
  • Soft rear: it feels like a softer sprinkle going on your butt.
  • Front wash: depending on how you position yourself, it's either a nice cleaning stream of water or (DOUBLE PRESS FOR OSCILLATION OPTION!) something more entertaining. Have fun with that!

You get to control pressure, temperature, and angle, so it's never uncomfortable… although that first Rear Wash might be a little alarming. WHEEE!

What's awesome about it?

My friends who've lived in Japan and Europe always side-eye me when I talk about my Toto, like "Srsly, girl? You're just now figuring out that it's nicer to wash your butt than it is to use a dry piece of low-quality paper to scrape that shit off?" But if you're like me, this is something you've just never really thought of. Toilet paper is how you do things. It's how you've always done things. What is this washing your under-carriage madness?

Well, it's freaking awesome, that's what it is. You actually get, like, actually clean. Yes, you could achieve this with a peri bottle (right, postpartum folks? RIGHT?) or even just a freaking water bottle next to the toilet with a wash cloth (family cloth, anyone?). You totally could do that. You totally should do that. But, if you're like me, and you like pre-heated water and pre-misting and oscillations and the idea of a robot butt-butler washing your behind, this is a nice upgrade from that more basic option.

It's great for poop. It's great for pee. It's great for menstrual blood. It's great for post-coital clean-up. It's great for when you're sick out the butt. It's great for children — both in terms of them actually using it (no more shouts from my 6-year-old for help with wiping — y'all feelin' me here, moms?) and in terms of entertainment (my son figured out that "front wash" can reach the sink mirror across the room if he games it right. HA!). My parents asked me if I worried that having a Toto would make my son unable to wipe his own butt, and I was all, "I don't know, lets ask those generations of Europeans and Japanese folks how that's worked for them."

OH WOE IS ME, WE KNOWETH NOT HOW TO WIPE OUR BUTTETHS.

…You could say I'm not too worried about it.

What's meh about it?

The dryer takes a long time to actually dry your butt — like, five minutes. This means that you will likely spend more time drying your butt than pooping. One friend asked if this was an issue of taint hair (side bonus of having a Toto: you get to have conversations with friends about taint hair!), but that's not it. Even if you're one of those waxed types, it just takes a while for a little fan to dry your butt. It's not like it's a Dyson Air Blade going up your ass. It's just a gentle little whirring fan, so now I have a copy of the Tao Te Ching next to the toilet to encourage folks to get comfortable and patient with it. Butt-drying mindfulness! It's a thing!

This particular model has a very small-in-diameter toilet seat. I have a small-ish toilet and am an small-to-medium sized person so it's fine for me, but taller and wider folks have reported feeling like they're perched on an itty-bitty widdle dolly toilet.

It does sit pretty high up on your toilet. I mean, my toilet now feels like a slightly elevated high-tech command center. I'm ok with it, but it's not a low-profile situation.

I also still haven't figured out how to hide the cord, which stretches across my bathroom right now. That's strictly an issue of aesthetics, but it's worth considering where your bathroom outlet is in relation to your toilet.

The tl;dr

This is a luxury item. It is unnecessary and kind of silly, and kind of awesome. I recommend it.

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  1. After giving birth 2 times, becoming obsessed with flushable wet wipes, discovering how bad they are for plumbing, and hearing the word bidet, I bought myself a cheap (AU$60) bidet online and haven't looked back. I love it, LOVE IT! I love feeling properly clean, especially during my period! Especially as I use a menstrual cup.

    Mine is very simple. It connects to the water supply and has a dial to control the water pressure. It's just cold water. No bells or whistles. I sit for an extra minute before using a couple of squares of toilet paper to pat dry. It sits just under the toilet seat. I installed it myself using a couple of adjustable wrenches. I LOVE my bidet. Husband uses it too now, though he's kinda ambivalent about it. I think he just wants to save money on toilet paper 😉

    1 agrees
  2. This sounds like it could be incredibly awesome for Crohn's and Colitis patients. That raw butt people get…that's permanent for me. I wonder if I can make a case for my medical insurance to pay for it:)
    Thanks, Kate

    5 agree
    • Had not thought of this, but you're absolutely right. For folks with chronic conditions, this could actually make a really big difference in their toilet time.

      1 agrees
    • If insurance doesn't talk with someone at the IRS. They'll answer questions about weather you could write it off on your taxes. Just don't call during April lol.

    • I have IBS and got a 'prescription' for the washlet from my doctor. I was reimbursed for it via my FSA account. Tax-free butt-washer FTW!

  3. zOMG, where I live (South of Spain) 'toto' would be loosely translated as 'hoohah', so the name suits the toilet perfectly LOL.

    I kinda want to try one of those now! Does it require an electrical outlet?

    2 agree
    • Toto = HOOHAH!!! This is amazing.

      It does indeed require an electrical outlet… I am sort of embarrassed to admit that I now have a white electrical cord stretched along the wall of my bathroom. I want to spend some time tacking it to the wall soon, but for now it's just sorta hanging out.

  4. I lived for 3 years in Japan and I loved these things. And yes, they are amazing during your period. In Japan they are standard, every apartment has one. Even some of the fancy public toilets. It never occurred to me I could actually have one at home, too. Thinking…

    1 agrees
  5. I have always had so many questions about how bidets and the like actually do their thing (yes they squirt water, but where? how much? how hard? do you need to reposition? don't you then have to still use TP to dry off the water?), but it's not like that's the type of thing where you can get a hands-on demonstration… Today I learned! I still have questions, but this informative post has answered several of them.

    4 agree
    • I actually usually used toilet paper to dry off in the end. There's always toilet paper in Japanese bathrooms.

    • Yes! I was thinking about this lately. You don't realize how culture-related bathroom usage is until you are in a different culture's bathroom. AND no one teaches adults! It's just assumed once you are past childhood that you know what to do, but toilets around the world vary A LOT. Thank you in advance for whenever I travel to Japan, ha!

      3 agree
      • I know, right? I went to Uganda and many of the stalls have a spigot in the wall about a foot off the ground with a bucket. I think I finally figured out that maybe it's in case there needs to be extra flushing power – fill the bucket up, dump it down the potty – because water pressure isn't always great? At least that's how I ended up using it… But again, bathroom culture varies and no one teaches adults!

        1 agrees
  6. Oh how I [heart] my Toto!
    Two years ago I took a trip to Korea and nearly every toilet ( including the public ones! ) had a built-in bidet feature and when I returned I resolved to get one. At that time I couldn't find anything less than $3000. I love my butt but I don't $3000 love it ( apparently ). But the prices have come down significantly. Or different, cheaper products opened up to the US market? In any case I got mine 6 months ago and I love love love it.
    Unlike Ariel, I do not have the patience for the drying feature. I still use toilet paper. But I have given up those disposable wipes that are inaccurately marked as "flushable" ( if you have an older house, you'll know what I mean ). Now my butt AND my plumbing are happy.

    1 agrees
    • Confession: I generally don't have the patience for the dryer either. It's a special indulgence to actually sit there long enough to have my butt dried.

  7. I also lived in Japan for six years, but alas, neither of my apartments had a super-toilet. But I certainly experienced them when I was out and about, and they were lovely. I wonder, though – does anyone use the dryer? I never had the patience. I loved heated seats in the winter.

    (It was a fun crapshoot going into the bathroom in some places. It was often 50/50 whether you'd get a super-toilet or a squat toilet.)

  8. Have you had to clean it? Can you just swipe at it with the toilet brush and SnoBol or do you have to use different cleaning stuff? Do you gotta get into the nooks and crannies? How do you clean the thing that cleans you??!??

    1 agrees
    • Thanks, Dootsie. I could have cheerfully ignored that issue for the rest of my life.
      No, I think there's a way to put it in "cleaning mode" so the nozzle comes out but doesn't squirt water. I want to stress that the nozzle doesn't actually touch you, in case people are thinking it's more, um, invasive.

    • On my model, the wand self-cleans before and after every use, and then you can also click "wand clean" and it slides out so that you can manually wash it with, like, a paper towel and white vinegar or whatever. It hasn't been an issue for me… it's pretty easy not to poop on the wand.

  9. *cough cough* This one is just $40 if you were interested but not sure if $300-$400 would be worth it:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001KKRCFA/
    My husband and I bought one a loooong time ago for our apartment and its still kicking. Then we got one for our grandparents for Christmas. And parents. And thought about gifting one to friends as well. Basically we wanted to make sure anywhere where we might be staying overnight might have one (lol).

  10. "You don't have to shower as much when your butt's clean." Okay, here I giggled. A toilet installation of such a unit is surely among the less popular plumbing services I've heard of, but if it was up to me I find such a robot toilet to be quite useful and the home owner (your friend) was most likely absolutely sincere. Personally I've seen bathrooms with two separate units – one toilet and one for washing, but never actually encountered a combined installation. As a handyman plumber I am quite peculiar how wiring is done and how sturdy performance is. I wonder how sophisticated is the robot part. I'm sure the pipe/plumbing toilet installation is pretty standard, but what if something "goes wrong" (no joke intended). How well is wiring isolated? Do you think it's a reliable product in the first place? A robot washing toilet installation is deff-o peculiar. cheers!

    • Toto is a well established international brand that seems pretty respected… My plumber said everything looked great!

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