It’s no secret that Americans have a damaging addiction to toilet paper. While bidets are common around the world, we continue to wipe our butts with softened trees. That’s 50 pounds of paper per person every year that taxes our sewer system. What’s more, it’s not nearly as hygienic to wipe as it is to rinse with water.
Designed by Box Clever, the celebrated design firm behind this low-flow, high-class shower, it’s an anodized aluminum tube with a similar, metallic sheen of an old iPod Nano. It’s portable, with a rechargeable battery that lasts up to three weeks. It’s just that instead of blasting music into your ears, it blasts water into your butt. (The water is stored in a cartridge you refill with each use.)
Portable bidets are neither rare nor expensive. A cursory Amazon search will show you that handheld units can be acquired for as little $40. But they’re decidedly utilitarian, with white plastic and clear water reservoirs that resemble dental equipment. Box Clever realized a more premium approach was possible. Using extruded aluminum, they could make the design small and sleek, but also give it a glitzier, antimicrobial finish that could be rinsed clean. With a stand, it can sit on the back of your toilet sideways, or it can be propped vertically in a corner, kind of like an electric toothbrush (that you should not brush your teeth with!).
To be clear, the Sonny team doesn’t imagine that you’ll actually carry the bidet around in your purse to use at the ballpark bathroom. But portability solves a major problem with bidets in the U.S.: While it’s neither hard nor expensive to retrofit a toilet with a bidet, most people don’t have a power plug next to their toilet. A wireless device eliminates installation overhead. “One of the early mandates was no plumber, no electrician,” says Bret Recor, founder of Box Clever.
So the product is simple: It’s just a tube with one button, and that button doubles as a slider. Slide the button up, and it pops out a nozzle from one end. Press the button, and the nozzle sprays. “A lot of work we did was about where the spray nozzle was and the button was. It’s not about how long it has to be to work, but a perceived link—’I think that’s too close!'” says Recor, pointing out that no one wants to operate a device with a button in close proximity to their butt, especially given the possibility of splash back. “We made a lot of 3D prints [of the Sonny], looking at it, holding it, moving around where the button location was.”
All in all, the Sonny seems like a promising device in the bidet market, and a stark contrast to portable bidets that look more like water picks than finely crafted home electronics. And the team says it’s the first of many bidet products to come. The only catch—buyer beware—is that the Sonny doesn’t heat the water before it sprays. As one friend and bidet aficionado warns me of unheated bidet water, “I would describe it as jumping [butt] first into a tub filled with water when your water heater is broken.” To which I say, sure, but is your tub made of anodized aluminum?