Since the pandemic began 22 years ago [ed note: it’s actually just two], I’ve become a little obsessed with bidets. Then, it was out of necessity, toilet paper disappeared from the shelves seemingly overnight as factories slowed down and hoarders squirreled away palettes of Charmin. Even as things got back to “normal,” we’ve still seen weeks or months where infection numbers spike and toilet paper disappears once again from shelves.
The lesson, then, is that while we consider toilet paper to be an ever-present staple, it’s just as prone to shortages as anything else when faced with a substantial-enough disruption. Like, say, a multi-year pandemic. So what’s a human that uses the bathroom to do?
Well, if you’re like other humans over the past couple of years (mostly Americans), you discover bidets.
You might have started out with a fairly standard model, something unpowered from Kohler, Tushy, or Bio Bidet that had plenty of features, maybe even a few battery-powered options like a night light. But as time wore on you discovered that there was a whole new world of seat-replacement bidet options if your toilet was in reach of a power outlet (or you could run an extension cord).
I first experienced the luxuries of a plug-in bidet with the Tushy Ace. At the time, I thought that paying the $1,000 or more extra that other brands charge for a similar product was unjustified. The Toto Washlet S550e changed my mind.
What Is It?
Priced at $1,680, the Washlet S550e is a plug-in bidet is made by Toto, longtime manufacturer of some of the most premium bathroom products on the planet. Absolutely huge in Japan, they’ve expanded in recent years to bring their products to us lucky Americans.
The S550e is fully-automated, with a heated seat, temperature control for the water, cleaning settings for the bowl and wand, a built-in dryer and deodorizer, plus a remote control that lets you save multiple profile settings.
Installation is simple and the bidet comes with everything you need in the box. Start to finish, it takes maybe 15 minutes if you’re double-checking every fitting before moving on (which is smart, you want to catch leaks before they become a problem). The installation uses rubber gaskets for mounting the seat, which I greatly appreciate (little to no wiggling from the seat with them installed). Once you mount the magnetic remote control cradle within grabbing distance and pop some batteries in the remote, you’re ready.
What Does It Do?
Besides the obvious, the Washlet S550e starts working before you even sit down. Walk into the bathroom, in front of the toilet, and the toilet lid raises, the interior and night light LEDs illuminate, and the unit sprays the bowl with “EWATER+.”
What is EWATER+? The Toto website is astonishingly vague, providing only a brief overview of when it’s used and a marketing video that does nothing to actually explain what’s going on. From what I can tell, it’s a fine premist that’s sprayed on the inside of the bowl to help prevent things from sticking. It also uses EWATER+ to clean the wand and to spray down the bowl after you’re done. While I have to ding Toto for making it sound much more involved than it actually is, I can’t deny that it works. A month of using the S550e and my toilet has been noticeably cleaner day-to-day with less intervention on my part.
Once you do sit down, you’ve got options. Lots of options. But again, one of the premium touches of the S550e needs no more action from you than putting your butt on the seat. The built-in deodorizer fan starts working immediately, and will keep working until the cleaning cycle is complete.
Grab the rather oversized remote and flip it over and you’ll find settings for seat temperature, water temperature, and drying air temp (plus access to a myriad of settings for the automatic functions). Flip the remote back over and you can adjust the pressure and position. The best part is, once you get everything exactly the way you like it, you can save the settings to one of two presets.
Water pressure from the S550e is excellent (even with in-line heating and water filter). It heats the water efficiently and maintains a constant temperature throughout the entire cleaning experience (no quick shock of cold before things heat up). You can also modulate the stream to be more diffuse (or switch back and forth between hard and soft pressure). There’s an option to oscillate the wand as well, providing a more thorough cleaning experience. Simply put, it’s going to get you cleaner than toilet paper ever could.
Once you’re done, you can start the dryer which, honestly, is really only effective if you’re willing to sit there for five minutes or more (luckily that deodorizer is working, right?). If you have that kind of time, the S550e does a fine job of drying things off, though you’ll probably still want something like the Tushy Stand and Squares handy for a quick pat at the end.
Once you’re finished, just stand up. If you have an S550e model with auto flush (a $171 dollar upgrade), you can just walk away and your bidet will take care of the rest. Even without the auto flush, the Washlet still sprays down the bowl, cleans the wand, and keep the deodorizer running for another couple of minutes, ensuring that someone walking by the bathroom afterwards isn’t bowled over.
Oh, and if you’re not there to sit down, just tap the button on the top of the remote, and the seat will raise as well, letting you take care of business without having to touch the toilet seat.
Is It Worth It?
Like I said up top, I wasn’t immediately convinced that Toto’s Washlet S550e could deliver over $1,000 worth of added value to the plug-in bidet experience (as compared to the the $599 Tushy Ace). And, on a base level, that expectation was justified. At the end of the day, they both work as advertised, cleaning a very specific area efficiently and helping reduce the need for toilet paper even further with a built-in dryer.
The Toto model is constantly working to keep the bowl clean, both before and after you use it. Its performance is refreshingly consistent—the temperature of the water is always exactly what you expect. If you’d like, the S550e will keep the toilet seat at a constant temperature at all times so that it’s never cold (you can also adjust this to be more power-saving).
The deodorizing function, which you’d think would be, well, a load of crap, actually works as advertised, keeping odors managed in the worst situations. And the presets are something I never knew I needed and now can’t imagine being without. It’s also worth noting that the S550e’s remote is much less power-hungry, something I greatly appreciate.
The only thing that I can find to say against the S550e is that their standard model seat has a rather restricted opening. That’s one thing that Tushy does better: even their standard seats have an elongated opening that’s much more accommodating.
All that said, Toto provides a consistently premium experience that’s unmatched by any other bidet I’ve tried. If you have access to an outlet and you’re willing to spend the money, the Washlet S550e is an instant bathroom upgrade that will more than prove itself. The only way you could get more premium would be by replacing the entire toilet itself.
Find out more about the Washlet S550e on the Toto website.