For partners and native Spaniards Ana Vicaria and Guillermo Maroto, bidets are commonplace and a part of daily life in Madrid.
“We’ve both lived with a bidet in home our whole lives,” Ana said. “And we think that water is better than paper to get yourself clean.”
That’s why, for them, a lightweight, portable bidet seemed like a logical solution to the toilet paper litter they were increasingly finding in the backcountry.
“Have you ever seen a beautiful place spotted with pieces of toilet paper and wet wipes? It’s a very sad view and we wanted to make it disappear for good,” Ana said. “We had to create something to eliminate using toilet paper outdoors, and water was our first choice.”
And so the two of them created the CuloClean Portable Bidet.
In an effort to keep their system minimalistic and discreet, they began crafting a gadget that would affix to a water bottle. Once inserted, people would just need to squeeze the bottle to control water pressure — an instant bidet.
It took Guillermo about a dozen attempts to dial in a prototype that worked to their satisfaction.
“The first one was just a hole in a plastic bottle,” Ana recalled. “But it was a mess because water just seemed to come from everywhere!”
They used a 3D printer to make the prototypes and conducted the “field testing” themselves.
“It was a lot of fun,” Ana joked. “Number two about to come? Testing time!”
In 2018, Ana and Guillermo took the product to Kickstarter to pick up some interest and support — all while Ana juggled her full time day job. “That was the hardest part for me since it was the first time we ever did something like this,” she said.
“I think the hardest part for Guillermo at the beginning was to make me realize this was going to work. I’m really grateful for his stubbornness!”
Even though the CuloClean is compatible with just about any plastic bottle in the world, for the optimal bidet experience, Ana recommends using a hard plastic bottle like Coca-Cola or Pepsi, or backpackers’ beloved Smart Water bottles.
“If I use a hard plastic bottle, I can use it for weeks and they won’t lose shape. And the pressure is bigger, which is what makes a desired experience,” she said. “Besides, the others make too much noise and crunch when you squeeze them.”
After perfecting the design, they put in an order for 500 units with a local manufacturer in Madrid. They passed them on to friends and family urging them to try out the portable bidets to garner some honest feedback.
And it’s been nothing but positive for CuloClean.
“Every time I hear that people find our product useful, I feel super proud. It confirms that we are doing a good job and that we must keep that pace!” Ana said.
Originally designed to be used for backpacking (it weighs as little as a single AAA battery), CuloClean is finding many uses indoors, too.
“Sometimes you discover your product is used for things you never thought of,” Ana said.
Their portable bidet has also been utilized as a means of keeping clean after childbirth; for caring for intestinal issues; and as essential for traveling. According to one reviewer, it also serves as a pretty adequate water gun, should the need arise.
It’s even discreet enough to use at the office, as Ana discovered when her former job lacked bidets in their restrooms.
With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe and a period when toilet paper flew off the shelves, it’s easy to imagine how that impacted a brand like CuloClean.
“We’ve been selling more than usual since people went bananas about toilet paper and the United States is our best client,” Ana explained.
“I want to believe that this is for good, and that people are going to use an alternative, especially to wet wipes, from now on.”
“We are destroying the planet by using single-use stuff, and with CuloClean, you can reduce by using less toilet paper and no wipes, and reuse and recycle by using your plastic bottle over and over,” Ana said.
The brand hopes their little product delivers a big impact to hikers and backpackers, too.
“I believe when my face, teeth and intimate parts are clean, I am clean,” Ana said of keeping fresh in the backcountry.
“And, I’ve always used water except for my intimate parts, where I’ve been using paper. I feel fresher longer and leave no trace with CuloClean. I think that’s an outstanding feeling and I think backpackers will believe that too.”