Before we start, the answer is yes, with stipulations. The reason I say this is, have you seen some public bathrooms?
There is no question that in America, bidets are found in shared bathrooms. They just are not common. For example, The Kitano Hotel in New York City has $1000+ Toto S300 Washlets in all of its rooms. Given by the price tag, these are luxurious toilets with many features (like the Toto S550e), and because of that these are reserved for luxurious bathrooms.
This class of Toto Washlets comes with EWATER+, which is electrolyzed water that is a proven disinfectant. The water has a slightly acidic pH value that acts as a powerful cleaning agent and has been used by food service and hospitality industries for over 50 years. When a Toto Washlet self-cleans itself before and after every use, the wand and toilet bowl is covered by the electrolyzed water, which allows for less anxiety about how clean your toilet is. Combined with regular manual disinfection, it is safe to say that you can relax your cheeks if somebody else has used this Washlet before you.
We both know that not every public restroom will have a gleaming thousand dollar bidet, so if you saw a Bio Bidet Elite3 (retail $59) in the airport bathroom, would you use it? What if this were your local gym's bathroom? The reality is that your average toilet requires regular cleaning for it to be sanitary, and a bidet is no different. If you know a shared bathroom meets your cleanliness requirements, then you will likely have no qualms in using a bidet within it. Fortunately, even the most budget bidet options come with self cleaning and measures to reduce the amount of 💩 gathering on your bidet nozzle. Here are three ways that even the sub-hundred-dollar bidets stay clean.
- Many modern bidets are self-cleaning. The Bio Bidet Elite3 linked above has a mode that runs fresh water over its dual cleaning nozzles. Provided the user remembers to do this for a few seconds after use, this in itself washes away most of the unwanted material which harbors bacteria. Higher tier models will automate this self-cleaning, have materials that resist microbial growth (such as silver or treated plastic), or rinse with germ killing solutions such as Toto's EWATER+.
- Modern bidets have retractable wands. Continuing with the Elite3 bidet from above, nearly all bidets that utilize a wand to spray your behind from under it will retract the wand when you are done washing. In other words, the business end of the bidet is not fixed and does not have to withstand pee and poo raining on it.
- Old fashioned scrubbing. Are the prior two methods a substitute for hands on scrubbing with antimicrobial solution? I don't think so, and that is where the overall cleaning regimen of the public bathroom/bidet your are considering comes into play. In our American culture where bidets are not common this can be a concern due to lack of knowledge and mystery, when in reality a bidet should be cleaned just as often as the rest of a toilet.
Before we start seeing widespread implementation of public bidets, we first need to adopt them in our homes. According to a consumer spending survey from Japan in 2016, 81% of Japanese households have a bidet. In Japan, it is common to see a bidet in a public bathroom, because their culture requires they be available and sanitary to use when away from home. When American culture shifts to emphasize posterior hygiene, we will start to see them everywhere.