Who invented the toilet? In a bathroom that is fully devoted to baths, cleaning, and hygiene, the modern flush toilets are perhaps its most irreplaceable element.
Yet for thousands of years, whenever people needed to use the toilet they couldn’t. They could not simply go to the bathroom, sit on the toilet seat, and get done with their stuff while scrolling through Reddit. Rather, they had to dig a hole or find a bush. A few people went to the river to relieve themselves while some did it in a bucket which they emptied later.
Then, some came up with the idea of toilets and life changed. Who invented toilets and how long have they been around? Let’s find out!
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Toilets in the Roman Era
The sanitation system was invented in the Roman era and their sewer system is regarded as one of their greatest achievements. For example, the Cloaca Maxima (“Great Sewer”) in Rome, which dates from 600 BCE, is still in use today.
There were many public latrines built in Roman times thanks to the sewerage system. However, even though they had toilets, the Romans liked to relieve themselves wherever possible for quite a long time. In some cases, a chamber pot was used, in other cases, a discrete location was sought. The outcome of this, as you can imagine, was not good, and soon the cities had quite a lot of human waste just lying around. As social media was not available at that time, a Roman poet named Juvenal advised his readers to be cautious walking in the city at night if they do not wish to be soaked in human waste.
Citizens were even prohibited from relieving themselves in public by notices posted on public walls.
Surprisingly, in wealthy Roman homes, private toilets were common. Private toilets were usually not connected to the local sewage system, unlike public latrines. Instead of using cesspits, Romans would keep them filled and empty them in gardens or fields away from town. They were situated near or sometimes in the kitchen because they were also used for dumping food waste.
In the Roman era, toilets were not connected to sewers because of two factors: flooding in sewers and vermin like rats that would climb out of them.
Moreover, since there was no toilet paper at that time, the Romans used a stick-attached sponge to rinse themselves off. They would dip the sponge into a shallow channel of water and then use a stream of water to rinse. Some sponges were kept in a bucket of salt water and vinegar. According to ancient Greek tradition, the lower classes used small stones.
People used “potties” in Medieval England. Like rich Romans, the Rich English men used”Garderobes”, leaning rooms with a waste opening suspended over a moat. Nevertheless, peasants and serfs relied on communal urinals situated at the end of streets.
There was a gigantic public garderobe in London that was emptied directly into the River Thames, resulting in bad stench and diseases spreading throughout the city.
Then, the transition from garderobes to public toilets took place, which consisted of a box with a seat and a lid protecting a porcelain or copper pot, which collected waste. During the reign of Louis XI, the commodes of France and Elizabeth I were concealed behind curtains, while Elizabeth I used crimson velvet and lace to hide the odors.
When Was The Toilet Invented?
The first flush toilet is credited to Elizabeth I’s godson Sir John Harington, who invented a raised cistern and a downpipe for flushing waste in 1592. It was called the water closet.
This was a two-foot-deep oval bowl coated in wax, pitch, and resin. With these fortifying substances, the bowl could be stuffed with water from a raised cistern while remaining waterproof.
Initially, Sir John Harrington installed in his home in Kelston and another functioning model in Queen Elizabeth’s Richmond Palace. However, Ajax had a downward valve which almost always resulted in a very unpleasant smell of the sewers that were below the bathroom. Here, it is important to keep in mind that while this design was far from perfect, this served as the foundation of the modern toilet that we use every day today.
In 1775, Alexander Cumming, a watchmaker, patented a downward pipe stemming from the toilet which was no different than a chamberpot. It was designed in a way that the flowing water would fill this curving pipe below the toilet, not allowing any bad smells to leave the chamber and the pipe. This helped the room stay at least breathable.
Joseph Bramah improved Harington’s design a few years after Cumming’s additions with the addition of hinged flaps in the toilet bowl. In the mid-1800s, however, an engineer came up with the idea of “water closets.”
Who Invented The Toilet?
Many assume that Thomas crapper invented the toiler, but it is not true. The first public toilets were installed in Hyde Park in London in 1851 by plumber George Jennings. A penny was required to use them. People also used to get a towel, comb, and a shoe shine as free goodies!
However, in 1858 the waste in the Thames became very hot and started stinking a bit too much, which led to a demand for modern solutions.
Thomas Crapper took advantage of the flushing toilets that were common in middle-class homes in the late 1850s. He became the advocate of sanitary plumbing and created, markets, and exhibited toilets during this time, even though it was probably the last thing he thought he would be doing.
Fairly or unfairly, Harington, Cumming, and Jennings were his predecessors who invented the flushing toilet, not Crapper. Despite standing on his giants’ shoulders, he got credit for popularizing them during the 1860s. As well as building the floating ballcock, he invented a u-bend to keep odors at bay.
Prince Edward (eventually Edward VII) commissioned Crapper in 1861 to build toilets that would be standardized throughout the palaces of England. With London’s working sewers finally connected to such modern flushing toilets in the 1880s, toilets were able to be used without odors for the first time.
Flush Toilets Today
The type of modern toilets that you can buy these days varies from a one-piece model to a high-tank toilet, smart toilet, and double-flushing toilet. After 1994, the Energy Policy Act of 1992 required a maximum flush water consumption of 1.6 gallons per flush for all toilets now made and installed.
In recent years, low-flow and dual-flushing toilets have become more and more popular. These toilets reduce the number of water users use per flush. 0.8 gallons of water can be used when flushing a dual-flush toilet.
Recent flush toilets have been equipped with all sorts of smart technology, from touchless flushing to heated seats. As in airplanes, vacuum water closets are becoming more prevalent in houses in Japan.
Now you know who invented the toilet!
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