Toilets Vancouver | Hillcrest Plumbing

Toilets: Where Did They Come from and Where Are They Now?

Toilets. You probably use one every day, right? But how much do you really know about the white sanitation fixture in your bathroom corner? Who invented the first toilet? When did a toilet first flush?

Some of these questions have answers, others involve a hearty helping of guesswork.

First Toilets

Where did the toilet come from? Answering this proves more challenging than you might have imagined. It’s nearly impossible to credit any one person (or civilization) with the invention of a toilet. Toilets—however advanced—have likely been used since the beginning of time. While some historians date the first toilet back to a Neolithic settlement in Scotland (3000 BC), others believe the first toilets appeared in the Palace of Knossos on Crete (1700 BC).

In the third millennium BC, ancient civilizations were in the “Age of Cleanliness.” During this time, the idea of toilets and sewers began circulating throughout several parts of the world.

Toilets in Mohenjo-Daro (one of the world’s earliest major urban settlements) were quite advanced. Civilians built toilets into the walls of houses and equipped them with vertical shoots. Although flowing-water toilets were reserved for the most affluent classes, common civilians still had access to old pots and open pits to use as their own personal toilets.

The Scots also designed flowing-water toilets around 3000 BC. These toilets were probably more advanced—designed in houses with a drain running beneath them and a cubicle over the drain. From there, toilets began to appear in Egypt, Crete, ancient Persia, and Rome. Further evidence suggests toilets found on an archeological site in Vietnam date back to 1500 BC.

Chamber Pots

In ancient times, Europeans began using chamber pots (bowl-shaped containers with a lid and handle). These pots were placed under beds or in cupboards—available for use at the drop of a hat. While some chamber pots were basic, others were made of copper and china and decorated with elaborate designs. After filling up a chamber pot, users or housemaids emptied the pot into the gutter of the street.

As time passed, street gutters became blocked and civilians had to find a better means of waste removal. Many cities began to dig cesspits and cesspools underground. They would connect a pipe from a cesspool to a latrine (a hole in the ground used as a toilet) and pump the waste away.

Flush Toilets

Sir John Harington designed the first flush toilet in 1596. He installed this toilet for Queen Elizabeth I, but she refused to use it because she thought it was too noisy. The toilet design had a flush valve to release water from the tank, as well as a wash-down design to empty and refill the bowl.

As technology advanced, flush toilets became more advanced. In 1775, Alexander Cummings invented the S-trap (a device that uses water to seal the outlet of the bowl). From there, toilets began to undergo tremendous makeovers to ensure safety, efficiency, comfort. By the Victorian era, flush toilets became widely used—and marketed—for sanitation reasons.

Today, when a toilet is flushed, water flows into the sewer and travels underground to a water treatment plan. The water is then cleaned, sanitized, and re-used.

Squat Toilets

Squat toilets consist of a hole in the ground. Users will stand over the hole, place feet on both sides, and squat. While the idea of a squat toilet may seem outdated, the majority of the world’s population continues to use squat toilets in this day and age. These toilets are still commonplace in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America.

Sitting Toilets

Sitting toilets only came into general use in the Western world during the 19th century. But in Roman civilization, sitting toilets were actually the norm. These toilets were found in public bathhouses and allowed the user to sit on an open seat instead of squat over a hole and relieve themselves. Usually the toilets were elevated to allow open sewers to “flush” the waste without making a mess.

Modern Toilets

Although modern toilet design hasn’t changed much in decades, technological advances have begun to change—and simply—the toilet-using and toilet-cleaning experience. Some toilets now have incredible features, including the following:

  • Temperature control (for the seat)
  • Self-cleaning capabilities
  • Germ-killing capabilities
  • Eco-friendly flushing (due to low-flush designs)

Although there’s no stopping mother nature when she comes a-calling, you can now find a toilet with time-saving and comfort-enhancing features.

Whether your toilet has temperature control, eco-friendly flushing, or germ-killing capabilities, it’s important to understand how it works so you can keep it in working condition. Toilets, however advanced, still clog, malfunction, and collect grime. Take advantage of our expertise to ensure your toilet stays in pristine condition.

Here at Hillcrest Plumbing & Heating, our plumbers have extensive knowledge of toilets and sewage systems. Rely on us to help you clean, unclog, or repair the most needed sanitation device in your home.

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