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A Plumber’s History of the Toilet

How much do you know about your toilet? Even if you understand how it works, do you know the history of the toilet? People have always had biological necessities, but they haven’t always had a pleasant place to relieve themselves. Here’s a look at toilet history from a plumber’s perspective. You’ll never look at your humble toilet the same again!

When “Plumber” Officially Became a Profession

Ancient Babylon is known for its sophisticated aqueducts, elevated gardens, and gorgeous fountains, but it was Rome that officially made plumbing a profession. The word “plumber” comes from the Latin word “plumbum,” meaning lead. “Plumbarius” is Latin for “plumber,” the title given to people who took care of the lead pipes and fixtures of ancient Rome.

As Romans conquered surrounding lands, they needed workers to build the plumbing and aqueduct systems they had come to rely on to keep their cities relatively clean and sanitary. This was when the word “plumber” changed. No longer did it indicate a mere labor worker, but a specialized professional. The meaning holds true to this day.

Early Bathroom Designs

The first “toilets” were communal outhouses, chamber pots, or your basic hole in the ground. In the 11th century when castle building was all the rage, toilets began being integrated into the architecture for the first time. These early bathrooms were called “garderobes,” a name that is thought to come from the act of hanging your clothes in the toilet shaft where ammonia from stale urine would kill the fleas. Not quite the luxurious feel modern bathrooms have today.

Garderobes were small rooms protruding from castle walls to allow toilet contents to fall into the cesspool or moat below. These protrusions were the weakest spots in a castle’s defenses, but unassuming invaders were in for a nasty surprise if they attempted to scale the wall beneath one!

Flushing Toilets

The first flush toilet as we know it today was invented in 1596 by John Harington, but it wasn’t widely used until the mid-1800s. It was then that Thomas Crapper built upon the earlier concepts with new water traps and toilet systems to make indoor plumbing easier, more convenient, and less smelly for all. His name lives on infamy, but we owe a lot to Mr. Crapper.

Of course, plenty of advancements in toilet parts continued well into the 20th and 21st centuries. Ever wonder who invented the toilet seat? A man named Tom Bradney decided it was time to add one to modern flushing toilets in 1927. As with many modern designs, this was preceded by a stone toilet seat design dating back 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty in China.

Latest Toilet Advancements

Indoor plumbing and flushing toilets have come a long way over the centuries. Today, they’re greener, cleaner, and more free-flowing than ever before. Some of the latest advancements in toilet history have yet to hit the mainstream market. Here are the trends that may someday become commonplace in the bathroom:

  • Greywater systems, which use wastewater from shower and sink drains to flush the toilet
  • Touchless toilets with sensors that automatically open and close the lid and flush the toilet with no need to touch any germ-infested surfaces
  • Seat warmers to pamper your derriere
  • Deodorizing spritzers to mask unpleasant odors
  • Self-cleaning features so you never have to scrub the toilet again
  • Nightlights for those midnight bathroom runs

To get the most from your toilet, you need a Mr. Rooter plumbing plumber to install a modern fixture in your home and keep it flowing freely. Give us a call today to schedule top-notch plumbing services!


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