How Have Toilets Changed Over Time

How Have Toilets Changed Over Time

Toilets are a modern convenience that most of us don’t pay much attention to. As a part of most everyone’s day to day lives in the Western hemisphere, we take them for granted.

But toilets weren’t always convenient and hygienic. How have toilets changed over time?

In the olden days, toilets were located outside. And before that, royalty residing in castles used chamber pots, which seems pretty gross now.

Here we’ll dive into toilet history and look at how toilets have evolved over the years.

Aren’t modern toilets great?

Today, people can use sophisticated, super hygienic toilets which can be flushed without having to touch them. Other fancy modern toilet features include:

  • Heated seats
  • Air dryers
  • Foot warmers
  • Bidet wash
  • Remote control
  • Self-deodorizer
  • Emergency flushing when there’s a power outage
  • Built-in sensors that alert you to possible tank leaks
  • Soft-closing lids
  • Built-in nightlights
  • MP3 and Bluetooth capabilities

It wasn’t always like this though: The lavatories have evolved a lot over the years. Read on to uncover how toilets have changed over time.

Before there were actual toilets, we had…


When examining how have toilets changed over time, it starts with no toilets at all. History experts believe that before anyone came up with the idea of actual toilets, all people did was squat when they had an urge to relieve themselves.

Research, however, suggests that the earliest reference in regards to writing about human waste disposal is over 3600 years old.

It is found in the Bible; according to Deuteronomy 23:13: “You shall have an implement among your equipment where you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and cover your refuse.”

Chair with a hole

Studies show that this is what comes close to a modern toilet that Nobleman and ladies, as well as Kings and Queens in London, used. The invention of this happened in 1530.

It features a metal or porcelain pot underneath that had to be removed and emptied.

Before this, people relieved themselves in cisterns or buckers in their homes which they called chamber pots. London had public facilities known as garderobes.

These were available in open halls as well as private castles. They connected to a pipe that was at a side of the building emptying waste into a river, moat, or pit causing unimaginable stench because of the smell of ripe rotting sewage.

Latrines flushed with buckets of water

It is unimaginable how people would just go about their business anywhere. The rise in population saw this as a matter of urgency. Cities began to spring up from deserts in Egypt.

Egyptians by 2500 BC had come up with a genius way to solve human waste disposal. They constructed bathrooms with latrines that people would flush using buckets with water.

The restrooms had earth ware pipes where they emptied, and many still function to date.

At the time Rome also has a public sewage system known as cloaca maxima. They put these up to prevent the streets from filling up with human waste and rainwater during the rainy seasons.

Construction of public latrines was also done over water channels. These had stone seats with a hole in the center which is similar to modern toilets that many use today.

Worth noting is that Europe did not benefit from this kind of forward-thinking technology as they struggled with sanitation for long before doing something about it.


These were mainly common during the Middle Ages. Toilets at the time were pits that were dug in the ground and came with wooden seats over them.

The rich folks during those years even used rags to wipe their behinds. Ordinary or poor people made use of plants.

Flushing toilets

Who knows, perhaps in a few years, flushing toilets will be a thing of the past with innovations cropping up left, right, and center. Until then, the flushing lavatory with cisterns remain the toilets of the modern world.

Sir John Harrington in 1596 invented the flushing loo, but the idea did not catch on.

Alexandra Cumming in 1775 got the flushing lavatory patent. A better design came into being in 1778 originating from Joseph Brahmah.

In the beginning, they were a luxury and only became common in the late 19th century. During the time the porcelain was used to make the toilet pans. They were also painted, embossed or decorated with a wide array of the attractive color

Learn more about toilets

Now that you’ve learned about the history of toilets, dive in to find out more. Check out our answers to questions like When did toilets become common?, How did toilets work in castles? and Why did toilets used to be outside?

If you’re in the market for a new toilet, check out Top 10 Best Toilet Reviews for recommendations. Then learn if toilets come in different heights and whether all toilet tanks are standard.

You can also find out the answers to questions like if toilets flush backwards in Australia, can toilets be recycled, and what should be done when a toilet freezes.

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