The History of Toilets

Toilets in the Ancient World

In Ancient Egypt rich people had proper bathrooms and toilets in their homes. Toilet seats were made of limestone. Poor people made do with a wooden stool with a hole in it. Underneath was a container filled with sand, which had to be emptied by hand.

Ruin of a second-century public toilet in Roman Ostia


Toilets in the Modern World

In 1596 Sir John Harrington invented a flushing lavatory with a cistern.

Thomas Crapper did not invent the flushing toilet. That is a historical myth.

Inside Toilets were a luxury in the 19th century. In the late 19th century working class homes almost always had outside lavatories. It was decades before inside toilets became universal.


The Romans built sewers to collect rainwater and sewage. Wealthy Romans had their own toilets but they also built public lavatories. In them there was no privacy just stone seats next to one another without partitions of any kind.



Toilets in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages toilets were simply pits in the ground with wooden seats over them. However in the middle ages monks built stone or wooden lavatories over rivers.


Today in rich countries we take toilets for granted, yet in poor countries millions of people do not have hygienic toilets.