Open Access Articles- Top Results for Toilet


This article is about a sanitation fixture used primarily for the disposal of human waste. For a room containing a toilet, see Toilet (room). For other uses, see Toilet (disambiguation).
Toilets come in various shapes and forms around the world: Left: flush toilet in a home in Australia, with dispenser for toilet paper and a toilet brush in its holder; Right: Low-cost dry toilet (Arborloo at a school in Zimbabwe)

A toilet is a sanitation fixture used primarily for the disposal of human urine and feces. They are often found in a small room referred to as a toilet, bathroom or lavatory. A toilet can be designed for people who prefer to sit (on a toilet pedestal) or for people who prefer to squat and use a squat toilet. Flush toilets, which are common in many parts of the world (particularly in more affluent countries or regions), may be connected to a septic tank or - more commonly in urban areas - via a sewer to a sewage treatment plant.

Dry toilets, for example pit latrines and composting toilets, require no or little water. The excreta is removed manually or composted in situ. Chemical toilets or mobile dry toilets can be used in mobile and temporary situations where there is no access to sewerage.

Ancient civilizations used toilets attached to simple flowing water sewage systems included those of the Indus Valley Civilization and also those of the Romans and Egyptians.[1] Although a precursor to the flush toilet system which is widely used nowadays was designed in 1596 by John Harington,[2] such systems did not come into widespread use until the late nineteenth century.[3] Thomas Crapper was one of the early makers of flush toilets in England.

Many infectious diseases, including cholera and diarrhoea, can be largely prevented when effective sanitation systems are in place. Hygienic toilets are one important piece of the overall sanitation system.


Some types of toilets are more commonly referred to as latrines, for example the "pit latrine". For most people the term "toilet" has a cleaner, more upmarket connotation than the word "latrine".


Flush toilets

Main article: Flush toilet
File:Toilet 370x580.jpg
Flush toilet bowl (sitting style)

A typical flush toilet is a vitreous, ceramic bowl containing water plus plumbing made to be rapidly filled with more water. The water in the toilet bowl is connected to a hollow drain pipe shaped like an upside-down U connecting the drain. One side of the U channel is arranged as a hollow siphon tube longer than the water in the bowl is high. The siphon tube connects to the drain. The bottom of the upside-down U-shaped drain pipe limits the height of the water in the bowl before it flows down the drain. The water in the bowl acts as a barrier to sewer gas entering and as a receptacle for waste. Sewer gas is vented through a vent pipe attached to the sewer line.

The amount of water used by flush toilets may a significant portion of personal water usage, totaling as much as about Script error: No such module "convert". of water per capita per day.[4]

When a toilet is flushed, the water should flow into a septic tank or into a sewage system with a sewage treatment plant. However, this is often not the case at a global level.

Modern low flush toilet designs allow the use of much less water per flush: Script error: No such module "convert". per flush. Dual flush toilets allow the user to select between a flush for urine or feces saving a significant amount of water over conventional units. The flush handle on these toilets is pushed up for one kind of flush and down for the other.[5] In some places users are encouraged not to flush after urination. Flush toilets, if plumbed for it, may also use greywater (water previously used for washing dishes, laundry and bathing) for flushing rather than potable water (drinking water). Some modern toilets pressurize the water in the tank which initiates flushing action with less water usage. Heads (on ships) are typically flushed with seawater.

A flush toilet can also be installed without a water cistern and flushed manually with a few liters of water using a small bucket. In this case, the toilet is called a pour flush toilet.[6] This type of low-cost toilet is common in many Asian countries.

Pit latrines

Main article: Pit latrine

A pit latrine is a dry toilet system which collects human excrement and urine in a pit or trench and ranges from a simple slit trench dug in the ground to more elaborate systems with seating or squatting pans and ventilation systems. They are more often used in emergency, rural and wilderness areas as well as in the rural or peri-urban areas of much of the developing world. The waste pit or trench, in some cases, will be large enough that the reduction in mass of the contained waste products by the ongoing process of decomposition allows the pit to be used for many years before it fills up. When the pit becomes too full, it may be emptied or the hole covered with earth. Pit latrines have to be located away from drinking water sources (wells, streams, etc.) to minimize the possibility of disease spread via groundwater pollution. Army units typically use a form of pit toilet when they are in the field and away from functional sewerage systems. The use of correctly located pit toilets were found to prevent much of the spread of various diseases which used to kill many more soldiers than the bullets and artillery used in pre-1940 warfare.

Dry toilets

Main article: Dry toilet
Pit latrines are still in use to a limited extent in rural areas (Herøy, Norway)

Dry toilets use no water or very little water for flushing. Many different types of dry toilets exist: the pit latrine (a simple hole in the ground, or one with ventilation, fly guards and other improvements), the composting toilet (which mixes excreta with carbon rich materials for faster decomposition), the urine-diverting dry toilet (which keeps urine separate from feces), the incinerating toilet (which burns the excreta), the freezing toilet (which freezes the excreta) and the tree bog (a simple system for converting excrement to direct fertiliser for trees).

The pig toilet from the Indian state of Goa which consists of a toilet linked to a pig enclosure by a chute is still in use to a limited extent but the subsequent use of the pigs for food carries a significant risk for human health.[7]

Urine diversion toilets

Urine diversion (UD) toilets have two compartments. One for urine and one for the feces. A urine diversion toilet flushes one or both compartments with water. A urine-diverting dry toilet (UDDT) is a form of dry toilet. UDDTs can be linked to systems which reuse excreta as a fertilizer or biofuel. Astronauts use a UDDT to recover potable water in the space station.[8]

Chemical toilets

Main article: Chemical toilet

Chemical toilets which do not require a connection to a water supply are used in a variety of situations. Examples include passenger train toilets and airplane toilets and also complicated space toilets for use in zero-gravity spacecraft.


Flying toilets

Main article: Flying toilet

The unsanitary 'flying toilets' are used in African informal settlements where plastic shopping bags are first used as a container for excrement and are then thrown as far away as possible."[9] This practice, coupled with the solid waste problem of discarded plastic bags, has led to the banning of the manufacture and import of such bags in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.[9]

Portable toilets

A bucket toilet
File:Porta Potty by David Shankbone.jpg
A line of portable toilets
Main article: Portable toilet

The portable toilet is used on construction sites and at large outdoor gatherings where there are no other facilities. They are typically self-contained units that are made to be easily moved to different locations as needed. Most portable toilets are unisex single units with privacy ensured by a simple lock on the door. The units are usually light weight and easily transported by a flatbed truck and loaded and unloaded by a small forklift. Many portable toilets are small molded plastic or fiberglass portable rooms with a lockable door and a receptacle to catch waste in a chemically treated container. If used for an extended period of time they have to be cleaned out and new chemicals put in the waste receptacle. For servicing multiple portable toilets tanker trucks (vacuum trucks), often called "Honey Trucks", are equipped with lage vacuums to evacuate the waste and replace the chemicals. Portable toilets can also be equipped with urine diversion as in the case of portable urine-diverting dry toilets.

High-tech toilets

"High-tech" toilets include features such as: automatic-flushing mechanisms that flush a toilet or urinal when finished; water jets, or "bottom washers" like a bidet; blow dryers; artificial flush sounds to mask noises; and urine and stool analysis for medical monitoring. Matsushita's "Smart Toilet" checks blood pressure, temperature, and blood sugar. Some feature automatic lid operation, heated seats, deodorizing fans or automated paper toilet-seat-cover replacers. Interactive urinals have been developed in several countries, allowing users to play video games as with the "Toylet", produced by Sega, that uses pressure sensors to detect the flow of urine and translates it into on-screen action.[10]

Floating toilets

A floating toilet is essentially an toilet on a platform built above or floating on the water. Instead of excreta going into the ground they are collected in a tank or barrel. To reduce the amount of excreta that needs to hauled to shore, many use urine diversion. The floating toilet was developed for residents without quick access to land or connection to a sewer systems.[11][12] It is also used in areas subjected to prolonged flooding.[13] The need for this type of toilet is high in areas like Cambodia.[14]

Public toilets

Main article: Public toilet
File:Limbourg Ves1JPG.jpg
Public urinal (Limbourg, Belgium)

A public toilet, frequently called a restroom, is accessible to the general public. It may be within a building that, while privately owned, allows public access. Access to a public toilet may require a fee, (pay toilet), or may be limited to business's customers.

Depending on culture, there may be varying degrees of separation between men and women and different levels of privacy. Typically, the entire room, or a stall or cubicle containing a toilet is lockable. Urinals, if present in a men's toilet, are typically mounted on wall with or without a divider between them. In the most basic form, a public toilet may be not much more than an open latrine. Another form is a street urinal known as a pissoir after the French term (see Urinal).

In more luxurious variations there may be an attendant, towels, showers, etc. A fairly common feature in more modern toilets is an area to change baby diapers.

A charge levied in the UK during the mid-20th century was one British penny, hence the generally adopted term "spend a penny" meaning to use the toilet.[15]

Squat toilets

Main article: Squat toilet

A squat toilet (also called “squatting toilet" or "Turkish toilet") is a toilet of any technology type (i.e. pit latrine, urine-diverting dry toilet, flush toilet etc.) which is used in a squatting position rather than sitting. This means that the defecation posture used is to place one foot on each side of the toilet drain or hole and to squat over it. Squatting toilets are most commonly found in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East but can also occasionally be found in some European, Mediterranean, and South American countries. They are common in most Muslim countries and can quite easily be used in conjunction with anal cleansing with water in accordance with Islamic toilet etiquette. However, there is a general trend in many countries to move from squatting toilets to sitting toilets (particularly in urban areas) as the latter are often regarded as more modern.[citation needed]

Squat toilet as seen in some parts of Europe and Asia 
Squat toilet (Rome, Italy
Squat toilet in Topkapi palace (Istanbul, Turkey
Squat toilet in Topkapi palace 
Porcelain squat toilet, with water tank for flushing (Wuhan, China
Old-style squat toilet (Hong Kong


There are cultural differences in socially accepted and preferred voiding positionsfor urination around the world: in the Middle-East and Asia, the squatting position is more prevalent, while in the Western world the standing and sitting position are more common.[16]

Related sanitary ware


Main article: Urinal

Urinals are primarily used by males, although some designs also exist for females. They are intended for urination only, not for defecation. Urinals are meant to be used for the convenience of male users in a standing position. They typically have no door or stall enclosure, and thus take up less space. These fixtures are most commonly found in public places, but can occasionally be found in a private home. Urinals are usually water flushed, although waterless urinals are also becoming more popular as they save water.

Public urinals are not common in many Muslim countries due to the Islamic toilet etiquette.[citation needed]

Victorian public urinals 
A single urinal, with a bright pink urinal cake 
A stainless steel trough-style urinal 
Dutch retractable street urinal, in The Hague 
Urinals in men's room at Oslo Opera house 


Main article: Bidet

A bidet is a plumbing fixture or type of sink intended for washing the genitalia, inner buttocks, and anus.

Role of toilets and sanitation for public health

Main article: Sanitation

Toilets are one important element of a sanitation system, although other elements are also needed: transport, treatment, disposal or reuse.[6] Diseases, including cholera, which still affects some 3 million people each year, can be largely prevented when effective sanitation and water treatment prevents fecal matter from contaminating waterways, groundwater and drinking water supplies.

Example of cholera in England

There have been five main cholera outbreaks and pandemics since 1825. In London alone, the second killed 14,137 people in 1849, and the third took 10,738 lives in 1853-54. In 1849 the English physician John Snow published a paper On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, in which he suggested that cholera might be waterborne. During the 1854 epidemic, he collected and analyzed data establishing that people who drank water from contaminated sources such as the Broad Street pump died of cholera at much higher rates than those who got water elsewhere.

Global situation

To this day, many people in developing countries have no toilets in their homes and are resorting to open defecation instead. The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation by WHO and UNICEF is the official United Nations mechanism tasked with monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goal relating to drinking-water and sanitation (MDG 7, Target 7c). One target of this goal is to: "Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation" and publishes figures on access to sanitation worldwide on a regular basis.[17]


File:Marriage A-la-Mode 4, The Toilette - William Hogarth.jpg
In La Toilette from Hogarth's Marriage à la Mode series (1743), a young countess receives her lover, tradesmen, hangers-on, and an Italian tenor as she finishes her toilette[18]
File:Portable potty on top of a mountain in China.JPG
Portable potty on top of a mountain in China


The word toilet came to be used in English along with other French fashions. It originally referred to the toile, French for "cloth", draped over a lady or gentleman's shoulders while their hair was being dressed, and then (in both French and English) by extension to the various elements, and also the whole complex of operations of hairdressing and body care that centered at a dressing table, also covered by a cloth, on which stood a mirror and various brushes and containers for powder and make-up: this ensemble was also a toilette, as also was the period spent at the table, during which close friends or tradesmen were often received.[19] The English poet Alexander Pope in The Rape of the Lock (1717) described the intricacies of a lady's preparation.

The word toilet may also be used, especially in British English to describe the room containing the fixture, for which euphemisms such as restroom or bathroom are used in American English. Prior to the introduction of modern flush toilets, most human waste disposal was done through the use of household chamber pots, or took place outdoors in outhouses or latrines. Pail closets were introduced in England and France in an attempt to reduce sewage problems in rapidly expanding cities.

These various senses are first recorded by the OED in rapid sequence in the later 17th century: the set of "articles required or used in dressing" 1662, the "action or process of dressing" 1681, the cloth on the table 1682, the cloth round the shoulders 1684, the table itself 1695, and the "reception of visitors by a lady during the concluding stages of her toilet" 1703 (also known as a "toilet-call"), but in the sense of a special room the earliest use is 1819, and this does not seem to include a lavatory.[20]

Through the 18th century, everywhere in the English-speaking world, these various uses centred around a lady's draped dressing-table remained dominant. In the 19th century, apparently first in the United States,[21] the word was adapted as a genteel euphemism for the room and the object as we know them now, perhaps following the French usage cabinet de toilette, much as powder-room may be coyly used today, and this has been linked to the introduction of public toilets, for example on railway trains, which required a plaque on the door. The original usages have become obsolete, and the table has become a dressing-table.

Vestiges of the original meaning continue to be reflected in terms such as toiletries, eau de toilette and toiletry bag (to carry flannels, soaps, etc.). This seemingly contradictory terminology has served as the basis for various parodies e.g. Cosmopolitan magazine ("If it doesn't say 'eau de toilette' on the label, it most likely doesn't come from the famed region of Eau de Toilette in France and might not even come from toilets at all.")

The word toilet itself may be considered an impolite word in Anglophone North America, while elsewhere the word is used without any embarrassment. The choice of the word used instead of toilet is highly variable, not just by regional dialect but also, at least in Britain, by class connotations. Nancy Mitford wrote an essay out of the choice of wording; see U and non-U English. Some manufacturers show this uneasiness with the word and its class attributes: American Standard, the largest manufacturer, sells them as "toilets", yet the higher priced products of the Kohler Company, often installed in more expensive housing, are sold as commodes or closets, words which also carry other meanings. Confusingly, products imported from Japan such as TOTO are referred to as "toilets", even though they carry the cachet of higher cost and quality. When referring to the room or the actual piece of equipment, the word toilet is often substituted with other euphemisms and dysphemisms (See toilet humor).

As old euphemisms have become accepted, they have been progressively replaced by newer ones, an example of the euphemism treadmill at work.[22] The choice of word used to describe the room or the piece of plumbing relies as much on regional variation (dialect) as on social situation and level of formality (register).


The term lavatory, abbreviated in slang to lav, derives from the Latin: lavātōrium, which in turn comes from Latin lavō ("I wash"). The word was originally used to refer to a vessel for washing, such as a sink/wash basin, but eventually came to mean a room with such washing vessels, as for example in medieval monasteries, where the lavatorium was the monks' communal washing area.[23] The toilets in monasteries however were not in the lavatorium but in the reredorter. Nevertheless the word was later associated with toilets and the meaning evolved into its current one, namely a polite and formal euphemism for a toilet and the room containing it. Lavatory is the common signage for toilets on commercial airlines around the world, see Aircraft lavatory.


The origin of the (chiefly British) term loo is unknown. According to the OED, the etymology is obscure, but it might derive from the word Waterloo. The first recorded entry is in fact from James Joyce's Ulysses (1922): "O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. Watercloset".

Other theories are:

  • That it derives from the term "gardyloo" (a corruption of the French phrase gardez l'eau! (or maybe garde l'eau!) loosely translated as "watch out for the water!") which was used in medieval times when chamber pots were emptied from a window onto the street. However the first recorded usage of "loo" comes long after this term became obsolete.
  • That the word comes from nautical terminology, loo being an old-fashioned word for lee. The standard nautical pronunciation (in British English) of leeward is looward. Early ships were not fitted with toilets but the crew would urinate over the side of the vessel. However it was important to use the leeward side. Using the windward side would result in the urine blown back on board: hence the phrases 'pissing into the wind' and 'spitting into the wind'. Even now most yachtsmen refer to the loo rather than the heads.
  • That the word derives from the 17th century preacher Louis Bourdaloue. Bourdaloue's sermons at the Saint Paul-Saint Louis Church in Paris lasted at least three hours and myth has it that wealthier ladies took along "travelling" chamber pots that could be hidden under their dresses whenever the need arose to avoid the need to leave. Due to the popularity of the myth the bowls became known as Bourdaloues after the preacher and the name became corrupted to portaloos and sometimes just plain loos due to the habit of shortening words in slang.[citation needed]
  • That the word comes from the French word lieu (place), as in lieu d'aisance (literally: "place of ease", a common euphemism for lavatory) or lieu à l'anglaise (literally: "English place"). From around 1770 the term lieu à l'anglaise began to appear in France, referring to this English invention which was sometimes installed for the benefit of English visitors. (Ashenburg p. 138) [24]


The WC refers to the initial letters of Water Closet, which, despite being an English language abbreviation, is not in common use in English-speaking countries – but is widely used internationally: in France (pronounced "le vay-say" or "le vater"), in Italy (pronounced "vi-ci" or "vater"), Romania (pronounced "veh-cheu"), the Netherlands (pronounced "waysay"), Germany, Switzerland and Hungary (pronounced "ve-tse"), Denmark (pronounced "ve-se"), Norway (pronounced "vay-say"), Poland (pronounced "vu-tse"), Spain (pronounced "uve-cé" or "váter"), China, and others.[citation needed]


Lexicographer Eric Partridge derives khazi, also spelt karzy, kharsie or carzey, from a low Cockney word carsey originating in the late 19th century and meaning a privy.[25] Carsey also referred to a den or brothel. It is presumably derived from the Italian casa for house, with the spelling influenced by its similar sound to khaki. Khazi is now most commonly used in the city of Liverpool in the UK, away from its cockney slang roots.[26] An alternative derivation is from Christopher Chippindale,[27] who states that khazi derives from Army slang used by expatriate officers of the British Empire who took a dislike to the habits of, and steaming rain forest inhabited by, the Khasi people of the Khasia hills on the northern frontier of India.

The Dunny is an Australian expression for an outside toilet or outhouse. The person who appeared weekly to empty the pan beneath the seat was known as the "dunnyman". The word derives from the British dialect word dunnekin, meaning "dung-house".[28] It is now an informal word used for any lavatory and is most often used referring to drop or pit lavatories in the Australian bush, which are also called thunderboxes.

The Privy is an old fashioned term used more in the North of England and in Scotland; "privy" is an old alternative for "private", as in Privy council. It is used interchangeably in North America for various terms for the outhouse.

The netty is the most common word used in North East England. Many outsiders are often bemused when a Geordie or a Mackem states they are "gannin te the netty" (going to the bathroom). The etymology of the word is uncertain, but it is believed to be either derived from a corruption of "necessity" or from graffiti scrawled on Hadrian's Wall. It is linked to the Italian word gabinetti meaning "toilets" (singular gabinetto).[29]

Latrine is a term common in the military, specifically for the Army and Air Force for any point of entry facility where human waste is disposed of, which a civilian might call a bathroom or toilet, regardless of how modern or primitive it is. Traditionally the Royal Navy along with the United States Navy and Marine Corps use the nautical term "Head" to describe the same type of facility, regardless of whether it is located on a ship or on the land.

The Jacks is Irish slang for toilet.[30] It perhaps derives from "jakes", an old English term.[31]

The standalone toilet enclosure has been variously known as a "back house", "house of ease", "house of office", "little house", or "outhouse".[32] The house of office was a common name for a toilet in seventeenth century England, used by, among others, Samuel Pepys on numerous occasions: October 23, 1660: ...going down into my cellar..., I put my foot into a great heap of turds, by which I find Mr Turner's house of office is full and comes into my cellar.[33]

In the Philippines the abbreviation CR for "Comfort Room" is commonly used.


Ancient civilizations

File:8th century BCE toilet.jpg
Stone toilet found in 8th century BC house in the City of David, Jerusalem.

According to Teresi et al. (2002):[34]

The third millennium BC was the "Age of Cleanliness." Toilets and sewers were invented in several parts of the world, and Mohenjo-Daro (see sanitation of the Indus Valley Civilization) circa 2800 BC had some of the most advanced, with lavatories built into the outer walls of houses. These were primitive "Western-style" toilets made from bricks with wooden seats on top. They had vertical chutes, through which waste fell into street drains or cesspits. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the director general of archaeology in India from 1944 to 1948, wrote, "The high quality of the sanitary arrangements could well be envied in many parts of the world today."
Roman public toilets, Ostia Antica.

The toilets at Mohenjo-Daro, built about 2600 BC and described above, were only used by the affluent classes. Most people would have squatted over old pots set into the ground or used open pits.[35] The people of the Harappan civilization in Pakistan and northwestern India had primitive water-cleaning toilets that used flowing water in each house that were linked with drains covered with burnt clay bricks. The flowing water removed the human waste.

Early toilets that used flowing water to remove the waste are also found at Skara Brae in Orkney, Scotland, which was occupied from about 3100 BC until 2500 BC. Some of the houses there have a drain running directly beneath them, and some of these had a cubicle over the drain. Around the 18th century BC, toilets started to appear in Minoan Crete, Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs and ancient Persia. In Roman civilization, toilets using flowing water were sometimes part of public bath houses.

In 2012, archaeologists founded what is believed to be Southeast Asia's earliest latrine during the excavation of a neolithic village in the Rạch Núi archaeological site, southern Viet Nam. The toilet, dating back 1500 BC, yielded important clues about early Southeast Asian society. More than 30 preserved feces from humans and dogs containing fish and shattered animal bones from the site provided a wealth of information on the diet of humans and dogs at Rạch Núi and on the types of parasites each had to contend with.[36][37][38]

File:Green glazed toilet with pigsty model. Eastern Han dynasty 25 - 220 CE.jpg
Model of toilet with pigsty (see Pig toilet, China, Eastern Han dynasty 25 - 220 AD)

Roman toilets, like the ones pictured here, are commonly thought to have been used in the sitting position. But sitting toilets only came into general use in the mid-19th century in the Western world.[39] The Roman toilets were probably elevated to raise them above open sewers which were periodically "flushed" with flowing water, rather than elevated for sitting.

The Romans weren't the first civilisation to adopt a sewer system: The Indus Valley civilisation had a rudimentary network of sewers built under grid pattern streets, and it was the most advanced seen so far.[40]

Squat toilets (also known as an Arabic, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Iranian, Indian, Turkish or Natural-Position toilet) are used by squatting rather than sitting and are still used by the majority of the world's population.[41] There are several types of squat toilets, but they all consist essentially of a hole in the ground or floor with provisions for human waste.


Main article: Garderobe

Garderobes were toilets used in the Middle Ages, most commonly found in upper-class dwellings. Essentially, they were flat pieces of wood or stone spanning from one wall to the other, with one or more holes to sit on. These would go into pipes that would lead outside the castle or manor.[42] Garderobes would be placed in areas away from bedrooms to shun the smell[43] and also near kitchens or fireplaces to keep the enclosure warm.[42]

Garderobe seat openings 
View looking down into garderobe seat opening 
Exterior view of garderobe at Campen castle 

Chamber pots

Main article: Chamber pot

A chamber pot is a receptacle in which one would excrete waste in a ceramic or metal pot. Among Romans and Greeks, chamber pots were brought to meals and drinking sessions.[44] Johan J. Mattelaer said, “Plinius has described how there were large receptacles in the streets of cities such as Rome and Pompeii into which chamber pots of urine were emptied. The urine was then collected by fullers.” This method was used for hundreds of years; shapes, sizes, and decorative variations changed throughout the centuries.[45] This method is no longer used in developed countries, with the exception of hospital bedpans.

Before the introduction of flush toilets it was common for people to use a chamber pot at night and then to dispose of the 'nightsoil' in the morning; this practice (known as slopping out) continued in prisons in the United Kingdom until recently and is still in use in the Republic of Ireland. The garderobe was used in medieval times, and replaced by the privy midden and pail closet in early industrial Europe.

Early modern Europe

Chamber pots were in common use in Europe from ancient times, even being taken to the Middle East by Christian pilgrims during the Middle Ages.[46] By the Early Modern era, chamber pots were frequently made of china or copper and could include elaborate decoration. They were emptied into the gutter of the street nearest to the home.

File:Bourdaloue dsc02723.jpg
Bourdaloue chamber pots from the Austrian Imperial household

During the Victorian era, British housemaids emptied household chamber pots into a "slop sink" that was inside a housemaid's cupboard on the upper floor of the house. The housemaids' cupboard also contained a separate sink, made of wood with a lead lining to prevent chipping china chamber pots, for washing the "bedroom ware". Once indoor running water was built into British houses, servants were sometimes given their own lavatory downstairs, separate from the family lavatory.[47]

By the 16th century, cesspits and cesspools were increasingly dug into the ground near houses in Europe as a means of collecting waste, as urban populations grew and street gutters became blocked with the larger volume of human waste. Rain was no longer sufficient to wash away waste from the gutters. A pipe connected the latrine to the cesspool, and sometimes a small amount of water washed waste through the pipe into the cesspool. Cesspools would be cleaned out by tradesmen, who pumped out liquid waste, then shovelled out the solid waste and collected it in horse-drawn carts during the night. This solid waste would be used as fertilizer.

As long as dry toilets prevailed, human excreta was collected and used as a fertiliser in agricultural production (similarly to the closing-the-loop approach of ecological sanitation). In the early 19th century, public officials and public hygiene experts studied and debated the matter at length, for several decades. The construction of an underground network of pipes to carry away solid and liquid waste was only begun in the mid 19th-century, gradually replacing the cesspool system, although cesspools were still in use in some parts of Paris into the 20th century.[48] The growth of indoor plumbing, toilets and bathtubs with running water came at the same time.

Flush toilets

Further information: Flush toilet § History

With the onset of the industrial revolution and related advances in technology, the flush toilet began to emerge into its modern form. A crucial advance in plumbing, was the S-trap, invented by Alexander Cummings in 1775, and still in use today. This device uses the standing water to seal the outlet of the bowl, preventing the escape of foul air from the sewer. It was only in the mid-19th century, with growing levels of urbanisation and industrial prosperity, that the flush toilet became a widely used and marketed invention. This period coincided with the dramatic growth in the sewage system, especially in London, which made the flush toilet particularly attractive for health and sanitation reasons.

Although flush toilets first appeared in Britain, they soon spread to the Continent. In America, the chain-pull indoor toilet was introduced in the homes of the wealthy and in hotels, soon after its invention in England in the 1880s. Flush toilets were introduced in the 1890s.William Elvis Sloan invented the Flushometer in 1906, which used pressurized water directly from the supply line for faster recycle time between flushes.

Bruce Thompson, working for Caroma in Australia, developed the Duoset cistern with two buttons and two flush volumes as a water-saving measure in 1980. Modern versions of the Duoset are now available worldwide, and save the average household 67% of their normal water usage.[49][50]

Dry earth closet alternative

File:Dry toilet with peat dispenser (Torfstreu-Trockenklosett in German) on display in a former bunker in Berlin.png
Example of a historical dry toilet with peat dispenser which was used in bunkers during World War II in Berlin (tradename: Metroclo by Gefinal, Berlin)
Henry Moule's earth closet design, circa 1909.

Before the flush toilet became universally accepted, there were inventors, scientists, and public health officials who supported the use of dry earth closets. These were invented for example by the English clergyman Henry Moule, who dedicated his life to improving public sanitation after witnessing the horrors of the cholera epidemics of 1849 and 1854. Impressed by the insalubrity of the houses, especially in the summer of 1858 (the Great Stink) he invented what is called the dry earth system.

In partnership with James Bannehr, he took out a patent for the process (No. 1316, dated 28 May 1860). Among his works bearing on the subject were: ‘The Advantages of the Dry Earth System,’ 1868; ‘The Impossibility overcome: or the Inoffensive, Safe, and Economical Disposal of the Refuse of Towns and Villages,’ 1870; ‘The Dry Earth System,’ 1871; ‘Town Refuse, the Remedy for Local Taxation,’ 1872, and ‘National Health and Wealth promoted by the general adoption of the Dry Earth System,’ 1873.

His system was adopted in private houses, in rural districts, in military camps, in many hospitals, and extensively in the British Raj. Ultimately, however, it failed to gain the same public support and attention as the water closet, although the design remains today in some parts of the world.

Society and culture

Anal cleansing habits

Main article: Anal cleansing

There are many different ways to clean oneself after using the toilet, depending on national mores and local resources. An important part of early childhood education is toilet training.

In the Western world, the most common method of cleaning after using a toilet is by toilet paper or sometimes by using a bidet. In the Middle East and some countries in Asia, and South Asian countries such as India and Pakistan, the custom is to use water, either with or without toilet paper.[citation needed] Traditionally, the left hand is used for this, for which reason that hand is considered impolite or polluted in many Eastern countries.

Islamic toilet etiquette

The Islamic faith has a particular code, Qaḍāʼ al-Ḥājah describing Islamic toilet etiquette.[51]

Toilet humour

Toilet humour is a name given to a type of off-colour humour dealing with defecation, urination, and flatulence.

Men's toilet designed by artist and architect Hundertwasser 
Toilet in Delftware style 
Toilet Bus in Samsun 

See also


  1. Who invented a version of the flowing water toilet
  2. "". Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  3. Poop Culture: How America is Shaped by its Grossest National Product, Dave Praeger, ISBN 1-932595-21-X
  4. Van Der Leeden, F., F. L. Troise, and D. K. Todd. The Water Encyclopedia. Lewis Publishers, Inc. Second Edition, 1990, ISBN 0-87371-120-3, table 5-25
  5. "Tucson lawmaker wants tax credits for water-conserving toilet". Cronkite News Service. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tilley, E., Ulrich, L., Lüthi, C., Reymond, Ph., Zurbrügg, C. Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies - (2nd Revised Edition). Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), Duebendorf, Switzerland. ISBN 978-3-906484-57-0. 
  7. Environmental History of Water, p.40
  8. NASA Gives Space Station Crew 'Go' to Drink Recycled Water, May 2009
  9. 9.0 9.1 Whitaker, Mark. 30 June 2007. "Why Uganda hates the plastic bag." BBC News via Retrieved on 28 September 2007.
  10. Geere, Duncan. (6 January 2011). Sega Installs "‘Toylet’ Games in Japan’s Urinals". Wired UK. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  11. Floating toilets for floating villages on Cambodia’s Tonle Sap lake
  12. Sample Designs: Floating UDD Toilets, Asian Development Bank Website
  13. Article, Govt: Bt900bn needed (in Thailand), The Nation October 31, 2011
  14., Article: Floating toilets to clean up Cambodia's act, Author: Geoffrey Cain April 19, 2010, Global Post
  15. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th edition, under headword penny: "Phrases: ... spend a penny visit a lavatory, urinate (with allus[ion] to the former price of admission to public lavatories)"
  16. Y. de Jong. "Influence of voiding posture on urodynamic parameters in men: a literature review (in Dutch)" (PDF). Nederlands Tijdschrift voor urologie. Retrieved 2014-07-02. 
  17. WHO and UNICEF Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-water: 2013 Update, WHO, Geneva and UNICEF, New York
  18. See Egerton op cit
  19. National Gallery Catalogues (new series): The British School, Judy Egerton, p. 167, 1998, ISBN 1-85709-170-1, describing the famous Hogarth painting The Toilette from the Marriage à-la-mode series.
  20. All OED (1st edn) for "toilet". The sequence of recorded first use may not exactly match the sequence in which they actually came into use
  21. The original OED regards the use for a room including washing, bathing and/or lavatory facilities as "in U.S. esp."(ecially), and does not produce a quotation for the restricted sense as a lavatory, referring to Funk's Standard Dictionary. OED Ist Edn "Toilet"
  22. "The honest Jakes or Privy has graduated via Offices to the final horror of Toilet" - Vicar Bell, [1]
  23. "Lavatorium: a communal wash area, sometimes a dedicated outbuilding, or facility, such as a basin or trough, used by monks". English Heritage Online Thesaurus
  24. Harper, Douglas. "loo". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  25. A dictionary of slang and unconventional English, by Eric Partridge et al., 8th edition, 2002, p. 185
  26. Why Do We Say? (1987) by Nigel Rees
  27. Chippindale, Christopher: Stonehenge Complete, 2004 (Thames & Hudson), p130
  28. "Dunny - Define Dunny at". Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  29. "netty". Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  30. BBC h2g2 Retrieved 25 June 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  31. Toilet Inspector Retrieved 25 June 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. Ward Bucher (1996) Dictionary of Building Preservation, ISBN 0-471-14413-4
  33. The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Samuel Pepys, Mynors Bright, Richard Griffin (1892) p. 245
  34. Teresi et al. 2002
  35. "Early Latrines and Plumbing". Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  36. Old toilet find offers civilization start clues. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  37. Time capsule. Viet Nam News. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  38. Asia’s First Toilet Discovered In Southern Viet Nam. Asian Scientist. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  39. A History of Technology, Vol. IV: The Industrial Revolution, 1750-1850. (C. Singer, E Holmyard, A Hall, T. Williams eds.) Oxford Clarendon Press, pps. 507-508, 1958
  40. "The History of the Toilet". Thomas Mulrooney. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  41. Kira A. The Bathroom. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976, revised edition, pp.115,116.
  42. 42.0 42.1 Genc, Melda. "The Evolution of Toilets and Its Current State." Thesis. Middle East Technical University, 2009. Harold B. Lee Library. Brigham Young University, 2009. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.
  43. "Middle Ages Hygiene." Middle Ages. The Middle Ages Website. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.
  44. Mattelaer, Johan J. "Some Historical Aspects of Urinals and Urine Receptacles." World Journal of Urology 17.3 (1999): 145-50. Print.
  45. Powell, Christine A. "Port Royal Chamberpots Introduction." Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University, 1 Dec. 1996. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.
  46. Setton, Kenneth M. and Harry W. Hazard (1977). A History of the Crusades, Volume IV: The Art and Architecture of the Crusader States. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-299-06824-0. 
  47. Flanders, Judith (2003). The Victorian House. London: HarperCollins. p. 64. ISBN 0-00-713189-5. 
  48. La Berge, Ann Elizabeth Fowler (2002). Mission and Method: The Early Nineteenth-Century French Public Health Movement. Cambridge University Press. pp. 207–9. ISBN 978-0-521-52701-9. 
  49. "100 Years of Australian Innovation - Dual flush technology". 2007-04-18. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  50. Norton, Mary Beth and Carol Sheriff, David M Katzman, David W. Blight, Howard Chudacoff (2002). A People and a Nation: A History of the United States, Volume II: Since 1865. Cengage Learning. p. 504. ISBN 978-0-495-91590-4. 
  51. Shu'aib, Tajuddin B., "Qadaahul Haajah (Relieving Oneself)", The Prescribed Prayer Made Simple (MSA West Compendium of Muslim Texts), retrieved 2009-03-10 

Further reading