How One Simple Invention gave Birth to Modern Bathroom Design

What creature comfort could you not live without? Your smartphone? Hot water? The microwave? Well, there’s one object you probably haven’t thought about.

It rests in every home, and despite its unenviable job, it rarely lets us down. Some call it the john. Others refer to it as a can. And in rare cases, it can even feel like a throne! We’re talking, of course, about the faithful toilet.

So to celebrate this unsung hero of the modern world, online bathroom retailer QS Supplies decided to look back on the history of bathroom evolution. Here’s what they found.

The ancient Romans utilized streams of water to wash away human waste, although they didn’t have much concern for privacy. The Romans did their business as they sat on long wooden benches in full sight of everyone else. And because there was no such thing as toilet paper, they used a sponge on a stick.

The first modern flushable toilet appeared in the middle of the 16th century. It was a two-foot-deep oval bowl that required around 7.5 gallons of water per flush. When water was scarce, the rule was one flush per 20 uses.

But flushing toilets didn’t catch on until the 19th century, when a man named Thomas Crapper developed the ballcock system we still use today. Crapper’s surname – or at least a condensed version of it – soon became synonymous with the toilets he made and the ‘gifts’ they received.

Until the ‘crapper’ came along, most people made do with a chamber pot. The wealthiest members of society would have commodes. Simple but effective, a commode was a seat with a hole cut above a copper pot to catch waste.

The rest of the great unwashed used a public toilet. In the biggest cities, up to 100 people shared the same bathroom. Waste would spill out into the streets and rivers, creating a public health crisis in 19th-century England. This led to the development of sewage systems, indoor plumbing, and running water.

Indoor plumbing and hygienic toilets then gave birth to modern bathroom design. So without the flushing toilet, we wouldn’t have freestanding baths, shower rooms, calming colour schemes, or any of the other features that make our bathrooms feel like sanctuaries. So next time you’re enjoying a relaxing soak in the tub, give a little nod to the toilet. Because this unassuming invention rarely gets the full credit it deserves!

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