Who Invented the Toilet?
A Quick History Lesson for Newbies

Featured image - history of toilets

Ever since I started this blog, I’ve always want to tell the story of the toilet in my own tone. Surely, I have written portions of the history here and there. And today, like Rod Stewart humming with his rusty voice “Tonight's the night,” we are going to explore the great wonder of how the ceramic thrones are the way they are.

The History

In this article, I’m not going to talk about how B.C. or medieval era people disgustingly disposed of their feces wherever they wanted. That was the main reason why the plague took place. We are going straight to 1596. The time when Sir John Harrington came up with the idea of installing a cistern above the ceramic pot, which is a small pipe connected to two devices.

Basically, this simple device resembled the pull-chain toilet. Once you pull the handle, it triggers the valve to open and sends the water down to flush away your overnight burrito.

The Queen of England happily installed this invention in one of her marvelous palaces, and thus opened the era of modern sanitation. It is also worth mentioning that Sir John was the godson of the Queen. What a coincidence.

Laughing Ladies

200 years later, a random dude called Alexandar Cumming (what a great name) improved the plumbing system. He turned the straight pipe into an S-shaped one. 

By doing so, the water trapped in the protruded part of the pipe was able to prevent the odor from underneath the pipe.

In the meantime, flushing toilets gradually became mainstream in England.

In The 1880s

Finally, in the 1880s, Thomas Crapper (what another great name) was hired by Prince Edward in England, who later became King Edward, to build several modern lavatories in the royal palace. Although it is widely believed that Crapper invented the toilet, if you read this article carefully, you will realize that this is not true. Well, he didn’t make his name out of nothing.

Crapper was the first plumber/businessman to showcase ceramic sanitary wares and that made him famous in England. However, it was not until during the World War, when young American soldiers came to England and discovered Crapper’s business. And it goes without saying that Crapper became the euphemism of the word toilet.


The flow of toilet history didn’t stop there. Like time, or like the endless water flow streaming from the cistern, the evolution of toilet never ceased to grow. Besides toilets, there were some minor improvements that shaped our contemporary looks of the bathroom, such as toilet-paper rolls and the position of water tank.

Among all, the biggest change would be when Congress passed the Energy Policy Act in 1994, requiring the water consumption of flushing toilets use only 1.6 gallons when flushing, decreasing it from as high as 3.5 gallons. The law shook up the rules in the market. At first, customers weren’t happy about the low flow toilets, due to the weak flushing power and the constant clogging. Soon after, the toilet companies came up with new models that satisfied the people’s needs.

The Current State

Still, it is undeniable that we are now blessed with newer inventions like dual-flush toilets or fully-glazed porcelain models. And it is also exciting to see how toilet companies manage to cut the water consumption from 1.6 gallons to 1.28 gallons. I’m pretty sure we are going to hit 1 or even under a gallon per flush.

Of course, how can we not mention new accessories like the bidet? This little thing literally changes how toilets work! However, that will be too off-topic, so I will save it for a future article. There’s only one direction for the future of toilet. That’s is undoubtedly further.

Be clean. Stay white. Good luck.

  • Tim
  • June 15, 2018

Tim has been in the plumbing and home improvement industry in over a decade. His main passion is the bathroom where he loves to get creative within this sector. He spends most of his time writing content about home improvement, DIY and bathroom related topics.

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