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The wild history of the toilet flusher

The wild history of the toilet flusher

  • 3 min read

With the push of a handle you trigger a downward water tornado that sends everything that was in your toilet bowl into the nether regions of a sewer system deep below your feet. But, have you ever taken a moment after flushing your toilet to ask yourself “How were they flushing toilets before this... and what did I eat yesterday?"

Between 1700 BC and 100 AD:

We’ve been using actual toilets for the last 5000 years, but have only been push-to-flushing for the last 150. Between 1700 BC and 100 AD, the Greeks and Romans used communal toilets. And, no AD doesn’t stand for after dumping and BC doesn’t stand for before crapping. 

The toilets were constructed over a water runoff from the hot baths and fountains which would rinse poop away.


15th Century:

Around the late 15th century, during medieval London times, garderobes were invented. Garderobes were private toilets and were mostly constructed in castles. This may have been where the toilet became known as a throne.

Depending on the shape of the building would depend on where the waste went. Most times garderobes sat above a cesspit, or the castle's moat. Farmers would use the cesspits contents as fertilizer, and fish would use the moats contents as….food! 


In 1592, toilet innovator Sir John Harrington designed a water closet (toilet) for himself and his godmother, Queen Elizabeth 1. This is also why a toilet is called a John. Better than calling it a Todd.

This water closet had a reservoir of water above it that fed into a small downpipe which allowed the water to “flush away” the contents. Great idea right? Unfortunately, his invention wasn’t very popular. 


It only took a mere 200 years, but in 1775 we found a way to block out the sewer smell! Alexander Cummings invented the S-shaped pipe and finally got our plumbing in shit shape. The S pipe essentially solved the sewer-chimney problem with a permanent retention of water underneath the bowl which kept the sewer smells from coming inside and kept wives everywhere from dying after the husbands’ leave the bathroom. 


In 1851, pioneering manufacturer George Jennings helped push the flushing toilet into the public eye. And no we know what you’re thinking, not the brown eye. During The Great Exhibition in London, he installed water closets into Crystal Palace and charged people 1 cent to use the restroom. For 1 cent, you got a shoeshine, a comb, towel, and the seat was guaranteed to be clean! What a deal! Except we don’t want to know what the comb was used for. This exhibition of the toilet was only meant to last 15 days, but ended up becoming a permanent attraction, making over 1000 euros a year!

And watching people poop in public is how reality TV was invented. 


The final, most notable, innovation to the flushing toilet was Thomas William Twyford’s invention of the single piece, ceramic flush toilet. The toilet we all know and love today. A free standing toilet with a flusher. We call our toilet Susan. I mean, disregard that. Twyford basically took toilets from being desktop computers to laptops. They were smaller and easier to clean which made them popular enough to be considered the public's preference for basin-type water closets

Today and tomorrow's goal for toilet innovation is to be eco friendly. With each flush coming in at 1.6 gallons of water, companies are competing to develop better, low-flush toilet systems.

Who knows what (or when) the next innovation in toilet technology will be. Maybe a toilet that compliments you on your technique?

We give it 200 years.