Toilet Technology

High tech toilets? We've got the scoop. Learn the latest in toilet technology

Learn the latest technologies in the world of toilets

Most of us don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about toilets. Toilets are just waypoints in our day; a place where we stop for a few minutes to do our business while we think about other things. With the possible exception of plumbers, most of us don’t give a thought as to what goes on beneath us when we flush the toilet.

Toilets have a long history. There is archaeological evidence that many ancient societies had rudimentary toilets with gravity assisted plumbing. Roman toilets have been excavated and can be viewed by tourists today looking much as they did while they were still in use.

While today we consider using the bathroom a reason for privacy, it seems that the ancient Romans saw using their public bathrooms as a communal event; a good time to visit and gossip with neighbors. Toilets were anything but private, but instead were friendly group environments, where you could sit on a hole next to a neighbor and do your business together. Romans used sponges on sticks to wipe themselves. The sponge was then rinsed in tub of water and reused by the next guy to use the toilet.

Development of Modern Toilets

During the centuries following the end of the Roman Empire, toilet technology did not make meaningful advances for many generations. The most common method of waste elimination was an outhouse in rural areas, or directly into a chamber pot which was then dumped. This was commonly done out of a window in urban areas, and if a passerby was lucky, he might be warned in time to dodge away by the cry of “Guardy loo!”

It wasn’t until a Godson of Queen Elizabeth developed a chamber pot-type seat over actual plumbing, with a valve seal and a tank of water for flushing, that the beginning of the modern toilet got its first royal ancestor. At the time, the design wasn’t widely accepted, but the new “thrones” did find their way under some members of the royal families, and the Queen herself apparently used one to do her own royal business.

But it wasn’t until 1775 that the rudimentary throne leaped forward with the addition of a standing pool of water in the pot, for odor control, in a patent by Scottish inventor, Alexander Cummings.

Finally, English Plumber, Thomas Crapper (Yes, it’s true) made popular in Europe the flushing toilet, leading many to believe he’d invented it. While he didn’t exactly invent the flushing toilet, he did mass-produce them in the 19th century, and added several innovations, including the critical S-shaped pipe valve to stifle odors, and the floating ballcock design for flushing.

No further major innovations occurred in toilet technology until the 20th century. It was then that toilet tanks came off the walls and became a part of the toilets themselves, and the washout method of plumbing became the washdown, siphon-jet method that we know today.

New Technologies in Today’s Toilets

Other than a very colorful period in the 1930s when colored porcelain glazes resulted in a popularity surge of pastel-colored toilets, sinks, and bathtubs, toilets didn’t changed much in several generations. Until now. We are finally beginning to see some new developments in the standard two piece toilets that our parents and grandparents used. More awareness of environmental concerns about water usage have resulted in new technologies that allow a toilet to flush using much less water. Low-flow toilets use about 1.6 gallons of water per flush rather than the standard seven gallons in older models.

Also widely available are dual flush model toilets where the user can choose between two types of flushing, one for liquid waste, and one that is more powerful and uses more water for solid waste. Technology for hands-free operation has also increased in popularity.

Now that the basics of more eco-friendly flushing systems have been covered, more technologies are being integrated into toilets for those who are willing to pay a little more for the most up-to-date innovations. Toilets are now available with heated seating, bidet functions, night lighting, deodorizing, built-in-cleaning wands, air-drying, quiet-close lids, and antimicrobial seats. You can listen to music while you go with built-in Bluetooth options for your bathroom playlist. There are even accessories you can buy for your toilet time, such as Squatty Potties!

From chamber pots and holes in the ground, to preheated toilet seats and built-in bathroom mood music, toilet technology has come a long way… and who knows where it goes from here!

Resources — The Spruce, Sebring, Old House Online