We define a toilet as a receptacle where one may relieve themselves of bodily fluids and material, that connects to a flushing system that takes the human waste down into a sewer or septic tank. Obviously, there are a variety of toilets and both history and time will show that almost anything, anywhere, at any place, when nature calls, may become a toilet with or without a flushing system and a means to carry the human waste away. But man has come a long way from hiding behind the bushes, burying waste in pits, or simply sliding it down the castle walls into the moat below. Therefore, for this discussion we will be talking about the Flush Toilet.


Various ancient cultures including the Mesopotamians (4000BCE), Minoans (2nd Millennium BC) and the Romans (5th Century AD), used various forms of toilets to varying degrees. All of them used a form of piping and the Roman’s had actual sewers. The British in 31st Century BC were the first to use a form of a toilet. A village in Skara Brae, Orkney diverted a stream through pipes and simple hydraulics to wash waste away.

But the first modern toilet which used a flush valve, was developed in 1596 by Sir John Harington. His design let water out of a tank and involved a bowl. Queen Elizabeth I became one of the first owners of Harington’s toilet.

All About the Toilet

Early toilets were straight lines to the sewer. Can you imagine the smell?

However, it would take another 200 years (1775) for someone to develop the S-Trap – which is still in use today. Alexander Cumming figured out that he could create a seal of water by simply bending the pipe into an S-shape, that would prevent the smell of the sewer coming back up the toilet. Inventor Joseph Bramah, a Cumming’s toilet installer, would improve on Cumming’s design three years later by introducing a hinged flap to seal water at the bottom of the flush-tank – also still in use today – and a float-valve system – again, also still in use today.

But toilets would not become a common household item until the late 19th century – 100 years later – when London’s growing sewage system was able to accommodate more and more people.

Ceramic would not be used in toilets until 1870.


All About the Toilet

The modern toilet actually maintains a lot of features from it’s original development.

Check out some of the toilets we have at MC Home Depot in this “What’s in MC?” video featuring HCG: