A toilet is a sanitation fixture used primarily for the disposal of human urine and feces. They are often found in a small room referred to as a toilet, bathroom or lavatory. A toilet can be designed for people who prefer to sit (on a toilet pedestal) or for people who prefer to squat (over a squatting toilet). Flush toilets, which are common in many parts of the world (particularly in more affluent countries or regions), may be connected to a nearby septic tank or more commonly in urban areas via "large" (3–6 in or 7.6–15.2 cm) sewer pipe connected to a sewerage pipe system. The water and waste from many different sources is piped in large pipes to a more distant sewage treatment plant or wastewater treatment plant. Dry toilets, including pit latrines and composting toilets require no or little water with excreta being removed manually or composted in situ. Chemical toilets or mobile dry toilets can be used in mobile and many temporary situations where there is no access to sewerage. Some types of toilets are more commonly referred to as latrines, for example the "pit latrine", and for most people the term "toilet" has a cleaner more upmarket connotation than the word "latrine".
Ancient civilizations used toilets attached to simple flowing water sewage systems included those of the Indus Valley Civilization, e.g., Harappa and Mohenjo-daro which are located in present day India and Pakistan and also the Romans and Egyptians. Although a precursor to the flush toilet system which is widely used nowadays was designed in 1596 by John Harington, such systems did not come into widespread use until the late nineteenth century. Thomas Crapper was one of the early makers of flush toilets in England.
Diseases, including cholera, which still affects some 3 million people each year, can be largely prevented when effective sanitation and water treatment prevents fecal matter from contaminating drinking water supplies.
- Ancient civilizations 1.1
- Early modern Europe 1.2
- Development of the flush toilet 1.3
- Dry earth closet alternative 1.4
- Industrial production 1.5
- Spread & further developments 1.6
Flush toilets 2
- Operation 2.1
- Manufacture 2.2
- Water usage 2.3
Other toilet types 3
- Pit toilets or pit latrines 3.1
- Dry toilets 3.2
- Urine diversion toilets 3.3
- Flying toilets 3.4
- Chemical toilets 3.5
- Public toilets 3.6
- Portable toilets 3.7
- High-tech toilets 3.8
- Floating toilets 3.9
- Chamber pots 3.10
- Garderobes 3.11
- Urinals 3.12
- Squat toilets 3.13
- Role of sanitation 4
- Toilet 5.1
- Lavatory 5.2
- Loo 5.3
- WC 5.4
- Other 5.5
- Standing vs sitting 6.1
- See also 7
- References 8
- Further reading 9
- External links 10
According to Teresi et al. (2002):
The third millennium BC was the "Age of Cleanliness." Toilets and sewers were invented in several parts of the world, and Mohenjo-Daro circa 2800 BC had some of the most advanced, with lavatories built into the outer walls of houses. These were primitive "Western-style" toilets made from bricks with wooden seats on top. They had vertical chutes, through which waste fell into street drains or cesspits. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the director general of archaeology in India from 1944 to 1948, wrote, "The high quality of the sanitary arrangements could well be envied in many parts of the world today."
The toilets at Mohenjo-Daro, built about 2600 BC and described above, were only used by the affluent classes. Most people would have squatted over old pots set into the ground or used open pits. The people of the Harappan civilization in Pakistan and northwestern India had primitive water-cleaning toilets that used flowing water in each house that were linked with drains covered with burnt clay bricks. The flowing water removed the human wastes.
Early toilets that used flowing water to remove the waste are also found at Skara Brae in Orkney, Scotland, which was occupied from about 3100 BC until 2500 BC. Some of the houses there have a drain running directly beneath them, and some of these had a cubicle over the drain. Around the 18th century BC, toilets started to appear in Minoan Crete, Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs and ancient Persia. In Roman civilization, toilets using flowing water were sometimes part of public bath houses.
In 2012, archaeologists founded what is believed to be Southeast Asia's earliest latrine during the excavation of a neolithic village in the Rạch Núi archaeological site, southern Viet Nam. The toilet, dating back 1500 BC, yielded important clues about early Southeast Asian society. More than 30 preserved feces from humans and dogs containing fish and shattered animal bones from the site provided a wealth of information on the diet of humans and dogs at Rạch Núi and on the types of parasites each had to contend with.
Roman toilets, like the ones pictured here, are commonly thought to have been used in the sitting position. But sitting toilets only came into general use in the mid-19th century in the Western world. The Roman toilets were probably elevated to raise them above open sewers which were periodically "flushed" with flowing water, rather than elevated for sitting.
The Romans weren't the first civilisation to adopt a sewer system: The Indus Valley civilisation had a rudimentary network of sewers built under grid pattern streets, and it was the most advanced seen so far.
Squat toilets (also known as an Arabic, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Iranian, Indian, Turkish or Natural-Position toilet) are used by squatting rather than sitting and are still used by the majority of the world's population. There are several types of squat toilets, but they all consist essentially of a hole in the ground or floor with provisions for human waste.
Early modern Europe
Chamber pots were in common use in Europe from ancient times, even being taken to the Middle East by Christian pilgrims during the Middle Ages. By the Early Modern era, chamber pots were frequently made of china or copper and could include elaborate decoration. They were emptied into the gutter of the street nearest to the home.
During the Victorian era, British housemaids emptied household chamber pots into a "slop sink" that was inside a housemaid's cupboard on the upper floor of the house. The housemaids' cupboard also contained a separate sink, made of wood with a lead lining to prevent chipping china chamber pots, for washing the "bedroom ware". Once indoor running water was built into British houses, servants were sometimes given their own lavatory downstairs, separate from the family lavatory.
By the 16th century, cesspits and cesspools were increasingly dug into the ground near houses in Europe as a means of collecting waste, as urban populations grew and street gutters became blocked with the larger volume of human waste. Rain was no longer sufficient to wash away waste from the gutters. A pipe connected the latrine to the cesspool, and sometimes a small amount of water washed waste through the pipe into the cesspool. Cesspools would be cleaned out by tradesmen, who pumped out liquid waste, then shovelled out the solid waste and collected it in horse-drawn carts during the night. This solid waste would be used as fertilizer.
The perception that human waste had value as fertilizer, and in ammonia production, delayed the construction of a modern sewer system as a replacement for the city's cesspool system. In the early 19th century, public officials and public hygiene experts studied and debated the matter at length, for several decades. The construction of an underground network of pipes to carry away solid and liquid waste was only begun in the mid 19th-century, gradually replacing the cesspool system, although cesspools were still in use in some parts of Paris into the 20th century. The growth of indoor plumbing, toilets and bathtubs with running water came at the same time.
Development of the flush toilet
In 1596, Sir John Harington (1561–1612) published A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax, describing a forerunner to the modern flush toilet installed at his house at Kelston. The design had a flush valve to let water out of the tank, and a wash-down design to empty the bowl. He installed one for his godmother Queen Elizabeth I at Richmond Palace, although she refused to use it because it made too much noise. The Ajax was not taken up on a wide scale in England, but was adopted in France under the name Angrez.
With the onset of the Industrial Revolution and related advances in technology, the flush toilet began to emerge into its modern form. A crucial advance in plumbing, was the S-trap, invented by Alexander Cummings in 1775, and still in use today. This device uses the standing water to seal the outlet of the bowl, preventing the escape of foul air from the sewer. His design had a sliding valve in the bowl outlet above the trap. Two years later, Samuel Prosser applied for a British patent for a "plunger closet".
Prolific inventor Joseph Bramah began his professional career installing water closets (toilets) that were based on Alexander Cumming's patented design of 1775. He found that the current model being installed in London houses had a tendency to freeze in cold weather. In collaboration with a Mr. Allen, he improved the design by replacing the usual slide valve with a hinged flap that sealed the bottom of the bowl.
He also developed a float valve system for the flush tank. Obtaining the patent for it in 1778, he began making toilets at a workshop in Denmark Street, St Giles. The design was arguably the first practical flush toilet, and production continued well into the 19th century, used mainly on boats.
Dry earth closet alternative
Before the flush toilet became universally accepted, there were inventors, scientists, and public health officials who supported the use of dry earth closets. These were invented by the English clergyman Henry Moule, who dedicated his life to improving public sanitation after witnessing the horrors of the cholera epidemics of 1849 and 1854. Impressed by the insalubrity of the houses, especially in the summer of 1858 (the Great Stink) he invented what is called the dry earth system.
In partnership with James Bannehr, he took out a patent for the process (No. 1316, dated 28 May 1860). Among his works bearing on the subject were: ‘The Advantages of the Dry Earth System,’ 1868; ‘The Impossibility overcome: or the Inoffensive, Safe, and Economical Disposal of the Refuse of Towns and Villages,’ 1870; ‘The Dry Earth System,’ 1871; ‘Town Refuse, the Remedy for Local Taxation,’ 1872, and ‘National Health and Wealth promoted by the general adoption of the Dry Earth System,’ 1873.
His system was adopted in private houses, in rural districts, in military camps, in many hospitals, and extensively in the British Raj. Ultimately, however, it failed to gain the same public support and attention as the water closet, although the design remains today in some parts of the world.
It was only in the mid-19th century, with growing levels of urbanisation and industrial prosperity, that the flush toilet became a widely used and marketed invention. This period coincided with the dramatic growth in the sewage system, especially in London, which made the flush toilet particularly attractive for health and sanitation reasons.
The Crystal Palace. These were the first public toilets, and they caused great excitement. During the exhibition, 827,280 visitors paid one penny to use them; for the penny they got a clean seat, a towel, a comb and a shoe shine. "To spend a penny" became a euphemism (now archaic) for going to the toilet.
When the exhibition finished and moved to Sydenham, the toilets were to be closed down. However, Jennings persuaded the organisers to keep them open, and the toilet went on to earn over £1000 a year. He opened the first underground convenience at the Royal Exchange in 1854. He received a patent in 1852 for an improved construction of water-closet, in which the pan and trap were constructed in the same piece, and so formed that there was always a small quantity of water retained in the pan itself, in addition to that in the trap which forms the water-joint. He also improved the construction of valves, drain traps, forcing pumps and pump-barrels. By the end of the 1850s building codes suggested that most new middle-class homes in British cities were equipped with a water closet.
Another pioneering manufacturer was Thomas William Twyford, who invented the single piece, ceramic flush toilet. The 1870s proved to be a defining period for the sanitary industry and the water closet; the debate between the simple water closet trap basin made entirely of earthenware and the very elaborate, complicated and expensive mechanical water closet would fall under public scrutiny and expert opinion. In 1875, the "wash-out" trap water closet was first sold and was found as the public's preference for basin type water closets. By 1879, Twyford had devised his own type of the "wash out" trap water closet, he titled it the "National", and became the most popular wash-out water closet.
By the 1880s, the free-standing water closet was sold and quickly gained popularity; the free-standing water closet was able to be cleaned more easily and was therefore a more hygienic water closet. Twyford's "Unitas" model was free standing and made completely of earthenware. Throughout the 1880s he submitted further patents for improvements to the flushing rim and the outlet. Finally in 1888, he applied for a patent protection for his "after flush" chamber; the device allowed for the basin to be refilled by a lower quantity of clean water in reserve after the water closet was flushed. The modern pedestal "flush-down" toilet was demonstrated by Frederick Humpherson of the Beaufort Works, Chelsea, England in 1885.
The leading companies of the period issued catalogues, established showrooms in department stores and marketed their products around the world. Twyford had showrooms for water closets in Berlin, Germany; Sydney, Australia; and Cape Town, South Africa. The Public Health Act 1875 set down stringent guidelines relating to sewers, drains, water supply and toilets and lent tacit government endorsement to the prominent water closet manufacturers of the day.
Contrary to popular legend, Sir Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. He was, however, in the forefront of the industry in the late 19th century, and held nine patents, three of them for water closet improvements such as the floating ballcock. His flush toilets were designed by inventor Albert Giblin, who received a British patent for the "Silent Valveless Water Waste Preventer", a siphon discharge system. Crapper popularized the siphon system for emptying the tank, replacing the earlier floating valve system which was prone to leaks.
Spread & further developments
Although flush toilets first appeared in Britain, they soon spread to the Continent. The first such examples may have been the three "waterclosets" installed in the new town house of banker Nicolay August Andresen on 6 Kirkegaten in Christiania, insured in January 1859. The toilets were probably imported from Britain, as they were referred to by the English term "waterclosets" in the insurance ledger. Another early watercloset on the European continent, dating from 1860, was imported from Britain to be installed in the rooms of Queen Victoria in Ehrenburg Palace (Coburg, Germany); she was the only one who was allowed to use it.
In America, the chain-pull indoor toilet was introduced in the homes of the wealthy and in hotels, soon after its invention in England in the 1880s. Flush toilets were introduced in the 1890s.William Elvis Sloan invented the Flushometer in 1906, which used pressurized water directly from the supply line for faster recycle time between flushes. The Flushometer is still in use today in public restrooms worldwide. The vortex-flushing toilet bowl, which creates a self-cleansing effect, was invented by Thomas MacAvity Stewart of Saint John, New Brunswick in 1907. Philip Haas of Dayton, Ohio, made some significant developments, including the flush rim toilet with multiple jets of water from a ring and the water closet flushing and recycling mechanism similar to those in use today.
Bruce Thompson, working for Caroma in Australia, developed the Duoset cistern with two buttons and two flush volumes as a water-saving measure in 1980. Modern versions of the Duoset are now available worldwide, and save the average household 67% of their normal water usage.
A typical flush toilet is a vitreous, ceramic bowl containing water plus plumbing made to be rapidly filled with more water. The water in the toilet bowl is connected to a hollow drain pipe shaped like an upside-down U connecting the drain. One side of the U channel is arranged as a hollow siphon tube longer than the water in the bowl is high. The siphon tube connects to the drain. The bottom of the upside-down U-shaped drain pipe limits the height of the water in the bowl before it flows down the drain. If water is poured slowly into the bowl it simply flows over the bottom of the upside-down U and pours slowly down the drain—the toilet does not flush. The water in the bowl acts as a barrier to sewer gas entering and as a receptacle for waste. Sewer gas is vented through a vent pipe attached to the sewer line.
When a user flushes a toilet, a valve opens and allows the tank's water to quickly enter the toilet bowl. This influx from the tank causes the swirling water in the bowl to rapidly rise and fill the U-shaped drain. The siphon tube mounted in the back of the toilet. This full siphon tube starts the toilet's siphon action. The siphon action quickly (4–7 seconds) “pulls” nearly all of the water and waste in the bowl and the on-rushing tank water down the drain—it flushes. When most of the water has drained out of the bowl, the continuous column of water up and over the bottom of the upside-down U-shaped drain pipe (the siphon) is broken when air enters the siphon tube. The toilet then gives its characteristic gurgle as the siphon action ceases and no more water flows out of the toilet. After flushing, the flapper valve in the water tank closes; water lines and valves connected to the water supply refill the toilet tank and bowl. The toilet is again ready for use.
At the top of the toilet bowl is a rim with many slanted drain holes connected to the tank to fill, rinse and induce swirling in the bowl when it is flushed. Mounted above the toilet is a large holding tank with about (now) 1.6 to 1.2 US gallons (6.1 to 4.5 L) of water. This tank is built with a large drain 2.0 to 3.0 inches (5.08 to 7.62 cm) diameter hole at its bottom covered by a flapper valve that allows the water to rapidly leave the holding tank. The plumbing is built to allow entry of the tank’s water into the toilet in a very short period. This water pours through the holes in the rim and a siphon jet hole about 1.0 inch (2.54 cm) diameter in the bottom of the toilet. Other toilets use a large hole in the front of the rim to allow fast filling of the bowl.
A toilet's body is typically made from vitreous china, which starts out as an aqueous suspension of various minerals called a slip. It takes about 20 kilograms (44 lb) of slip to make a toilet.
This slip is poured into the space between plaster of Paris molds. The toilet bowl, rim, tank and tank lid require separate molds. The molds are assembled and set up for filling and the slip-filled molds sit for about an hour after filling. This allows the plaster molds to absorb moisture from the slip, which makes it semisolid next to the mold surfaces but lets it remain liquid further from the surface of the molds. Then, the workers remove plugs to allow any excess liquid slip to drain from the cavities of the mold—this excess slip is recycled for later use. The drained-out slip leaves hollow voids inside the fixture, using less material to keep it both lighter and easier to fire in a kiln. This molding process allows the formation of intricate internal waste lines in the fixture—the drain's hollow cavities are poured out as slip.
At this point, the toilet parts without their molds look like and are about as strong as soft clay. After about one hour the top core mold (interior of toilet) is removed. The rim mold bottom (which includes a place to mount the holding tank) is removed, and it then has appropriate slanted holes for the rinsing jets cut, and the mounting holes for tank and seat are punched into the rim piece. Valve holes for rapid water entry into the toilet are cut into the rim pieces. The exposed top of the bowl piece is then covered with a thick slip and the still-uncured rim is attached on top of the bowl so that the bowl and hollow rim are now a single piece. The bowl plus rim is then inverted, and the toilet bowl is set upside down on the top rim mold to hold the pieces together as they dry. Later, all the rest of the mold pieces are removed. As the clay body dries further it hardens more and continues to shrink. After a few hours, the casting is self-supporting, and is called greenware.
After the molds are removed, workers use hand tools and sponges to smooth the edges and surface of the greenware, and to remove the mold joints or roughness: this process is called "fettling". For large scale production pieces, these steps may be automated. The parts are then left outside or put in a warm room to dry before going through a dryer at about 93 °C (200 °F), for about 20–36 hours.
After the surfaces are smoothed, the bowls and tanks are sprayed with glaze of various kinds to get different colors. This glaze is designed to shrink and contract at the same rate as the greenware while undergoing firing. After being sprayed with glaze, the toilet bowls, tanks, and lids are placed in stacks on a conveyor belt or "car" that slowly goes through a large kiln to be fired. The belt slowly moves the glaze-covered greenware into a tunnel kiln, which has different temperature zones inside it starting at about 200 °C (400 °F) at the front, increasing towards the middle to over 1,200 °C (2,200 °F) degrees and exiting around out 90 °C (200 °F). During the firing in the kiln, the greenware and glaze are vitrified as one solid finished unit. Transiting the kiln takes glaze-covered greenware around 23–40 hours.
After the pieces are removed from the kiln and fully cooled, they are inspected for cracks or other defects. Then, the flushing mechanism may be installed on a one-piece toilet. On a two-piece toilet with a separate tank, the flushing mechanism may only be placed into the tank, with final assembly at installation.
A two-piece attaching seat and toilet bowl lid are typically mounted over the bowl to allow covering the toilet when it is not in use and to provide seating comfort. The seat may be installed at the factory, or the parts may be sold separately and assembled by a plumbing distributor or the installer.
Various forms of flush toilets have become widely used in modern times The amount of water used by modern toilets is a significant portion of personal water usage, totaling as much as about 90 liters (24 US gal) of water per capita per day.
Modern low flush toilet designs allow the use of much less water per flush—1.6 to 1.2 US gallons (6.1 to 4.5 L) per flush—but may require the sewage treatment system be modified for the more concentrated waste. Dual flush toilets allow the user to select between a flush for urine or feces saving a significant amount of water over conventional units. The flush handle on these toilets is pushed up for one kind of flush and down for the other. In some places users are encouraged not to flush after urination. Flush toilets, if plumbed for it, may also use greywater (water previously used for washing dishes, laundry and bathing) for flushing rather than potable water (drinking water). Some modern toilets pressurize the water in the tank which initiates flushing action with less water usage. Heads (on ships) are typically flushed with seawater.
Other toilet types
Pit toilets or pit latrines
A pit latrine is a dry toilet system which collects human excrement and urine in a pit or trench and ranges from a simple slit trench dug in the ground to more elaborate systems with seating or squatting pans and ventilation systems. They are more often used in emergency, rural and wilderness areas as well as in the rural or peri-urban areas of much of the developing world. The waste pit or trench, in some cases, will be large enough that the reduction in mass of the contained waste products by the ongoing process of decomposition allows the pit to be used for many years before it fills up. When the pit becomes too full, it may be emptied or the hole covered with earth. Pit latrines have to be located away from drinking water sources (wells, streams, etc.) to minimize the possibility of disease spread via groundwater pollution. Army units typically use a form of pit toilet when they are in the field and away from functional sewerage systems. The use of correctly located pit toilets were found to prevent much of the spread of various diseases which used to kill many more soldiers than the bullets and artillery used in pre-1940 warfare.
Dry toilets, which use very limited or no water for flushing include the pit latrine (a simple hole in the ground, or one with ventilation, fly guards and other improvements), the composting toilet (which mixes excrement with carbon rich materials for faster decomposition), the incinerating toilet (which burns the excrement), and the tree bog (a simple system for converting excrement to direct fertiliser for trees). The pig toilet from the Indian state of Goa which consists of an outhouse linked to a pig enclosure by a chute is still in use to a limited extent but the subsequent use of the pigs for food carries a significant risk for human health.
Urine diversion toilets
Urine diversion (UD) toilets have two compartments. One for urine and one for the feces. A urine diversion toilet, UD toilet or UDT, flushes one or both compartments with water. A urine diversion dry toilet (UDDT) is a form of dry toilet. UDDTs can be linked to systems which recover water or utilize treated human excreta as a fertilizer or biofuel. Astronauts use a UDDT to recover potable water in the space station.
The unsanitary 'flying toilets' are used in African informal settlements where plastic shopping bags are first used as a container for excrement and are then thrown as far away as possible." This practice, coupled with the solid waste problem of discarded plastic bags, has led to the banning of the manufacture and import of such bags in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
Chemical toilets which do not require a connection to a water supply are used in a variety of situations. Examples include passenger train toilets and airplane toilets and also complicated space toilets for use in zero-gravity spacecraft.
A public toilet, frequently called a restroom, is accessible to the general public. It may be within a building that, while privately owned, allows public access. Access to a public toilet may require a fee, (pay toilet), or may be limited to business's customers.
Depending on culture, there may be varying degrees of separation between men and women and different levels of privacy. Typically, the entire room, or a stall or cubicle containing a toilet is lockable. Urinals, if present in a men's toilet, are typically mounted on wall with or without a divider between them. In the most basic form, a public toilet may be not much more than an open latrine. Another form is a street urinal known as a pissoir after the French term (see Urinal).
A charge levied in the UK during the mid-20th century was one British penny, hence the generally adopted term "spend a penny" meaning to use the toilet.
The portable toilet is used on construction sites and at large outdoor gatherings where there are no other facilities. They are typically self-contained units that are made to be easily moved to different locations as needed. Most portable toilets are unisex single units with privacy ensured by a simple lock on the door. The units are usually light weight and easily transported by a flatbed truck and loaded and unloaded by a small forklift. Many portable toilets are small molded plastic or fiberglass portable rooms with a lockable door and a receptacle to catch waste in a chemically treated container. If used for an extended period of time they have to be cleaned out and new chemicals put in the waste receptacle. For servicing multiple portable toilets tanker trucks (vacuum trucks), often called "Honey Trucks", are equipped with lage vacuums to evacuate the waste and replace the chemicals.
"High-tech" toilets include features such as: automatic-flushing mechanisms that flush a toilet or urinal when finished; water jets, or "bottom washers" like a bidet; blow dryers; artificial flush sounds to mask noises; and urine and stool analysis for medical monitoring. Matsushita's "Smart Toilet" checks blood pressure, temperature, and blood sugar. Some feature automatic lid operation, heated seats, deodorizing fans or automated paper toilet-seat-cover replacers. Interactive urinals have been developed in several countries, allowing users to play video games as with the "Toylet", produced by Sega, that uses pressure sensors to detect the flow of urine and translates it into on-screen action.
A floating toilet is essentially an outhouse built on a platform built above or floating on the water. Instead of wastes going into the ground they are collected in a tank or barrel. To reduce the amount of waste that needs to hauled to shore, many use urine diversion. It was developed for residents without quick access to land or connection to a sewer systems. It is also used in areas subjected to prolonged flooding. The need for this type of toilet is high in areas like Cambodia where the World Bank cited in 2008 that nearly 10,000 people died as a result of poor sanitation.
A chamber pot is a receptacle in which one would excrete waste in a ceramic or metal pot. Among Romans and Greeks, chamber pots were brought to meals and drinking sessions. Johan J. Mattelaer said, “Plinius has described how there were large receptacles in the streets of cities such as Rome and Pompeii into which chamber pots of urine were emptied. The urine was then collected by fullers.” This method was used for hundreds of years; shapes, sizes, and decorative variations changed throughout the centuries. This method is no longer used in developed countries, with the exception of hospital bedpans.
Before the introduction of flush toilets it was common for people to use a chamber pot at night and then to dispose of the 'nightsoil' in the morning; this practice (known as slopping out) continued in prisons in the United Kingdom until recently and is still in use in the Republic of Ireland. The garderobe was used in medieval times, and replaced by the privy midden and pail closet in early industrial Europe.
Garderobes were toilets used in the Middle Ages, most commonly found in upper-class dwellings. Essentially, they were flat pieces of wood or stone spanning from one wall to the other, with one or more holes to sit on. These would go into pipes that would lead outside the castle or manor. Garderobes would be placed in areas away from bedrooms to shun the smell and also near kitchens or fireplaces to keep the enclosure warm.
Although it is possible for urinals to be used by females, they were originally designed for males. They are intended for the disposal of liquid waste, not solid waste. Urinals are meant to be used for the convenience of male users in a standing position. They typically have no door or stall enclosure, and thus take up less space. These fixtures are most commonly found in public places, but can occasionally be found in a private home. Urinals are usually water flushed, although waterless urinals are also becoming more popular particularly in countries where conserving water resources is aimed for, like in Germany for example.
The squat toilet (also called “squatter” or “squatty-potty”) consists of a hole in the ground. However, common modern versions flush like a modern seated toilet, and are not to be compared to a contemporary portable toilet with no plumbing. To use this toilet, one is in a squatting position rather than sitting, by placing one foot on each side of the toilet and squatting over it. Modern versions are in separate stalls when they are in public lavatories, and include toilet tissue rolls for the user's convenience. The squatting method is accompanied by advantages as well health benefits that connect to easiness of procedures such as child birth. The squat toilet is most commonly found in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East but can also occasionally be found in some European (Romania, France), Mediterranean, and South American countries.
Role of sanitation
Toilets are one important element of a sustainable sanitation system. Diseases, including cholera, which still affects some 3 million people each year, can be largely prevented when effective sanitation and water treatment prevents fecal matter from contaminating waterways, groundwater and drinking water supplies. Infected water supplies can be treated to make the water safe for consumption and use. There have been five main cholera outbreaks and pandemics since 1825. In London alone, the second killed 14,137 people in 1849, and the third took 10,738 lives in 1853-54. In 1849 the English physician John Snow published a paper On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, in which he suggested that cholera might be waterborne. During the 1854 epidemic, he collected and analyzed data establishing that people who drank water from contaminated sources such as the Broad Street pump died of cholera at much higher rates than those who got water elsewhere.
To this day, many people in developing countries have no toilets in their homes and are resorting to open defecation instead. The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation by WHO and UNICEF is the official United Nations mechanism tasked with monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) relating to drinking-water and sanitation (MDG 7, Target 7c), which is to: "Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation" and publishes figures on access to sanitation worldwide on a regular basis.
The word toilet came to be used in English along with other French fashions. It originally referred to the toile, French for "cloth", draped over a lady or gentleman's shoulders while their hair was being dressed, and then (in both French and English) by extension to the various elements, and also the whole complex of operations of hairdressing and body care that centered at a dressing table, also covered by a cloth, on which stood a mirror and various brushes and containers for powder and make-up: this ensemble was also a toilette, as also was the period spent at the table, during which close friends or tradesmen were often received. The English poet Alexander Pope in The Rape of the Lock (1717) described the intricacies of a lady's preparation.
The word toilet may also be used, especially in British English to describe the room containing the fixture, for which euphemisms such as restroom or bathroom are used in American English. Prior to the introduction of modern flush toilets, most human waste disposal was done through the use of household chamber pots, or took place outdoors in outhouses or latrines. Pail closets were introduced in England and France in an attempt to reduce sewage problems in rapidly expanding cities.
And now, unveil'd, the toilet stands display'd
Each silver vase in mystic order laid.
These various senses are first recorded by the OED in rapid sequence in the later 17th century: the set of "articles required or used in dressing" 1662, the "action or process of dressing" 1681, the cloth on the table 1682, the cloth round the shoulders 1684, the table itself 1695, and the "reception of visitors by a lady during the concluding stages of her toilet" 1703 (also known as a "toilet-call"), but in the sense of a special room the earliest use is 1819, and this does not seem to include a lavatory.
Through the 18th century, everywhere in the English-speaking world, these various uses centred around a lady's draped dressing-table remained dominant. In the 19th century, apparently first in the United States, the word was adapted as a genteel euphemism for the room and the object as we know them now, perhaps following the French usage cabinet de toilette, much as powder-room may be coyly used today, and this has been linked to the introduction of public toilets, for example on railway trains, which required a plaque on the door. The original usages have become obsolete, and the table has become a dressing-table.
Vestiges of the original meaning continue to be reflected in terms such as toiletries, eau de toilette and toiletry bag (to carry flannels, soaps, etc.). This seemingly contradictory terminology has served as the basis for various parodies e.g. Cosmopolitan magazine ("If it doesn't say 'eau de toilette' on the label, it most likely doesn't come from the famed region of Eau de Toilette in France and might not even come from toilets at all.")
The word toilet itself may be considered an impolite word in Anglophone North America, while elsewhere the word is used without any embarrassment. The choice of the word used instead of toilet is highly variable, not just by regional dialect but also, at least in Britain, by social class connotations. Nancy Mitford wrote an essay out of the choice of wording; see U and non-U English. Some manufacturers show this uneasiness with the word and its class attributes: American Standard, the largest manufacturer, sells them as "toilets", yet the higher priced products of the Kohler Company, often installed in more expensive housing, are sold as commodes or closets, words which also carry other meanings. Confusingly, products imported from Japan such as TOTO are referred to as "toilets", even though they carry the cachet of higher cost and quality. When referring to the room or the actual piece of equipment, the word toilet is often substituted with other euphemisms and dysphemisms (See toilet humor).
As old euphemisms have become accepted, they have been progressively replaced by newer ones, an example of the euphemism treadmill at work. The choice of word used to describe the room or the piece of plumbing relies as much on regional variation (dialect) as on social situation and level of formality (register).
The term lavatory, abbreviated in slang to lav, derives from the Latin: lavātōrium, which in turn comes from Latin lavō ("I wash"). The word was originally used to refer to a vessel for washing, such as a sink/wash basin, but eventually came to mean a room with such washing vessels, as for example in medieval monasteries, where the lavatorium was the monks' communal washing area. The toilets in monasteries however were not in the lavatorium but in the reredorter. Nevertheless the word was later associated with toilets and the meaning evolved into its current one, namely a polite and formal euphemism for a toilet and the room containing it. Lavatory is the common signage for toilets on commercial airlines around the world, see Aircraft lavatory.
The origin of the (chiefly British) term loo is unknown. According to the OED, the etymology is obscure, but it might derive from the word Waterloo. The first recorded entry is in fact from James Joyce's Ulysses (1922): "O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. Watercloset".
Other theories are:
- That it derives from the term "gardyloo" (a corruption of the French phrase gardez l'eau! (or maybe garde l'eau!) loosely translated as "watch out for the water!") which was used in medieval times when chamber pots were emptied from a window onto the street. However the first recorded usage of "loo" comes long after this term became obsolete.
- That the word comes from nautical terminology, loo being an old-fashioned word for lee. The standard nautical pronunciation (in British English) of leeward is looward. Early ships were not fitted with toilets but the crew would urinate over the side of the vessel. However it was important to use the leeward side. Using the windward side would result in the urine blown back on board: hence the phrases 'pissing into the wind' and 'spitting into the wind'. Even now most yachtsmen refer to the loo rather than the heads.
- That the word derives from the 17th century preacher Louis Bourdaloue. Bourdaloue's sermons at the Saint Paul-Saint Louis Church in Paris lasted at least three hours and myth has it that wealthier ladies took along "travelling" chamber pots that could be hidden under their dresses whenever the need arose to avoid the need to leave. Due to the popularity of the myth the bowls became known as Bourdaloues after the preacher and the name became corrupted to portaloos and sometimes just plain loos due to the habit of shortening words in slang.
- That the word comes from the French word lieu (place), as in lieu d'aisance (literally: "place of ease", a common euphemism for lavatory) or lieu à l'anglaise (literally: "English place"). From around 1770 the term lieu à l'anglaise began to appear in France, referring to this English invention which was sometimes installed for the benefit of English visitors. (Ashenburg p. 138) 
The WC refers to the initial letters of Water Closet, which, despite being an English language abbreviation, is not in common use in English-speaking countries – but is widely used internationally: in France (pronounced "le vay-say" or "le vater"), in Italy (pronounced "vi-ci" or "vater"), Romania (pronounced "veh-cheu"), the Netherlands (pronounced "waysay"), Germany, Switzerland and Hungary (pronounced "ve-tse"), Denmark (pronounced "ve-se"), Norway (pronounced "vay-say"), Poland (pronounced "vu-tse"), Spain (pronounced "uve-cé" or "váter"), China, and others.
Lexicographer Eric Partridge derives khazi, also spelt karzy, kharsie or carzey, from a low Cockney word carsey originating in the late 19th century and meaning a privy. Carsey also referred to a den or brothel. It is presumably derived from the Italian casa for house, with the spelling influenced by its similar sound to khaki. Khazi is now most commonly used in the city of Liverpool in the UK, away from its cockney slang roots. An alternative derivation is from Christopher Chippindale, who states that khazi derives from Army slang used by expatriate officers of the British Empire who took a dislike to the habits of, and steaming rain forest inhabited by, the Khasi people of the Khasia hills on the northern frontier of India.
The Dunny is an Australian expression for an outside toilet or outhouse. The person who appeared weekly to empty the pan beneath the seat was known as the "dunnyman". The word derives from the British dialect word dunnekin, meaning "dung-house". It is now an informal word used for any lavatory and is most often used referring to drop or pit lavatories in the Australian bush, which are also called thunderboxes.
The Privy is an old fashioned term used more in the North of England and in Scotland; "privy" is an old alternative for "private", as in Privy council. It is used interchangeably in North America for various terms for the outhouse.
The netty is the most common word used in North East England. Many outsiders are often bemused when a Geordie or a Mackem states they are "gannin te the netty" (going to the bathroom). The etymology of the word is uncertain, but it is believed to be either derived from a corruption of "necessity" or from graffiti scrawled on Hadrian's Wall. It is linked to the Italian word gabinetti meaning "toilets" (singular gabinetto).
Latrine is a term common in the military, specifically for the Army and Air Force for any point of entry facility where human waste is disposed of, which a civilian might call a bathroom or toilet, regardless of how modern or primitive it is. Traditionally the Royal Navy along with the United States Navy and Marine Corps use the nautical term "Head" to describe the same type of facility, regardless of whether it is located on a ship or on the land.
The Jacks is Irish slang for toilet. It perhaps derives from "jakes", an old English term.
The standalone toilet enclosure has been variously known as a "back house", "house of ease", "house of office", "little house", or "outhouse". The house of office was a common name for a toilet in seventeenth century England, used by, among others, Samuel Pepys on numerous occasions: October 23, 1660: ...going down into my cellar..., I put my foot into a great heap of turds, by which I find Mr Turner's house of office is full and comes into my cellar.
In the Philippines the abbreviation CR (Comfort Room) is commonly used.
In the Western world, the most common method of cleaning after using a toilet is by toilet paper or sometimes by using a bidet. In the Middle East and some countries in Asia, and South Asian countries such as India and Pakistan, the custom is to use water, either with or without toilet paper. Traditionally, the left hand is used for this, for which reason that hand is considered impolite or polluted in many Eastern countries. The Islamic faith has a particular code, Qaḍāʼ al-Ḥājah describing Islamic toilet etiquette.
Standing vs sitting
A systematic review meta-analysis on the effect of voiding position on the quality of urination found that in elderly males with benign prostate hyperplasia, the sitting position was superior compared with the standing. Healthy males were not influenced by voiding position. A literature review found cultural differences in socially accepted voiding positions around the world found many differences in preferred position: in the Middle-East and Asia, the crouching position was more prevalent, while in the Western world the standing and sitting position was more common. These findings mean that in the decision of choosing between different toilets, factors about health and social acceptance need to be considered.
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- All OED (1st edn) for "toilet". The sequence of recorded first use may not exactly match the sequence in which they actually came into use
- The original OED regards the use for a room including washing, bathing and/or lavatory facilities as "in U.S. esp."(ecially), and does not produce a quotation for the restricted sense as a lavatory, referring to Funk's Standard Dictionary. OED Ist Edn "Toilet"
- "The honest Jakes or Privy has graduated via Offices to the final horror of Toilet" - Vicar Bell, 
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