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History of the Toilet

Explore the fascinating story of one of our most essential home products

One of the things that fascinates us about residential products is the way in which innovation continues to move the category forward. Innovative thinking not only improves product design, it also helps to develop new goods and services, which make our lives better. So with that thought in mind, here’s a quick historical recap of how innovation has taken one home product—the humble toilet—from a hole in the ground to the state-of-the-art convenience we enjoy today.

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Nicely Formed

The World Toilet Organization was formed.


Less is More

The Energy Policy Act was passed, requiring that flush toilets operate with no more than 1.6 gallons of water.


Just Wash and Go

The Japanese company Toto introduced the Washlet, which used a warm water spray for cleansing, instead of toilet paper.


Softly Does It

Two-ply toilet paper was introduced in England by St. Andrews Paper Mill. Before then, toilet tissue was one-ply and not very soft.


Toilet Paper's on a Roll

Toilet paper on rolls was first sold in the U.S.


An Elevated Poop

The first pedestal toilet pan was manufactured.


Aloe, Aloe, Aloe

Called Therapeutic Paper, it contained aloe to help cure sores.


The First Flush

Scotsman Alexander Cumming patented the first flushing toilet. His design allowed some water to stay in the bowl after flushing, which improved odor control.


Ajax. God of the Go

Sir John Harrington, the godson of Queen Elizabeth I, invented and installed the first flushing indoor toilet. He named it Ajax.

1200 AD

Shafts and Castles

In castles, toilets — called “garderobes” — were designed as vertical shafts cut into the walls with a stone seat at the top.

100 AD

All Together Now

Rome had public lavatories. In fact, at one point, Rome boasted 144 communal lavatories.

1200 BC

Litter Box

In Egypt, rich people used a container filled with sand, which was emptied by slaves. Sort of like a human litter box.

1800 BC

The King’s Throne

King Minos of Crete had the first flushing water closet recorded in history.


In the beginning…was the hole

The first toilet was, probably, a hole in the ground. Great for the user, not so great for the animal that lived there.


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