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The Evolution of the Bathroom

For as long as humans have existed, they’ve needed the facilities that a bathroom provides. Whether they’re disposing of waste, cleaning themselves, or simply relaxing, humans have dictated the need for a dedicated space for bathroom activities but it wasn’t until quite recently that the bathroom as we know it today was assembled.

Bathrooms Today

To get a better idea of how our household bathroom evolved, we would need to go back to ancient times, when social norms concerning privacy were much different due to an infrastructure that required group and communal activities.

For example, in ancient Rome, the Middle East, Japan, and even in England and Paris, communal bathhouses were very popular. However, they were mostly dedicated to relaxing and getting clean. Any facilities for evacuating bowels were also communal but in a much different place, far from the bathhouses and private residences. It was only very rich members of society who had houses big enough to have an entire room dedicated for their chamber pot.

As the plague hit Europe in the 16th century, however, cleanliness became all the rage, meaning that communal toilets fell out of favor. They became mostly for the poor, while those in the middle class had access to portable chamber pots that they would empty into the streets.

Once the Industrial Revolution hit around the mid-1700s, inventors would become obsessed with the lucrative practice of removing waste in a manner that would keep it out of sight and out of mind. Scotsman Alexander Cummings contributed the S-bend plumbing technique, which would prevent the stench of the sewer from flooding into homes fitted with new-fangled indoor plumbing. It wouldn’t be for another 100 years that Thomas Crapper would find a way to make a flushable toilet the way we know them today.

Flushing Toilet

Although the toilet proved to be a wildly successful way to keep waste out of homes, it only made major cities smell worse. Many infrastructural systems weren’t built to send human waste across long distances, so it would simply be dumped wherever was most convenient. When it became clear in 1890 that exposure to raw sewage was leading to increased cases of typhoid and cholera, the first sewage treatment plant in America was built in Worcester, Massachusetts.

With a system in place to transport and treat sewage, American homes in the early 1900s were starting to be built with multiple bathrooms, and, in some cases, multiple toilets. By 1915, corporations started advertising personal shower units for homes and other fixtures. Shortly thereafter, Hollywood movies and post-war consumerism turned the image of the bathroom into a place of luxury and privacy.

For the first time ever, the concept of washing, cleaning, and getting rid of waste was all happening in one convenient room of the house. Not only that, but an obsession with cleanliness and beauty has turned these rooms into storage centers for medicines, machines, makeup, and more.

Clean and Modern Bedroom

As we move further into the 21st century, the bathroom is evolving to fit a modern era that is focused on technology, convenience, conservation, and cleanliness. Although public bathrooms are common in many parts of the world today, private bathrooms are often preferred, and it is now very unlikely to find a home without one.

Sources -
1 - http://porch.com/advice/brief-history-bathroom/
2 - http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/turrets-toilets-partial-history-throne-room-180951788/?no-ist