The modern toilet is widely thought to have been invented by English plumber Thomas Crapper over a century ago. Little did the man know that his name would ring down through the ages and forever be associated with the most basic and essential of bodily functions. Crapper is the eponymous inventor of this marvelous invention.
His invention changed the way we live. It allowed the modern house and city to take form, increased levels of hygiene and sanitation, and reduced the spread of infectious disease.
While the function of the toilet is the same all over the world (and off it – there are two in the International Space Station) their designs and the way they function varies from region to region. For the traveler, knowing what kind of toilet to expect can make the difference between an enjoyable trip and a terrible one.
If you are planning to change or replace the toilets in your home, you will find details of sanitary ware suppliers and plumbers in your area online.
1.The Good Old Toilet
This is what we see in homes and restrooms all across America. They are usually white in color (although various color options are available) and can be either floor or wall mounted. There is a toilet seat which can be raised or lowered as needed and a tank to hold the water needed for flushing. A pull of a handle or the pressing of a button is all that it takes for the waste in the bowl to be flushed down the sewer. Low flow toilets that conserve water by reducing the amount required to carry away waste are now mandatory in almost all part of the country.
The toilet in a ship, especially a naval vessel, is called the “head.” This may sound like an odd name for a place that services the end of the digestive system that begins in the human head, but there is a good reason for it. In the days of the old sailing ships, the toilet was located at the head or front of the ship at the waterline so that the splashing water at the bowsprit would naturally wash away the waste the flowed out from the toilet. Obviously there was no plumbing available so a bucket of sea water was taken to the head each time it as used to flush away the waste.
3.The Chemical Toilet
Chemical toilets are a boon for campers and those who enjoy traveling in RVs. These are available in a variety of designs and styles ranging from the small very portable ones that can be easily transported to those that look just like the toilet at home. The difference is that instead of the waste being flushed down the sewer, it is collected in a small container filled with a chemical that kills the bacteria and removes the odor. Chemical toilets are easy to use and very sanitary. Now if only someone would invent a pleasant way of emptying the waste when the container becomes full.
Go to any construction site or place where people gather in the open and the porta-potty will be there. These are basically chemical toilets with large chambers for waste collection so that they can be used by many people over an extended period of time. They have fiberglass or plastic walls and roofs and a lockable door to give the user privacy.
5.The Squat Toilet
The squat toilet is found in much of Asia and Africa (they are still used in some parts of South Korea today; one of the most high tech and modern countries on the planet!). In its most sophisticated form it is a ceramic bowl narrow at the front and wide and rounded at the back which is fitted flush into the floor. It works in much the same way as the normal toilet with a tank full of water that when released, flushes away all the waste into the sewer. But many of the less developed regions where squat toilets are popular do not have modern sewer systems and the toilets are then connected to a cesspit or septic tank where the waste is decomposed.
Squat toilets are difficult for a person who is use to a traditional toilet to use and squatting can be impossible for those with joint problems of the legs or hips or who weigh too much because of either over eating or lack of exercise or both. But there is a school of thought that holds that squatting is a far more natural position for a bowel movement than sitting and it helps the body to rid itself of waste more completely. Albeit most people in North America or the western world would never consider changing from the sitting down toilet to a toilet that demands so much physical exertion and can possibly be a little more messy. Wiping is an issue, need no more be said about this subject!
6.The French Toilet
In France, flushing the toilet is a complicated exercise. There are various mechanisms that range from an overhead chain that needs to be pulled to a foot pedal on the floor to a set of two buttons that need to be pushed at the same time or a bar on the wall that needs to be pushed or pulled.
Found mainly is public restrooms, these are wall mounted receptacles which men can use to urinate standing up. A solid dissolvable disinfectant is placed in them to kill the germs and remove odor. Most have an automatic flushing system that releases a small quantity of water after each use.
There are still some remote parts of the country where outhouses are still used (very remote). These are basically wooden sheds with wooden seats and a hole in the ground for the waste. When the hole fills up it is covered with quicklime and the shed is moved to another location.
9.The Hole in the Ground
When there is no formal toilet of any kind, no matter how primitive, available, there is always the hole in the ground. All that is needed is a shovel with which to dig a hole after which the user squats over it and uses it in the same manner as a squat toilet. After use, the hole is filled up with the mud that was earlier removed. The waste naturally decomposes in the soil.
10.The Space Toilet
Although strictly speaking not in the world, it was built here and used by people, so it deserves a place in this list. It is a high tech piece of engineering at uses forced air flow to carry the waste away from the astronaut’s body in the weightless environment of space. The solid waste is dried and collected for future return to earth and the liquid waste is released into the void where it evaporates.
Whatever be the form and type of toilet, it is a device that is an essential part of our lives and makes living a much more pleasant experience. Toilet jokes are fine, but never forget the kind of world we would be living in if Mr. Crapper had not had his brainwave all those years ago. We have a lot that we need to thank the old English plumber for.