The History of Bathroom

The History of Bathroom & Toilet

There was a time when the bathroom was a luxury. Also for many years these places were located in cold and unattractive areas, where one did not spend much time. Our relationship with the bathroom definitely changed, thanks in part to proper detritus drainage and heating. It is no longer just a place for hygiene, but a space for recuperation and rest, a symbol of private luxury. This is the story of the bathroom

The History of Toilet
The History of Toilet

It is not just the availability of heating and hot water that has changed our relationship with the bathroom. Changes in the lifestyle of the population have also influenced. Especially in cities, the routine has accelerated, and the consumption of products related to beauty and well-being is common



Emmanuel Oberhausen - Roman Bath - Print
Emmanuel Oberhausen – Roman Bath – Print – History of Bathroom

Personal grooming is not just a necessity, but a way to create a personal brand. The bathroom is that sanctuary where, in addition, we can relax and spend some time alone, fleeing from the madding crowd, a haven of peace in the midst of all the hustle and bustle.

Houzz Bathroom shop on Line
Houzz Bathroom shop on Line

The bathroom and bathtub are usually in that corner of the house designed especially for it. But this was not always the case, since the first toilets were located far from the houses. Archaeological evidence suggests that the first baths made their appearance around 3,000 BC.

How were the toilets in ancient  Greece?

The Minoans on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean used the flushable toilet, though only for the elite. The earliest known example was in the palace at Knossos, says Georgios Antoniou, a Greek architect who has studied ancient sanitation in that country. Water was used to flush toilet waste into the palace’s sewage system.

Minoan public baths, Knossos,Crete- History of Toilet in Ancient Greece
Minoan public baths, Knossos,Crete- History of Toilet in Ancient Greece

In the first millennium a. C., the ancient Greeks of the classical period and, especially, of the later Hellenistic period developed large-scale public latrines, basically large rooms with benches connected to drainage systems, and installed toilets in ordinary middle-class houses.

How were the bathrooms and toilets in ancient Rome?

The inhabitants of ancient Rome were famous, among other things, for their love of baths and hygiene. The capital of the Roman Republic was the first in which its citizens had running water in their homes and public fountains to which a series of aqueducts supplied running water. To know and admire Roman customs, we have dozens of examples among the most famous ruins: the Baths of Caracalla (Italy) and the city of Bath (England)

History of Bathroom
History of Bathroom

There is also the recently discovered Ostia Antica, a Spa with dozens of spas on the beaches closest to Rome. Well known is the ritual of the Roman bath that, in addition to its inherent prophylactic and purifying function. It also served as a meeting place where citizens used to socialize.

Public toilet facilities (Foricae)

Public toilet facilities (foricae) were exactly that: public. Not only because the entrance was open to any citizen, but because once inside, the physiological needs of senators, soldiers, merchants or artisans were made in full view of all those present.

Without any kind of modesty, and without separating walls or screens between the toilets. primitives sculpted in stone, marble or wood. The sight of this public toilet, (at the present time it would be deeply unpleasant), for the ancient Romans, was nothing more than the combination of a physiological need with a social one.

The History of Toilet & Bathroom
The History of Toilet & Bathroom – Pompeii

They built them for the poor, the soldiers when they were in the city and the slaves, but not because they would take pity on the lower classes, but they did it so that the city would stay clean. In Roman baths it was common practice to leave the name of the benefactor who had paid for the construction of the bath engraved on the stone. But on the walls of the rooms where the toilets were located, it never appears who was the one who ordered its construction, probably because no one in Rome wanted to be associated with toilets and their specific function.


The History of Bathroom
The History of Bathroom

Roman public toilets had low ceilings and small windows that let in little light, and the floors and seats were often dirty. The facilities were so unwelcoming that the empire’s elite only used them under great duress. Upper-class Romans, who sometimes paid for foricae to be erected, generally never frequented them. They had their facilities in their homes and farms

Ancient Roman  Private Toilets.


Vintage bathroom and bathtub in Wayfair
Vintage bathroom and bathtub in Wayfair

The private toilets of the upper classes were different from the public ones. In residences, the toilets were often located in or near the kitchens, which was practical because they were also used to dispose of food scraps. Although people flushed toilets with buckets of water, toilets were rarely connected to sewers. When the pits were filled, they were probably emptied, either into gardens or fields outside the city.

How did the ancient Romans clean themselves if toilet paper did not exist?

They sanitized themselves with a tool called a tersorium or xylospongium -literally, “sponge on a stick”

Very striking, it was the method that users of public toilets used to wipe their butts. In the absence of toilet paper, the instrument in question was a wooden stick with a sponge (literally marine) tied to one end, or a cloth or fluff from some animal.

In the pictures, you can see the channels where clean water ran right in front of the seats to wash the sponges after each use. The sponges were also public, although we rule out that such clean people would each carry their own.

Regarding the tersorium, the philosopher Seneca tells a lurid anecdote in one of his letters: a 1st-century gladiator, in the middle of an exhibition in the amphitheater, used this utensil to end his life before combat, putting it in his mouth until drowning.

Jean Leon Gerome Nude Painting Poster - The Bathers 1889

Roman Public Bathroon facilities 

History of Bathroom: Roman baths had hot and cold zones, towels, steam rooms, saunas, exercise rooms, and beauty salons. They had reading rooms and libraries since the freeborn, who had the right to frequent baths, could read and write. Children were not allowed.

Modern spas resembled Roman baths. The Romans raised bathing to a high art as they socialized in these common baths. The importance of baths to the Romans was such that a catalog of buildings in Rome from 354 AD documented 952 baths of varying sizes in the city.

Today, the extent of the Roman baths is revealed in ruins and archaeological excavations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Baths in ancient Rome were a social activity?

Roman baths were one of the most common daily activities in Roman culture, and were practiced by all social classes. Contemporary cultures see bathing as a private activity performed at home, bathing in ancient Rome was a social and communal activity.

The Bath of Diane, C1510 by Francois Clouet -
The Bath of Diane, C1510 by Francois Clouet –

Roman baths in the likeness of Greek baths

Let’s talk about Greece first. The Greeks formed the basis of modern spa procedures. These Aegean people used small tubs, sinks, and foot baths for personal cleansing.

The Romans followed many of the practices of the Greek baths, and surpassed them in the size of their baths. As in Greece, the Roman baths became a focal point for social and recreational activity. As the Roman Empire expanded, the idea of ​​public toilets spread to all parts of the Mediterranean and to regions of Europe and North Africa. With the construction of the aqueducts, the Romans had enough water not only for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses, but also for their leisure activities.

The Roman Baths - History of ancient Baths
The Roman Baths – History of ancient Baths – UK – Art,com

What were the Roman baths like?

Roman baths had different sizes, layouts, and decorations. To accommodate this ritual, all Roman bathhouses contained a series of rooms that were progressively heated. Most contained an apodyterium, a room just inside the entrance where the bather kept his clothing. Next, the bather proceeded to the frigidarium (cold bath) with its cold water tank, the tepidarium (warm bath), and finally the caldarium (hot bath).

The caldarium, heated by a brazier under the hollow floor, contained basins of cold water that the bather could use to cool down. After taking this series of baths, the bather returned to the cooler tepidarium for a massage with oils and a final scraping with metal implements. Some baths also contained a laconium (a dry, resting room) where the bather completed the process by resting and sweating.

Pompeian Baths - History of Bathroom
Niccolo Cecconi – Pompeian Baths – History of Bathroom

How many people entered an ancient Roman bath?

The largest of these, the Baths of Diocletian, could hold up to 3,000 bathers. After working all morning, most Romans enjoyed spending the afternoon in the thermal baths, or public baths. They were a social meeting place. Men and women liked to go to the baths not only to clean themselves, but also to meet friends, exercise, or read in the library.

FYODOR BRONNIKOV – Roman Bath – History of Bathroom

What are the Roman baths hours?

Generally open around lunchtime and open until dark, the baths were accessible to everyone, rich and poor alike.

What was the entrance fee in a Roman Bath?

In the reign of Diocletian, for example, the entrance fee was as low as two denarii, the smallest denomination of bronze coins. Sometimes, on occasions like holidays, the entrance to the baths was even free

The entrance fees for the Roman baths were quite reasonable, well within the budget of most free Roman men

Pottery Barn Bathroom
Pottery Barn Bathroom

How was public sanitation in the middle ages?

Despite the great advances made during the Roman Empire, in the Middle Ages many of the advances made in terms of sanitation were left aside. In some cases they were even destroyed or fell into oblivion.

History of Bathroom
History of Bathroom

Bathrooms and toilets in Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, public toilets were built in cities, located near rivers, with the aim of inconveniencing the population as little as possible. Detritus, the needs made by the population, were also quickly available. However, this system could be dangerous for citizens, who could fall into the river.


How were the toilets and latrines in the middle ages?

Being able to relieve oneself in medieval times would be unbearable for a modern person. First, the nobles had small latrines stationed in the walls of the castles, the toilet had a hole that opened directly into the void. In this way, the resulting organic matter fell or remained muddy on the castle wall, which was tried to be washed from time to time.

Medieval Yoilet Château de Gageac - History of Bathroom
Medieval Yoilet Château de Gageac – France – History of Bathroom

In some castles in England, such as Peveril, in the county of Derbyshire, we can see a small room that protrudes from the structure and is known as a “Garderrobe”. This is where the feudal lord made his physiological needs. In the image we can see a small hole at the base of the dependency, through which the detritus carried from the toilet was poured

For the lower classes there were the usual chamber pots that one filled when needed and emptied in the street shouting water goes to alert anyone who was passing through the street and did not end up bathed in sewage. This practice lasted several centuries. Some homes also developed septic tanks to accumulate the waste resulting from the toilet. Since they weren’t cleaned that often, the smell was unbearable.

Only a few large cities such as Paris or Rome preserved sewage structures, but the usual resource to remove wastewater in the Middle Ages was cesspools, especially in those places where there was no river course nearby. These were no longer well-shaped holes with perforated walls that received the discharge of wastewater. The most liquid part filtered into the ground, while the solid part decomposed over time and due to the action of bacteria.

Tower of London Toilet
Tower of London Toilet – History of Bathroom



How did they bathe in the middle ages?

It was very unusual to bathe in those times. People could go months or years without doing it. There were public toilets, but since it was too expensive to heat the water, whole families often shared the same water. That was for noble and upper class families. The poor and less well-off classes did so in the waters of the river, whether the water was cold or not. Even so, it was not an everyday practice. To hide the odors, the richest used essences and the poorest used flowers.

In Al-Andalus (Spain), the hammam was a public and religious building where people went not only to wash, but also to get a haircut or massage.

How was dental hygiene in the middle ages?

In the Middle Ages they took great care of their teeth, cleaning them with pieces of cloth and rosemary ashes. They took these measures because if a tooth rotted it would have to be extracted. That was quite painful, as there were no anesthetics. In addition, there were no dentures, so the image of people would be affected. Also the loss of the dental piece for life.


Modern Ages

In the 16th century private baths began to appear in Britain, although for about two centuries many of the rituals we perform in that part of the house today used to take place in the bedroom.

History of Bidet

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History of the Modern Toilet

The Romans came very close to the current idea of ​​the toilet with their system of public latrines with running water, which immediately flushed waste into a series of underground sewers. In this way, unpleasant odors were kept to a tolerable minimum.

History of Toilet
History of Toilet

The collapse of the Roman Empire put this system into oblivion and for centuries the urinals were emptied out the windows shouting “Water goes!” This practice helped spread typhus and all kinds of infectious diseases.

Her Majesty’s Toilet

In 1596, Sir John Harrington, godson of Queen Elizabeth I, conceived a toilet connected to a water tank that carried waste when flushed.

Alexander Cummings adopted a siphon, that is, an S-shaped tube, and it was the solution he adopted to prevent the smell of discarded stool from going back up the toilet drain.

History of Toilet - Queen Elizabeth I,
History of Toilet – Queen Elizabeth I,

He installed it in the royal palace, but the invention never spread because Queen Elizabeth I used it little out of modesty, due to the great noise of the discharge. The case is that noise indicated that the Queen is using the toilet.

And the sewer networks?

In any case, the absence of sewage systems or septic tanks would have slowed the large-scale use of Harrington’s toilet. It can also be thought that the upper classes would have imitated the queen and the invention would have spread faster.


History of Toilet , 200 years later

It took almost two centuries for another Englishman, Alexander Cummings, to take up the idea and invent the first modern toilet. This London watchmaker patented in 1775 a toilet whose operation was governed by the same principle as that of Harrington. In other words, a clean water discharge dragged the waste. Around the same time, in France the Bidet was invented

Its great innovation was that the drain was made through a siphon, an “S” shaped pipe that allows maintaining the level of liquid in the bowl, creating a clean water barrier that prevents bad odors from returning to the toilet. . This made it possible to install the toilet inside the house itself without problems of unpleasant odors.


Cummings inserted his toilets into wooden furniture that hid them from view when not in use and contained the device that activated the flush and drain mechanism. However, the system was not perfect. The cistern leaked frequently and the valve installed in the bottom of the toilet, to close the siphon, tended to get clogged.

Correcting Toilet Errors

Joseph Bramah, a cabinetmaker who had installed several Cummings toilet units, corrected the flaws in his design and devised a much more efficient valve to close the siphon. This valve was kept clean thanks to the flow of water. Bramah also added a second valve to close the tank, thus preventing leaks.

History of Toilet
History of Toilet

The articulations of these valves, which worked by means of springs, were designed to always remain dry, so that they did not block during the winter, when the water got to freeze. A lever opened both valves at the same time and the stream of water reached the bottom of the toilet through a hole covered by a metal plate that prevented splashing out of the bowl. In 1778, Bramah patented his model and marketed it with some success, as it was easier to operate and more efficient than Cummings’. Thereafter, the apparatus continued to be refined.

History of Toilet, The End

Albert Giblin created a model in 1819 very similar to the current ones, without a valve in the bowl. In 1849, Thomas Twyford made the first ceramic toilets. In the 1880s, Thomas Crapper, who had acquired the Giblin patent, invented the float, the cork that serves to automatically shut off the flow of water in the cistern.

More important was the act of the British Parliament of 1848 that forced the installation of toilets in the new houses, although it would be decades before the water closet or “water closet” reached all the houses.

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