The toilet is one of the most essential facilities in any household or public space. However, not many of us think about it until we are pressed, or there is an urgent need to use it. As such, this article highlights some amazing toilet facts you probably didn’t know or haven’t thought about for some time.
1. Sir John Harington Invented the First Flush Toilet
In the late 1500s, Sir John Harington, an author, English courtier, and translator, invented the first-ever flush toilet. It had a flushing system that allowed water out of the tank and a wash-down mechanism that emptied the bowl. However, its lack of the modern-day S-bend or U-bend meant that the toilet left a lot of odor behind. Sir John Harington invented the toilet for Queen Elizabeth I.
2. A Woman Sat on a Toilet Seat for Two Years
A woman, not glued, not tied, stuck on her boyfriend’s toilet seat for two years. She stayed there for so long that her skin grew on it. After feeding and giving her water throughout that time, the victim’s boyfriend alerted the authorities, saying something was wrong with his partner. When the medical team arrived, the woman’s legs had atrophied, so she had to be taken to the hospital with the toilet seat.
3. Alexander Cummings Patented the First Flush Toilet
Even though Sir John Harington invented the first flush toilet, he didn’t patent it. It took several centuries after Harington’s discovery for Alexander Cummings, a mathematician and instrument inventor, to patent a flush toilet design in 1775. To his credit, Cummings significantly improved the pioneer’s design: he added the S-strap/bend to deal with the foul smell and improved its flush system.
4. King George II of Great Britain Died After Falling Off a Toilet
On October 25, 1760, Great Britain’s King George II died after falling off a toilet. According to a memoir from Horace Walpole, an English writer and historian, the monarch had just taken his breakfast when he went to the toilet. Shortly, his German valet de chamber heard a noise, to which he responded by running in, only to find the king dead on the floor with his face cut.
5. There Are Several Urban Legends Involving Toilets
Over time, various urban legends have been reported on toilet safety. For example, there are stories of how terrorists can booby trap toilet seats to castrate their targets. There is also a myth about the possibility of an aircraft lavatory sucking a toilet user due to vacuum pressure while it is flying.
6. It Is Advisable to Close the Toilet’s Lid Before Flushing
Health experts say that flushing a soiled toilet with the lid open increases the chances of germs spraying into the air, potentially spreading diseases. With that in mind, closing the lid can help lower such possibilities.
7. The First Toilet Air Fresheners Were Made of Cloves
Initially, pomegranates studded with cloves were used to sanitize the air in washrooms. The toilet air freshener was not sustainable, though, prompting the invention of modern-day products.
8. There Are Many Portable Toilets during Presidential Inaugurations
According to statistics, in President Obama’s inauguration, there were more than 5,000 portable toilets. With more than 1.8 million present, this meant that, on average, one toilet was used by about 360 people. Such events rank among the highest with portable toilets.
9. Toilet Explosions Can Happen
Even though toilet explosions are rare, they occasionally happen. In 2019, a Florida woman was relaxing in her home when she heard a loud sound from her house. To her surprise, the toilet had exploded, leaving pieces scattered all over. Apparently, following a recent thunderstorm, lightning had struck near the woman’s septic tank, causing its methane gas to ignite and blow up her toilet.
10. The Super Bowl’s Big Flush Claim Is Untrue
Interestingly, there is a classic urban legend that during the Super Bowl halftime show, Americans collectively use the toilet and then flush at the same time to cause a surge and overload the municipal water system.
While most people collectively use the toilets at this time more than any other, the Municipal water systems usually handle the surge. In fact, the only time the system was overwhelmed was in the 1984 Super Bowl when an 18-inch water main burst in Salt Lake City.
11. There Was an Uproar When Toilet Flushing Was Shown on TV for the First Time
Released in 1960, the film Psycho, produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, was the first to feature a scene showing a flushing toilet. Even though it was a horror movie, the scene sparked an outrage, with many complaining about indecency.
12. “Spend a Penny” Means Going to the Toilet in The United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, “Spend a penny” is a euphemism for going to the toilet, especially in public facilities. It originated in the 1800s after George Jennings invented public toilets. The first edition debuted in the Great Exhibition in 1851, where people paid a penny to use the facility.
13. The International Space Station Toilet Is Among the Costliest
In 2020, NASA designed a zero-gravity toilet for the International Space Station that cost more than $20 million. The toilet, known as the Universal Waste Management System, was designed to help astronauts boldly go as they worked on their missions. It is one of the most expensive ever made.
14. The First Toilet Cubicles in Public Restrooms Are the Cleanest
Research shows that people tend to avoid the first toilet cubicles in public restrooms. As such, they may be the cleanest.
15. Egyptians Placed Portable Toilets in Tombs for Afterlife Use
In ancient times, Egyptians placed portable toilets in prominent people’s tombs potentially for afterlife use. This was evident when the tomb belonging to Kha, a senior Egyptian official, was excavated; a wooden stool with a hole in the middle and a pottery vessel beneath it (probably to catch waste) was discovered.
16. An Average Person Spends about Three Years in the Toilet
According to research, an average person is likely to spend about a third of a year (92 days) in the toilet. By this logic, an individual spends more than three years using the washrooms in their lifetime.
17. Madonna Demands New Toilet Seats for Every Gig She Takes
Formally, Louise Ciccone, Madonna is an American songwriter and singer with worldwide fame. Because she is one of the most sought-after, she has several demands before performing at any center, including a brand new toilet seat with an “unbroken seal.”
18. A Group of 71 Potential Witnesses Once Refused to Testify, Claiming They Were in the Toilet
In what famously became known as the Murder of Robert McCartney, the members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army killed the father of two following an altercation in a bar. The incident in January 2005 was potentially witnessed by about 71 people.
Interestingly, the potential witnesses refused to testify, claiming they were all in the same toilet, one that could hardly hold more than two people at a time. The toilets were later dubbed TARDIS, a time machine in the TV show Doctor Who, whose interiors are bigger than what people see outside.
19. The Longest Time Spent Sitting on the Toilet is 116 Hours
In 2019, Jimmy De Frenne, a 48-year-old man (at the time) from Belgium, broke the record for the longest time an individual has sat on the toilet seat without standing. Even though he fell short of his 165-hour target, Frenne managed 116 hours, which is no mean feat. He gave up because his legs turned sour after nearly four days of sitting.
20. Portable Toilets Became Popular in the 1940s
During World War II, shipyard owners in Long Beach, New Jersey, realized that employees took a lot of time to trek from the ships back to the docks to go to the toilet. They figured that a lot of valuable work time was lost, hence the need for a solution.
They decided to build small, portable cubicles for the workers using metal or wood. The results were amazing; there were more productive hours, and the evolution of portable toilets started there.
21. Black Toilets Are More Sanitary
Initially, most toilets were black because they were deemed more sanitary. In the 20th century, the porcelain toilets we have today were considered “new technology,” so people had reservations. The black ones were inexpensive, concealed stains, and more accepted.
22. The Toilet Seat Is Not the Dirtiest Item in the House
Naturally, it’s easy to assume that the toilet seat is the dirtiest part of a household; it turns out it’s not! Scientists and research show more than 10 items may be dirtier than that part of the washroom. They include pet food bowls, mobile devices, computer keyboards, kitchen sponges, toothbrushes, and reusable shopping bags.
23. People Drop Their Phones Into the Toilet Bowl A Lot
A study conducted in the United States showed that more than seven million have, at least once, dropped their phones into the toilet bowl.
24. Airplane Toilets Have Teflon Coating
To avoid having poop stick in the toilet system when vacuumed and to ensure minimal water usage, airplane toilets are coated with Teflon. The same synthetic fluoropolymer is used to make cookware, personal care products, and clothing.