When Was Indoor Plumbing Invented?

When Was Indoor Plumbing Invented?

Indoor plumbing is one of the greatest privileges of modern, first-world living.  While many of us take this for granted, humanity went without this privilege for much of history, and many people still are without it today.  With this in mind, you might ask: when was indoor plumbing invented?  The answer, while somewhat debated by scholars, is said to be approximately 4000 BCE.  Over six thousand years ago, in the ancient city of Mesopotamia, clay water pipes were used to transport wastewater out of temples.  These clay sewer systems were made of detachable and replaceable segments for easy plumbing maintenance, cleaning, and repair.  Latrines were also discovered in this ancient city which connected to the clay sewer pipes.

Early Forms of Plumbing

The Mesopotamians were not the only early ones who made indoor plumbing, however.  Over five thousand years ago, the Neolithic colony of Skara Brae utilized one of the first known indoor plumbing systems.  The stone-built homes, which still exist today in what is now modern-day Scotland, were outfitted with small room additions.  These tiny rooms included a stone drain, which led out of the home and away from the village.  The drains were likely “flushed” by dumping seawater down the drain after use.

Plumbing became commonplace in ancient Rome, where lead pipes were used to transport water around the city over two thousand years ago.  The ancient city boasted a complex plumbing system, where both drinking water and wastewater were piped throughout the city.  Public toilets were also available at this time, attached to this lead pipe waste water system.  The word “plumber” was also invented at this time; coming from the Latin word plumbum for lead.  After the fall of the Roman empire, sanitation and plumbing practices regressed significantly.  No major advancements were made in this regard for over a thousand years.

“Dirty Air” and the Beginnings of Modern Indoor Plumbing

It was not until the densely populated cities of the 1800s that plumbing was again revisited.  In the thousand years since the fall of Rome, most people had returned to the custom of using a chamber pot.  After use, the contents of these pots were dumped into the street outside the home.  This became a health hazard once the cities became too dense; disease outbreaks and epidemics were common as industrialization began.  It was not until the famous outbreak of cholera in 1850s England that sewage contamination of drinking water was found to be the culprit.  However, the general consensus at this time was that diseases were exclusively airborne, carried on foul-smelling air known as miasma.  Because of this misunderstanding, it was not until a heatwave in 1858 increased the stench of human feces in London that things began to change.  Due to the belief that bad smells carried disease, Parliament approved the construction of a modern sewage system after what is now known as The Great Stink of 1858.

Despite being invented in 1596 for use by Queen Elizabeth I, the modern flush toilet did not become widespread until the late 1800s due to the lack of a common plumbing system.  The invention of the s-trap, which uses standing water in the pipes to prevent sewage smells from entering the home, is still in use today.  Flushing toilets, often referred to at the time as “water closets,” were first introduced in hotel rooms and upper-class homes before spreading to the working people.  Even in the United States, most people used outhouses and potted water until the early 1900s.

Though many of us take for granted the privilege of indoor plumbing, it might surprise you to know that as of 2014, approximately 60% of the world’s population still does not have access to piped sewer systems or proper toilets, including over 1.6 million in the United States.

Here at DrainPro Plumbing & Septic, we help people across Western Washington enjoy the simple convenience of home plumbing; our team is dedicated to installing, repairing, cleaning, and inspecting pipe systems all over the Puget Sound region.  If you need someone to repair plumbing or fix a toilet, call us at DrainPro.

Call Us at (206) 785-1404

or fill out our online form for a free home estimate today!

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