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The History of the Portable Loo

Did you know portable toilets date all the way back to the 6th century B.C.? There’s a lot of history behind the portable loo. It wasn’t until the 1940s that they started looking more similar to the ones we love today. As portable toilet experts, we’re going to delve into the history of portable loos to show how they’ve evolved.

Chamber Pots (6th Century B.C.)

Way back in 6th century Greece, the first version of the portable toilet was created. Now, you might think chamber pots don’t count, but they’re a toilet, and they’re portable. Also known as a guzunder, these were round pots typically made of pottery, tin, lead, stone, or ceramic. People mostly kept and used them in the bedroom, tucking them out of sight until someone needed to ‘go’.

Most countries used these simple yet functional pots up to the mid-20th century. They are still in use today in countries such as China, the Philippines, and North Korea.

Chamber Pot Upgrade (14th Century B.C.)

The Tomb of Kha and Merit was discovered in 1906, and along with it, they discovered what we can only describe as a chamber pot upgrade. Rather than just the standard pot, there was a wooden stool above with a hole cut in the centre. The hole led to the chamber pot beneath, so people could sit instead of squatting while doing their business. As the bench and pot could be moved around, we’re pretty certain this classes as an ancient portable toilet.

Wooden Portable Toilets (1940s)

The beginning of the portable toilet as we know it today was during World War II, in the 1940s. Whilst working in the Long Beach shipyard, it was surprising how much time was spent walking from the ships to the toilets at the other end of the dock. One gentleman observed this happening and began to question things. He saw the constant trips as a waste of time and completely impractical.

So, he began asking around, seeing if anyone could create a more portable option for toilet facilities. Inventors made the first portable toilets, and they did the trick pretty well. Workers could now go without having to trek to the other side of the dock.

But, they were made using wood and metals. This not only made them difficult to empty but not all that portable, either. They were often too heavy to get on and off the ships easily. Cleaning them was impossible too, and the wood would trap the odours.
That meant the smell would just keep on getting worse as folks used it, which must’ve been a real stinker on those scorching hot California days!

In that same era, early versions of the Elsan Chemical Closet were created and used in bomber aircraft. The flight and ground crews didn’t exactly enjoy them (probably because of the mess and smell). But, the Elsan was the foundation for today’s chemical portable loos.

Fibreglass Portable Toilets (1950-70s)

In the 50s and 60s, the demand for portable toilets increased. Many companies began producing them for events and construction, but they still made the shells out of heavy and impractical wood and metal.

It wasn’t until the 70s that they started making them out of fibreglass, which is a much lighter material. The only problem with fibreglass is that it’s pretty fragile and absorbent. Even the slightest impact could shatter these portable toilets, leaving whatever poor soul was inside on show. It absorbs smells, too, so it would be a pretty stinky experience after a few uses.

Patented Plastic Portable Toilets (1980s)

George Harding, the inventor of modern portable toilets, received the first portable toilet patents in the late 70s and early 80s. He instructed engineers to make the toilet cabins out of plastic, specifically mouldable polyurethane, for a sturdier, more lightweight loo. It’s easy to clean, it doesn’t hold odour, and it’s light, strong and long-lasting – the perfect material for mobile toilets.

Harding’s creation revolutionised the temporary toilet industry and all portable toilets we see today come from his invention. No more foul-smelling, rickety toilet cabins… thanks, George!

Portable Toilets Today

Gone are the days of walking miles to the nearest loo. Today, we have access to clean, high-quality portable loos, supplied by pros like us, Toilets+. We even provide luxury loos, a major portable toilet upgrade that trades plastic for proper walls, running hot water, and a lovely flush. Our luxury toilet hire would leave the Ancient Greeks speechless.

We will deliver, clean, empty and collect your toilets, providing a seamless sanitation service. You can be sure that when it comes to portable toilet hire, we’ve got your back(side) covered. Get in touch today on 0800 606 100 to see how we can help find the perfect modern-day portable loo for you.

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