The History of Portable Toilets

The History of Portable Toilets

November 5, 2020

There’s a good chance you’ve never thought much about where portable toilets come from. Unlike the ancient wonders of the world, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of mystery or magic to uncover. You probably see porta potties in El Centro, CA all the time—they’re a ubiquitous part of 21st century living, especially when it comes to large events.

You might be surprised, however, at how centuries of human innovation made it possible to bring convenient bathrooms to your favorite music festival or even your outdoor wedding. Read on to learn how portable toilets became such a modern convenience.

Ancient Egyptian Contributions

In the 14th century BCE, the tomb of Kha featured one of the first semi-portable toilets that we know of. It consisted of a wooden chair with a hole in the center, which was positioned over a pottery jar to collect waste. Obviously, you aren’t going to drag a wooden chair everywhere you go—but it still allowed people to move their toilet from room to room when necessary.

The Chamber Pot

When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Nature calls no matter where you are and what you’re doing. That’s why chamber pots became so popular starting in the 6th century BCE. Originally discovered in ancient Greek ruins, they could be made out of anything from lead to glass to pottery. The chamber pot was used all the way up to the 1800s, thanks to its simplicity and portability.

Of course, emptying the pot was a dirty job, it wasn’t particularly comfortable and they probably smelled like… well, you know. On the other hand, they made it easy for people to hygienically dispose of their waste before the invention of the toilet.

Birth of the Modern Porta Potty

The modern portable toilet was invented during World War II, right here in California. George Harding noticed that the shipbuilding process was inefficient—every time a worker had to use the restroom, they had to leave the ship, go past the docks and find a bathroom. Harding invented the first modern portable toilets, which were more like wooden outhouses.

Fiberglass And Plastic Porta Potties

By the 1960s, Harding was still perfecting his design. Fiberglass still trapped odor, so he added an industrial-strength deodorizer to eliminate bad smells. When it became clear that fiberglass was too fragile, he invented the plastic porta potty—very similar to what you might use today.

Restroom Trailers

Finally, in the 1980s, restroom trailers were invented. They’re a more “upscale” version of the portable toilet, often outfitted with running water and flushing toilets. In fact, they’re a lot like a traditional modern bathroom—just on wheels.

Today, portable toilet rental is a key part of outdoor events and worksites in El Centro, CA. It’s the easiest way to provide safe, clean and accessible bathrooms for your guests and employees.

When you’re ready to book porta potty rental for your next event, call Sharps Sanitation today.

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