The History of Portable Toilets

The History of Portable Toilets

December 8, 2022

People these days often enjoy far more sanitary conditions than in the past. The modern sewer system is a relatively recent invention. The same goes for portable toilets, or porta potties as they are sometimes called. So where did the portable toilet come from? Let’s take a look at the history of the porta potty.

Portable toilets were actually invented during World War II as a means to improve efficiency. WWII was an all-hands-on-deck moment, and the United States needed to tap into its full industrial power. With many men drafted and destined to fight in the war, the industrial labor pool shrank, and maintaining productivity was especially challenging.

Folks working in shipyards and factories often faced a long trek when a bathroom break was needed. This meant the worker was pulled away from their work for an extended period of time, which could slow down production. Portable toilets were invented and installed in many places to reduce the time needed to take a bathroom break. The convenience and increased productivity offered by portable toilets ensured that they remained popular after the war.

Still, early portable toilets were rather primitive. They were typically made of metal and wood, making them heavy and hard to transport. They were also difficult to empty and clean. Fiberglass portable toilets were built, offering lower weights. That said, fiberglass tends to absorb odors, leading to stinky bathrooms. Fortunately, the history of portable toilets marched onward, yielding better solutions.

Behold the Modern Portable Toilet

In the 1960s, George Harding filed for a patent for a portable toilet made mostly from plastics. At the time, plastics were still relatively new in production. Yet while Harding got his idea down on paper in the 60s, plastic portable toilets weren’t widely introduced to the public until the mid-1970s.

Once plastic portable toilets hit the market, competing solutions were flushed down history’s drain. The plastic portable toilets were cheaper to build, lighter, easier to transport, and also easier to keep clean. Additionally, the plastics used to make portable toilets don’t readily absorb odors.

Portable Bathroom Trailers Hit the Road

Plastic also paved the way for other portable toilet solutions. Many portable toilets are single, stand-alone structures. The light weight of the typical portable toilet makes them a bit more likely to be knocked over. Transporting and placing individual toilets can also be time-consuming.

In response to this, portable trailer restrooms were introduced. These trailers feature several toilets fixed to the trailer itself. The trailer can simply be towed to a given area and parked. Then people can use the toilets. When the toilets are no longer needed, the trailer could be towed away. Portable trailer restrooms are commonly found at festivals and concerts. They can also be found on large job sites and elsewhere.

Ultimately, portable toilets make it far easier to keep life sanitary. They can also increase productivity by shortening bathroom breaks. These days, it’s possible to rent portable toilets from various companies. This can save money, and the rental company can also take care of upkeep, cleaning, and maintenance. This way, you don’t have to do the dirty work.

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