Hey there — did you remember to thank your toilet this morning?
We’re asking because it’s World Toilet Day, a United Nations initiative to draw attention to the global sanitation crisis.
In the U.S., most of us take toilets and public sanitation for granted, but did you know more than 3.6 billion — billion — people across the world lack access to a working toilet? It’s even a problem here at home. What’s worse, at the current rate of progress, experts say, “it will be the twenty-second century before sanitation for all is a reality.”
On World Toilet Day, take a few minutes to think about (and be thankful for) your indoor plumbing. Your life would be very different without it.
Imagine having to use a chamber pot or an outhouse at 2 a.m. on a cold winter morning — or worse, having to squat over a ditch.
As ugly as it sounds, that’s exactly what many people all over the world are forced to do.
Life without a toilet is dirty, dangerous, and undignified. Public (and environmental) health depends on toilets. Poor sanitation is linked to the spread of disease including cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, and hepatitis A.
The No. 1 Public Health Invention
Ending disease outbreaks is just one of the reasons people like Sir John Harington, Alexander Cumming and Thomas Crapper developed increasingly effective ways to safely deal with human waste over the years. (Check out this History.Com story on the invention of the flush toilet to learn more).
In the early 1800s, human waste ran freely in open sewers in cities across the young United States. As populations grew, so did the smell — and the risk of disease. But by the mid-1800s, indoor plumbing had made its debut and was slowly gaining ground.
In the 1950s and ’60s, rural areas were among the last to trade hand pumps and outhouses for running water and indoor bathroom facilities. Today, many homes in the U.S. have two or three toilets. Yet — as we mentioned earlier — sanitation is still a problem here. A September story from The Guardian found that almost half a million American households still lack access to clean water and working toilets!
To help keep your throne room in tip-top shape and celebrate World Toilet Day, here are a few tips:
- Put a few drops of food coloring in the tank to check for leaks.
- Don’t flush! Wait a half-hour, and then check the bowl.
- If there’s food coloring in the bowl, the flapper needs to be replaced. Watch this video to learn how.
- If it’s time for a new toilet, invest in a Water Sense model to conserve water (and save money on your water bill).
- Never flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper — paper towels and “flushable” wipes cause costly clogs!