If you are like most people, you probably take your toilet for granted and don’t give it a lot of thought until you have a problem. Understanding a little of its history and how it is designed may help you prevent problems in the future and will provide you with a few interesting tidbits to share when topics for conversation run low.
The earliest known evidence of indoor toilets dates back to 3,000 B.C. in Skara Brae, a settlement in the Scottish mainland. These toilets consisted of stone huts with drains that are thought to have been the first toilets using water. The Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete also had latrines, complete with large earthenware pans that were connected to terra cotta pipes to carry the waste away. These latrines are dated at 1,700 B.C. Similar contraptions were used throughout history until 1596 when Sir John Harrington invented a water closet that featured a raised cistern of water connected to the toilet bowl with a pipe that flushed when a lever was released. This made flushing easier but did little to curtail the odor. Some 200 years later, Alexander Cummings invented the S pipe under the toilet to prevent foul odors from returning. The flushable toilet became mainstream by the end of the 18th Century.
Parts of a Toilet
- Water Tank – Holds the water needed to flush the toilet.
- Inlet Valve – Lets fresh water into the toilet tank when needed.
- Float Arm – Holds the float
- Float – Round red or black “ball” attached to the float arm.
- Flapper – Rubber stopper attached to the chain to close the drain valve after flushing.
- Chain – Connects the flapper and the flush handle.
- Toilet Bowl – Receptacle for waste.
- Siphon Hose – Connects the toilet to the sewer system.
How Does it All Work?
The tank on the back of your toilet is filled with water. When you depress the handle to flush the toilet, this lifts the chain attached to the flapper inside the tank. It pulls the flapper up and releases water into the bowl. Because the water enters the bowl quickly, it creates a siphon effect in the siphon hose (a U shaped pipe connecting the toilet bowl to the sewer system) and whisks away toilet waste.
The flapper then falls back in place, sealing the drain hole and preventing water from entering the toilet bowl. The float has also fallen lower in the tank, opening the refill valve. Fresh water enters the tank via the refill valve until the float rises to the same level as the refill valve and the valve closes. Your toilet is now ready for the next use.
Under normal circumstances, a quick push of the flushing handle sets everything in motion with no further help from you. But parts can get worn and clogs can happen when you least expect it. Help is just a call away. Big B’s Plumbing provides emergency services. Don’t forget to check out our blog for other money-saving ideas.