World Toilet Day: Skip to my loo

The first toilet was a royal flush.

In 1596 Sir John Harrington, a member of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, invented the first flush toilet. It took nearly 200 years before Alexander Cumming received the first patent for a toilet. In 1775 he added the S-pipe, which allows water to stay in the bowl, thereby reducing odors.

Toilets have come a long way since then and yet more than 2.4 billion people today still do not have toilets! In fact, a United Nations report found that more people own cell phones than a toilet.

To bring attention to the lack of bathroom facilities, the United Nations in 2013 named Nov. 19 as World Toilet Day.

Now, as far as holidays go, World Toilet Day can leave you feeling down in the dumps. After all, there are no parties, turkeys or gifts exchanged.

Santa doesn’t slide down your chimney to use the john.

But, if he did, he’d likely find that the toilet seat is the cleanest spot in the bathroom. That’s because most people make sure the seat is clean before they sit down, explained University of Arizona microbiologists Charles Gerba. (Another clean spot in the bathroom is the door handle, because germs can’t survive for long on cold, dry surfaces.)

Here’s a tip: if you use a public restroom, the first cubicle is usually the cleanest. That’s because most people want privacy and are more likely to use a stall further from the door.

In 2013 a British magazine claimed that the average uncleaned laptop or smartphone had 600 units of bacteria on it, compare to just 20 units on a toilet seat. As for the cleaner sex, it’s women.

A 2010 study found that 93 percent of women wash their hands after using the toilet, compared to only 77 percent of men.

By the way, separate bathrooms for men and women were first offered in Paris, in 1739.

Did you know that the average person uses the loo about 2,500 times a year, and spends about 20 minutes a day indisposed. That means that in an average lifespan of 80 years, a person spends more than 13 months’ worth of time in the bathroom. (Even longer if you bring a good book with you!)

The first communal latrine was discovered in Argentina and dates back 240 million years. It was apparently the dumping ground for large rhino-like dinosaurs.

Just in case you like to flush money away, an Australian company offers for sale a toilet-paper roll made of 22-carat gold. One can be yours for the low, low price of just $1.4 million.

John Christian Hopkins, an award-winning novelist and humor columnist, is a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. See his writings at

From John Christian Hopkins.