Bathroom Innovation Throughout the Ages
Today the bathroom seems like an unremarkable room that we take for granted, but this was not always the case. The bathrooms of today are the result of a long history of invention and innovation throughout the world, culminating in the convenient, beautiful, and easy-to-use appliances of modern-day households. For your next history lesson, NAPCO presents a brief summary of bathrooms through the ages, and how innovation has led to the bathtub coatings and refinishing products that we create.
It all began around 3000 BCE in an area known as the Indus Valley, or modern day Pakistan. Back then, bathing actually had a strong religious connotation as water was seen as a way to purify both the body and the spirit. Though large communal baths were the most common way of bathing, palace ruins from this time period reveal smaller bathrooms and tubs that were reserved for the royal families. For the time period, these appliances possessed truly innovative plumbing and cleaning systems.
Perhaps the most well-known bathers in history were the ancient Greeks and Romans, for whom public bathhouses were an essential to daily life. These bathhouses were used as areas for socialization and relaxation and were an important social institution. Wealthy families also had their own private bathrooms, and during this time period bathing became more of a luxury pastime as trade routes enabled ancient Romans access to expensive soaps and oils. The bathhouses and bathrooms of these civilizations were built on the inventions of the past, as they developed more sophisticated plumbing and drainage systems.
Middle Ages in Europe
Jumping forward to the Middle Ages in Europe, many towns continued the practice of a public bathhouse though this was less of a social function and more of an individual activity. Most homes contained a wooden bathtub for the family to bathe in, and King Edward III had his own bathroom installed in Westminster Palace in the 1300’s. Production of luxury bathroom products continued in this era, as a thriving soap-making industry began in England. This time period also saw the emergence of other hygiene products such as tweezers and mouthwash.
Over the next 300 years in England bathroom innovation and inventions boomed, setting the stage for what is now the modern bathroom. Because the Plague hit England so many times, public bathhouses became less popular as they were thought to be a cause of disease. This meant that most homes were having private bathrooms installed. The flushing toilet was first invented in 1596, though it did not become popular in homes until many years later, in 1851. In 1767, the first shower was invented in England during a ground-breaking irrigation project in the city of London. Building on this technology, modern plumbing and faucets soon began being installed in wealthy homes.
19th and 20th centuries
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, hygiene and bathing became much more important to everyday life. With the discovery of disease-causing germs, washing with soap and water was seen as a way to stay healthy. Because of the popularity and need for more bathrooms, innovation continued to expand in this industry. During this time the gas-powered water heater was invented, allowing middle class as well as wealthy homes to possess modern bathrooms. In 1889, the electric water heater became more popular, allowing for greater access to bathing. Copper tubs also began to replace wooden tubs during this time as they were more durable. The bathroom was becoming a place of greater necessity and customization.
Today, bathroom technology is still evolving with the exploration of new appliance materials, eco-friendly coatings, and digital control mechanisms. NAPCO continues this pursuit of innovation every day as we strive to create products that will increase the quality and efficiency of our bathtub and countertop refinishing.
Stay tuned for more NAPCO news, as we attend a new bathroom technology conference next month!