Chronography of Hygiene

Page last modified 27 September 2023


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2020, The UK now had 2,556 public toilets, down from 3,154 in 2015.

1982, 21.5% of French homes possessed no indoor fluhing toilet, down from 45% in 1968 and 73% in 1954. In 1954 90% of French homes had no bath or shower, a figure down to 12.2% by 1984. By 1984 just 10.7% of French homes had no indoor flushing toilet; many of these being old rural farmsteads.

1960, Hitchin Council in the UK became the first to use black plastic polythene bin bags for refuse collection. Previously, rubbish was put loose straight into bins, causing smells and being scattered in the road when the bin was emptied.

21 March 1950, A survey showed that only 46% of British homes had a bathroom.

1949, Air freshener was now a household accessory, to mask �foul odours�.

1948, The first disposable nappies were sold by Saks, Fifth Avenue, New York. Proctor and Gamble test marketed them in the 1950s, and launched the first mass-produced disposable nappies in 1961 under the brand name Pampers.

1944, A survey by the Women�s Institute across Britain of 3,500 villages showed that 1,000 of them ;lacked piped water.

1942, Soft toilet paper first appeared in Britain. It was made at the St Andrews paper mill, Walthamstow, London.

1937, The first tampons were marketed under the name Tampax.

1924, Kleenex, the first face tissues sold in Western countries, was introduced, as Celluwipes (the Japanese had been using them for centuries).

1921, The first commercially produced sanitary towels were marketed under the brand name Kotex.

1914, The first modern sewage plant, designed to treat sewage with bacteria, opened in Manchester.

27 January 1910, Thomas Crapper, toilet inventor, died.

1907, Floor Polish, an early example of a mass-produce dmaterial for housework, went on sale.

1906, Jeyes Fluid, the commercial name of a disinfectant fluid, went on sale in the UK. It was notable for its distinctive strong smell.

30 August 1901, Scotsman Hubert Cecil Booth patented the vacuum cleaner. Houses often had no electricity then, andthe motor and pump were so large they were mounted on a horse-drawn cart whilst a tube that might be over 200 metres long was used for suction. Booth later introduced a clear tube so clients could see the dirt being sucked out of their house.

1900, Only 1 in 7 US homes possessed a bath-tub.

31 May 1898, Sir Richard Rawlinson, British sanitation engineer, died in London (born 28 February 1810 in Bristol).

22 May 1892, Dr Washington Sheffield invented the toothpaste tube.

15 March 1891, Sir Joseph William Bazalgette, engineer, died.

1889, The first underground public convenience for women opened in London, at Piccadilly Circus.(see 1885). It was luxuriously appointed, designed to appeal to the wealthy female shoppers patronising London;s West End department stores. However resistance to the provision of female public toilets (men�s public urinals were acceptable) lingered on after 1900, based on notions that it was �unfemale�, �degrading� to use one forf a woman, or that the poor would simply use them for ordinary washing.

1885, The first underground public convenience (for men only) opened at the Royal Exchange, London. See 1852 and 1889.

17 February 1883, The vacant / engaged toilet sign was patented by Mr Ashwell of Herne Hill, London.

1882, Just 2% of New York homes have piped water. Almost every house has a backyard privy.

19 September 1876, Melville R Bissell of Grand Rapids, Michigan patented the Bissell carpet sweeper, the first practical way to sweep carpets of dust. He suffered from headaches caused by his allergy to straw dust which came from the straw packing he used in his china shop. He invented a sweeper with a sprung brush roller that responded to pressure on the handle.

1871, In the USA, toilet paper was first put on a roll.

1864, In Britain, the first of the Baths and Wash Houses Acts were passed (1864-1896). Then provison of bathing facilities in UK towns was now deemed necessary.

1859, Glasgow opened its new water supply from Loch Katrine; this was a significant developemtn in the hygiene of the city.

1857, The first mass production of toilet paper began, in the USA, pioneered by Joseph Cayetty. Toilet paper had been in use at the Imperial Court of 14th century China, but most people in 19th century Europe and America simply used torn up newspaper. Cayett�s paper, at 50 cents for 500 sheets, was not cheap; it was impregnated with aloe as a supposed cure for piles. Gradually the cost fell and it became universally used. The term �toilet paper� was first used by the New York Times in 1888.

11 February 1852, The first flushing public toilet for women opened in Fleet Street, London. The cost was 2d. See 2 February 1852.

2 February 1852, The first public convenience for men opened in Fleet Street, London. See 11 February 1852.

19 September 1851, William Lever, soap maker and philanthropist, later Lord Leverhulme, was born in Bolton.He was the son of a grocer.

1844, In the UK, the Commission for Enquiring into the State of Large Towns established a link between dirt and epidemic disease.

28 March 1819, Engineer Sir Joseph William Bazalgette was born.

12 May 1792, A toilet that regularly flushed itself was patented.

1789, Pear�s Soap was first produced.

1778, In England, Joseph Bramah improved on Cumming�s design for a flushing toilet and begn commercial manufacture of them.

1775, In England, the first patent for a flushing toilet was granted to Alexander Cumming.

1589, English writer Sir John Harrington had an early non gravity fed flushing toilet at his house in Kelston, Somerset.

1524, Soap was first manufactured in Britain.

24 December 1508, London houses received piped water for the first time.

1503, The pocket handkerchief came into use in polite society in Europe. In Mediaeval times, people just wiped their faces on their robe sleeves.

589, Earliest reference to toilet paper, in China.

50 AD, Romans learnt the use of soap, from the Gauls.

1550 BCE, Date of the Egyptian Elbers Papyrus, which describes in detail how to make soap from animal fats and vegetable oils, and the uses of this soap for washing.

2000 BCE, The Minoans possessed flushing toilets, using cisterns fed by streams, flushed by a lever.

2800 BCE, Soap was in use in ancient Babylon. Soap is also mentioned in the Bible Book of Jeremiah, and by 1550 BCE it was in use in Egypt.


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