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5 incredible ways plumbing changed the world — and your life

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It’s so easy to take plumbing for granted. Most Los Angeles residents (and Americans in general) grew up with it as a given. But imagine what your life would be like without hot water. Or what if you had to – gasp – go outside to use an outhouse??

We’re very lucky to have access to water on demand. We can even ask the best plumber Los Angeles has to offer to fix it when it goes haywire. You may not realize it, but without the contributions of plumbers and plumbing throughout history, our lives would be much different.

Consider these inventions that, at one time, were complete novelties.

The Flush Toilet

While Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the flush toilet, he is responsible for spreading its popularity far and wide. Prior to his work, toilets were relatively unknown, and reserved for a select few people of English society who were in the know. Crapper changed all that when he dedicated his career to sanitary engineering, and started marketing bathroom fittings. While his name took on an, um, unfortunate association, he remains one of plumbing history’s most prominent figures.

The Water Closet

Versions of the water closet had existed for hundreds of years (privacy is timeless). But it didn’t start to become a household staple until the early 1900s. How people used the restroom prior to that is enough to send shivers down our contemporary, first-world spines. People had to go outside to relieve themselves. If you’ve ever used a port a potty, then you probably know how unpleasant this was.

Sewage lines

It’s hard to believe that the first underground sewer line wasn’t installed until 1728! It’s enough to make you wonder what happened to all the sewage prior to that… actually, maybe that’s a question better left for history to keep to itself. New York City finally installed a line, but only after complaints mounted from residents who couldn’t take the smell of open sewers any more. Yikes!

Indoor plumbing

When you think about it, indoor plumbing is truly a marvel. The network of pipes required to make it all work is complex and kind of fascinating. It’s a wonder then that it was still a novelty as late as 1829, when the first hotel opened that could proudly boast this fine amenity. For reference, the White House didn’t get it until a few years later, and kitchen sinks wouldn’t be common in homes for another 30 years!

Hot water… on demand!

If you wanted hot water in your home before 1870, you had to either boil it, or let the sun work its magic over a very (very) long period of time. When water heaters first became available, it revolutionized domestic life. Getting something exactly when you wanted it was a truly novel experience.

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