Why Were Bathrooms Called “Water Closets” In The Past?

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Why Were Bathrooms Called Water Closets In The Past?

Victorian Antique Water Closet
Victorian Antique Water Closet

If you were born in the last hundred years you’ve always called a bathroom a bathroom, or maybe a restroom, but have you ever heard anyone call it a water closet? Just where did that term come from? The answer is pretty surprising.

A little over 200 years ago, the terms for each room in a house were specific instead of generic. Someone might go to the “bathroom” to take a bath because that’s where the tub is located. You might go to the “restroom” to rest or get ready for your day, so there may have been a sink, a mirror, or other necessities. This is common still in a lot of rentals and bed and breakfasts.

That being said you went to the “water closet” to use what is not referred to as a toilet.

A Picture of an antique water closet
A Picture of an antique water closet

So why were the rooms with a toilet called a water closet?

If you research this there are a few different versions of why water closets were given their name, there is one common version that is often found. In the late 19th century when indoor plumbing began being installed in homes, people had to make room for the toilets that were to be installed. One common place to install a toilet was in a remodeled closet because of its dedicated size and door.

Since it was the one place in the home that had indoor water, it was called the “water closet.”

Fun Fact: modern-day building codes still refer to the WC designation.

Urinals And Water Closets

In the US toilets are still referred to as water closets but urinals are not. This differentiation allows for easy labeling of fixture types that are approved for different types of waste. It may be important to note that the reference is only for the toilet and only for the building codes. A “water closet” would be installed in a “bathroom,” even if that bathroom technically does not have a bath in it.

It’s commonplace in other countries like Germany to have the toilet sometimes kept in a separate room from the rest of the bathroom or restroom. Some higher-end homes in the United States are designed like this as well. This is often technically still called a “water closet” because the toilet is kept in a separate area but still contained within the bathroom itself.

WC is still used often today, but as an abbreviated synonym for a toilet instead of a specific location or designation. Sometimes found listed on the toilet itself, then this designation is usually intended to meet a building code requirement.

South End Plumbing specializes in Toilet Repair, so remember, we are just a click away. We also specialize in leak detection – give us a call! South End Plumbing is one of the only companies that will give you a free estimate. Call us at 704-919-1722 or fill out the form online to schedule a visit.

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