You use the toilet every day, which may explain why it has become a task you basically do on autopilot. But when was the last time you stopped and considered the design on one of your home's most hardworking items? If you have, you might have noticed the fact that the toilet handle is almost always on the left-hand side. But have you ever thought about why that might be? Well, it's actually a rather more multifaceted answer than you might think.
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Toilets have been historically designed with the handles on the left-hand side. There are several theories as to why this is, including their practical design, easier accessibility and even more traditional, symbolic reasons.
Toilet Flushing Traditions
The earliest use of flushing recorded began with the ancient Egyptians. They manually flushed out their toilets using buckets of water to keep them clean and hygienic. The idea of a flushing mechanism was originally dreamed up by Leonardo DaVinci, according to PlumbingSupply.com, but it took a surprisingly long time to take off.
In fact, the flushing toilet didn't really become popular in the United States until after World War I. The British Association of Urological Surgeons explains that since then, flushing toilets have become the norm, and are now more environmentally friendly than ever before.
The earliest flushing toilets were specific water closets and were flushed by pulling on a chain. The chain of these toilets hung down on the left-hand side, to allow the person sitting to pull with their right hand. While the chain design has widely gone out of fashion, the idea of the flush being on the left-hand side has remained. The majority of users flush while sitting down on the toilet, meaning the handle on the left is easier to reach with the right, dominant hand.
Throughout history, the left has been seen as "other." Because the majority of the world is right-handed, there has been a long history of discrimination against the left-handed community. Merriam-Webster explains that this even makes its way into the language, with the word "sinister" originally meaning "on the left." There are even negative religious associations with the left, including Eve being pictured to the left of Adam.
This exists in other religions too. In Hinduism, the right hand is seen as good, while the left is seen as evil. All eating must be done with the right hand, while all dirty activities must be done with the left. Similarly, Islamic toilet etiquette requires all wiping to be done with the left hand. In fact, as the_ Guardian_ points out, the world is generally designed with right-handed people in mind. This could be a contributing factor to left-handed flushing toilet designs.
Toilet Flusher Accessibility
In recent years, more and more people have wanted different toilet flushing options. As the Times of India explains, single flushers are slowly being phased out in favor of the more environmentally friendly dual flushers. These button flushers can also be easier to use for those with motor disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires toilet flushers to be mounted on the wide side of toilet areas to improve access. If your bathroom is designed to make the right side of your toilet more accessible, PlumbingSupply.com explains it is possible to install the flush on the right side too.
- PlumbingSupply.com: The History of the Flush Toilet
- British Association of Urological Surgeons: A Brief History of the Flush Toilet
- Merriam-Webster: The Left Hand of (Supposed) Darkness
- Times of India: Here's Why Toilet Flush Has One Large and One Small Button
- The Guardian: Why Are Left-Handers Treated as Outsiders? It’s Just Not Right
- ADA Compliance: Water Closets
- PlumbingSupply.com: Right Hand Toilet Tank Levers