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The Dawn of the Modern Porta-Potty: A Brief History

Porta-potties can be found at almost any field, event, or outdoor worksite. But did you know that the first one was not invented until the 1940s? While most people relied on outhouses well into the 20th century, transportable bathroom options did not exist until wartime production necessitated their invention. 

While the first evidence of portable toilets (read: terracotta clay pots) was actually in the Ancient World, today’s modern portable restroom was first developed during World War II. Bathroom facilities on docks and in shipyards were typically far away from worksites, causing production delays. The solution: portable toilets built out of wood and steel. These first toilets did not have any amenities and tended to be quite smelly. 

Portable restrooms started to evolve quickly once industries, such as construction, started to recognize the value of having transportable, onsite bathroom solutions. 

Deodorizing liquid was first invented in the 1950s to combat odor issues, and in 1960, George Harding developed a patent for the first polyethylene portable restroom. By the 1970s, Harvey Heather had created the “Strongbox” – the first fiberglass portable toilet – and later that decade, polyethylene models were finally introduced to the market. Polyethylene porta-potties proved to be more lightweight than their wood/steel or fiberglass counterparts and much easier to clean and sanitize. This polyethylene plastic material is still used in most porta-potties today. 

Porta-potties have come a long way from their wood and steel origins in the last 60 years. Today’s luxury trailers are decked out with wood flooring, cabinetry, and countertops. Depending on the trailer, luxury portable restrooms are also equipped with heat, AC, interior lighting, and even warm running water – making outdoor events possible no matter the season! 

Looking for portable restroom services for your next event or job site? Connect with the Kerkstra team today! We are the premier provider of clean, portable restroom rentals in West Michigan and excel at keeping you and your guests squeaky clean. Call (616) 662-2677 to get your personalized quote.