Did Viking Houses Have Toilets?

Viking Houses

The Viking Age, spanning from the late 8th century to the early 11th century, was a time of exploration, conquest, and cultural development. As we delve into the lives of the Vikings, one question that often arises is whether or not Viking houses had toilets. In this article, we will explore the nature of Viking dwellings and their sanitation practices and shed light on the presence of toilets or their medieval counterparts in Viking households.

What Was the Daily Life of a Viking?

A combination of work, family, and community activities marked the daily life of a Viking. Let’s explore some key aspects of their daily routines and customs.

Work played a central role in Viking society. The Vikings were primarily farmers, and tending to crops and livestock was vital to their daily life. They cultivated fields, raised animals, and engaged in fishing and hunting. Craftsmanship was also highly valued, and many Vikings were skilled artisans, producing goods such as weapons, tools, jewelry, and textiles.

Family life was of great importance to the Vikings. They lived in extended family units, often in large households known as longhouses. These longhouses served as homes for multiple generations, and communal living was the norm. Family members worked together to maintain the household, with men and women sharing responsibilities.

Viking communities were tightly knit, and social interactions played a significant role in daily life. Gathering at the local assembly, known as the Thing, was a regular occurrence. Here, disputes were settled, laws were established, and important decisions were made. Festivals and feasts were also integral to Viking culture, bringing people together for celebrations, storytelling, and entertainment.

Religion played a vital role in the daily life of a Viking. They followed a polytheistic belief system and worshiped a pantheon of gods such as Odin, Thor, and Freya. Rituals, sacrifices, and ceremonies were conducted to honor and seek the gods’ favor.

Warfare was another aspect of Viking life. While not all Norsemen were warriors, raiding and conquest were common activities during the Viking Age. Those who engaged in warfare were highly skilled fighters and sought glory, wealth, and power through their expeditions.

What Did Viking Houses Look Like?

To understand the sanitation practices of the Vikings, it is crucial to have a clear picture of what their houses looked like. Viking houses, known as longhouses, were typically rectangular and made of timber or stone. These longhouses were long and narrow, often with a central hearth used for cooking and heating. The size of the house varied, depending on the wealth and status of the occupants. While some longhouses could accommodate several families, others were smaller and served as single-family homes.

Sanitation Practices in Viking Age

Sanitation in the Viking Age was significantly different from modern standards. The Vikings did not have a sophisticated sewage system like we do today. Instead, their sanitation practices were more rudimentary. Waste disposal usually involved simple methods that were practical and functional for the time.

A Medieval Outhouse at the Glance 

One common method of waste disposal in medieval times was the use of outhouses. In the past, people built small structures called outhouses or privies outside their main living quarters. These structures had a small seat over a pit or trench and were constructed away from the house to prevent unpleasant smells and ensure cleanliness.

The Viking Bathroom

While the term “bathroom” might evoke images of a modern facility, the concept of a dedicated room for bathing and personal hygiene did not exist in Viking households. Instead, bathing practices were performed in designated areas within or near the house. These areas were usually separate from the living and sleeping spaces.

Were There Medieval Toilets during the Viking Age? 

The Viking Age, spanning from the late 8th century to the early 11th century, was a time of cultural and societal development. Regarding sanitation practices, one question that arises is whether medieval toilets existed during the Viking Age. While the Vikings did not have toilets in the modern sense, they employed certain sanitation facilities and practices.

During the Viking Age, the concept of dedicated indoor toilets, as we know them today, did not exist. The Vikings relied on more basic methods of waste disposal. One common practice was the use of outhouses or privies. These small structures were outside the main living quarters and consisted of a seat over a pit or trench. Outhouses provided a means for waste disposal that minimized odors and maintained hygiene.

However, it is important to note that the use of outhouses was not universal among all Viking households. Smaller or less affluent families may not have had the luxury of a dedicated outhouse and may have employed alternative methods for waste disposal.

Furthermore, the lack of indoor toilets did not mean the Vikings neglected personal hygiene. They recognized the importance of cleanliness and bathing practices. Bathing was performed in designated areas within or near the house, using large wooden tubs or water-filled barrels. These tubs were often placed near the hearth to take advantage of the warmth.

Did the Vikings Use Toilet Paper?

The Vikings lived during a time when the concept of toilet paper, as we know it today, did not exist. Instead, they employed different methods for personal hygiene and cleanliness.

One common practice among the Vikings was using natural materials to clean themselves after using the toilet. They often used moss, leaves, grass, wool, or even small stones for wiping. These materials were readily available in their natural surroundings and served as functional alternatives to toilet paper.

Additionally, the Norsemen recognized the importance of water for hygiene purposes. They would use water and possibly their hands to clean themselves after using the toilet. This practice is similar to the bidet system still prevalent in many cultures today.

It is essential to understand that the absence of toilet paper did not mean a lack of attention to personal hygiene. The Vikings valued cleanliness and tried to maintain their hygiene using the available resources.

Hygiene Practices

The Vikings placed great importance on personal hygiene. They believed in cleanliness and regularly washed themselves, both for health reasons and cultural norms. Bathing was typically done using large wooden tubs or barrels filled with water. These tubs were often placed near the hearth to take advantage of the warmth.

Water Sources

Water sources for bathing and personal hygiene in Viking households varied depending on the location and accessibility. Houses located near rivers, lakes, or the coastline had easy access to water. In such cases, water could be collected directly from these sources. For houses situated further inland, wells were often dug to obtain water for various household needs, including bathing.

Waste Disposal

When it came to waste disposal, the Vikings followed practical methods. Human waste was commonly deposited in the outhouses previously mentioned. These structures were periodically cleaned or filled with earth to create new pits. It is worth noting that using such facilities was not universal, and smaller or less affluent households may not have had a dedicated outhouse.

Privacy and Social Norms

The Vikings valued privacy, and this extended to their sanitation practices. Outhouses were designed to provide privacy, often positioned away from the main house. The use of curtains or other coverings may have been employed to ensure privacy during bathing and toilet activities.

Where Did Vikings Go to the Toilet on Ships?

The Vikings were renowned seafarers who navigated the vast oceans in their ships. One question arose as they embarked on long voyages: Where did the Vikings go to the toilet on their ships? While detailed historical records are limited, we can make educated assumptions about their sanitation practices.

Viking ships, known as longships, were masterfully designed vessels that allowed the Vikings to travel long distances and explore new lands. These ships were typically equipped with various compartments and areas for specific purposes, but it is unlikely that they had dedicated facilities for toilets.

Considering the limited space available on a longship, it is probable that the Vikings utilized simple and practical methods for waste disposal. One possibility is that they would relieve themselves over the ship’s sides, allowing the waste to be carried away by the currents. This method would have provided a quick and convenient solution while minimizing the risk of contaminating the living and working areas of the ship.

Another possibility is that the Vikings used containers or buckets for waste disposal on board. These containers could have been emptied overboard when necessary. It is worth noting that the Vikings were skilled navigators and deeply respected the sea, so they likely practiced responsible waste disposal to minimize environmental impact.

Maintaining hygiene and cleanliness would have been challenging on long voyages, but the Vikings understood the importance of personal cleanliness. They regularly bathed and washed themselves using water collected from barrels or containers. These bathing practices helped them stay clean and combat the effects of long journeys.

Although specific details about toilet practices on Viking ships are scarce, it is reasonable to assume that the Vikings employed practical methods for waste disposal, taking into account the limitations of space and the need for cleanliness. The ability to adapt and find solutions in their maritime endeavors was a testament to their resourcefulness and ingenuity.


While Viking houses did not have toilets in the modern sense, the presence of medieval outhouses and designated areas for bathing and personal hygiene suggests that the Vikings were mindful of sanitation practices. Outhouses served as a practical solution for waste disposal, and bathing was performed in designated areas within or near the house. The Vikings’ emphasis on personal hygiene reflects their understanding of cleanliness’s importance and cultural norms. Understanding these aspects of Viking life provides valuable insights into their daily routines and their efforts to maintain cleanliness and sanitation in their households.