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A piece of Aussie sanitary history: the Dunny Can

Dunny Can found by our Plumber in Surry Hils

A piece of Aussie sanitary history: the Dunny Can

A rare find! We were lucky enough to get our hands on one of these recently. It’s one of the cornerstones of Australian culture that was still present up until relatively recently in some areas, the dunny can.


This one was found by one of our Plumbers in Surry Hills. Lucky us, it now lives in the Watermark Plumbing head office in Chatswood (as a showpiece – not a replacement system!).

Before sewerage, people usually had an outside toilet. The toilet seat was made of a plank of wood secured at its ends to the walls of the building with a large round hole in the middle. The treasured little can sitting in our office was the removable sanitary pan (dunny can).

Think you’ve got a crap job?

Known as ‘dunny lanes’, there were walkways across our suburbs that allowed the dunny man to collect the pans. The dunny man would come round in the early hours once a week, carrying an empty can under his arm. He traveled up the path to the backyard outhouse, putting a lid on the full pan and taking it back to the ‘dunny cart’ on his shoulder. Full pans would be later emptied straight into sewer lines leading to ocean outfalls.

The modern sewerage system

The introduction of sewerage systems saw the end of an age. Dunny lanes were no longer required, and dunnymen disappeared. Given almost everyone stood or sat in a small building outside when nature called, surprisingly few dunny cans remain!