fbpx

15 Once-Popular Hygiene Practices That Will Make You Cringe

15 Once-Popular Hygiene Practices That Will Make You Cringe

1 of 16

If you cringe a little at communal bars of soap in gas station bathrooms, then you’ll want to reach for your penicillin when you read about these once-popular hygiene practices. They were used between the 1500s and 1800s. Be warned: this is disturbing.

Sources: Historyundressed.com,  Hubpages.com, Historyextra.com

Geograph.org.uk
Geograph.org.uk

Chamber Pots

Chamber pots were essentially pots or buckets kept in a person’s chamber (bedroom) at night, so they could relieve themselves in the middle of the night rather than going to use an outhouse. Before anything was known about sewage systems and where water in the street drains to, people used to empty out their chamber pots by tossing the contents out the window.

Wikimedia.org
Wikimedia.org

Garderobes

The outhouses we speak of were called garderobes, and were just rooms in castles or monasteries that had a bench with a hole in them. They served as the toilet. A person’s waste would fall into a pit or moat, which was often cleaned out by what were called “gong farmers.”

Wikimedia.org
Wikimedia.org

Nose Gays

A nose gay was a bouquet people used to hold up to their noses when walking through a crowd to avoid catching a waft of something that smelled rancid. The bouquet itself would be made of herbs or flowers. What’s disturbing is not the product, but the fact that it was necessary! Did people really smell so awful that one couldn’t walk through a crowd without a nose gay?

botanicalspirit.com
botanicalspirit.com

Wiping with the wilderness

Unless you were wealthy, you were wiping with things from the wild like leaves or moss. One can only hope people knew how to identify poison ivy.

Imgur.com
Imgur.com

Professional wipers

The really wealthy upgraded from leaves and items from the wild to wool. Some even had servants whose specific job was to wipe them, even if they were perfectly capable of doing so themselves.

Wikimedia.org
Wikimedia.org

 

Looks that kill

Ceruse was a popular foundation-type makeup used by both men and women of the time, but it contained lead that could seep into the skin and kill the wearer. Ceruse was also said to have a terrible smell.

ThinkStockPhotos
ThinkStockPhotos

 

Shared Baths

Because preparing a bath involved carrying heavy buckets of water to a tub, and waiting a long time for fire to heat it, many people would share the same bath. Often the man of the house or the oldest bathed first, and the family went down a line from oldest to youngest before the water was thrown out.

Wikimedia.org
Wikimedia.org

 

Bathing in a river

Those who couldn’t afford baths used to take dips in a river to rinse off—rivers that others used to do anything from wash their faces in to clean their clothes in.

Geograph.ie
Geograph.ie

River or faucet?

People were unaware of where their waste was headed. Open sewers ran through the streets, often emptying into rivers where the poor would later go to collect drinking water.

Flickr.com
Flickr.com

Some avoided bathing altogether

Practices like river bathing and tossing chamber pots out of windows lead to poor health. Many believed bathing was dangerous, and that it was to blame for the epidemics. Some people including royalty would go months without bathing.

Wikimedia.org
Wikimedia.org

Soap made of fat

Soap used to be made form mutton fat (mutton is the meat of domestic sheep), along with wood ash and natural soda. Do your pores clog just at the sound of that?

pixabay.com
pixabay.com

Toothbrushes made of herbs and leaves

Since the first toothbrush was not made until the second half of the 1800s, those who wanted a fresh mouth had to get creative. Many people chewed on herbs like mint or cloves, while some soaked bay leaves in orange-flower water and gnawed on those.

Wikimedia.org
Wikimedia.org

 

Barbers as dentists

Before there were real dentists, barbers would often be paid to remove rotting or painful teeth from a person’s mouth, as well as do their version of a teeth cleaning, which probably involved using toothpicks and cloths to remove tartar buildup.

Wikimedia.org
Wikimedia.org

 

Makeshift pads

What did women do before the magic of the tampon or pad? They wore something called a “menstruous cloth,” which was essentially a strip of cloth in their underwear to collect blood.

Flickr.com
Flickr.com

 

The real reason for a canopy

Today, a canopy over the bed looks romantic, but its original purpose was much less pretty. Because homes didn’t used to have the types of roofs we have today, it was common for bugs and filth to fall onto people’s beds as they slept. So people began putting canopies over their beds.