15 Medieval Hygiene Practices That Might Make You Queasy

15 Medieval Hygiene Practices That Might Make You Queasy

Thank goodness times are changing! I think we can all say that were glad we don’t have to rely on any of these medieval vices.

Chamber Pots

Chamber pots were containers for collecting urine overnight.

Back in old Edinburgh, you always have to be alert for the shout of ‘garde loo,’ which is French for ‘watch out for the water.’

Back in old Edinburgh, you always have to be alert for the shout of ‘garde loo,’ which is French for ‘watch out for the water.’

Leaves or Moss as Toilet Paper

Neither rich nor poor people had toilet paper. Poor people used leaves or moss to wipe their bottoms while the rich used lamb’s wool instead.

Kings had a royal bum wiper known as the ‘Groom of the Stool.’

Ceruse Lead Makeup Poisoned People

Ceruse was the foundation make-up choice for both men and women as it gave them a smooth, pale look.

However, it contained lead that seeped into the body through the skin, leading to poisoning.

Nosegays When Walking in a Crowd

A nosegay was something to keep the smells at bay, usually held in the hand or on the wrists on a lapel.

It could be a small bouquet of flowers or a sachet of dried flowers and herbs.

People held it up to their noses while walking in a large crowd.

People Bathed Using the Same Water

Public baths were popular during the 13th century. But because of the scarcity of firewood used to heat the bath, bathing became an expensive practice.

Public baths were popular during the 13th century. But because of the scarcity of firewood used to heat the bath, bathing became an expensive practice.

Laundry Was Scoured in Lye Made of Ashes and Urine

Ancient Romans believed in the ability of urine to remove stains.

Until the medieval times, people used lye made of ashes and urine in order to clean their clothes.

Privies and Garderobe

In Tudor houses, toilets were a bowl with a slab of wood and a hole carved at the top.

Builders set the toilet into a recess or cupboard-like area called a garderobe.

In castles, a slab of wood covers a hole in the floor that took waste products straight into the moat.

Poor people didn’t have the luxury of toilets, so they simply relieved themselves wherever they could and just buried the waste matter.

No Changing of Clothes

King James VI of Scotland wore the same clothes for months on end, even sleeping on them on occasion.

He also kept the same hat on 24 hours a day until it fell apart.

He also didn’t take a bath as he thought that it was bad for his health.

Lice Infested Wigs

Nits and lice were common back then, so many of the more wealthy folks would shave their natural hair and wear periwigs instead.

Unfortunately, even periwigs could be infested with nits, especially during plagues.

Mouse-y Eyebrows

People were already fashion-conscious during the medieval times.

When their eyebrows did not look fashionable, they often masked them with tiny pieces of skin from a mouse.

Cesspits

Since the sewage system back then was not yet proper, people had to make do with burying much of their waste material in a cesspit in their cellar or garden.

People should have emptied these cesspits regularly, but only a few of them did.

The stench was overwhelming, especially during summer and winter.

Infection from Rushes

One of the biggest sources of infection during the medieval times was the use of rushes or straws to cover up the natural dirt floor of a building.

Although people often changed the top rushes, they did not do the same to the bottom layer, hence leading to all manner of possible infection sources.

A Peculiar Cure to Baldness

A 17th century publication by Peter Levens instructed men on how to cure thinning hair and pattern baldness.

Men had to combine potassium salts with chicken droppings, and then place the mixture on the affected area.

If they wanted to remove unwanted hair from any area of the body, they had to make a paste consisting of eggs, strong vinegar, and cat dung, and then apply it to the area where they want to remove hair.

Lead-Lined Water Tanks

Even though the rich paid for private water companies for their drinking and other water needs, the water that they consumed was not exactly better than those of peasants.

The main water supply came from elm trunks and domestic pipes lined with lead.

Water also required storage in large lead tanks and often became stagnant.

Bird Droppings on the Bed

Houses in the past didn’t have the protective roofing that houses have today, so it wasn’t unusual for bugs, pests, and droppings to fall onto the clean bedding.

People then invented four-poster beds in order to keep a canopy that would catch all unpleasant stuff falling from the roof and not soil the bedding.

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