Weird Hygiene Methods From The Past
We live in an era of amazing technology and information. When it comes to hygiene and beauty, there are so many things available that none of us think of a time when they weren’t. However, men and women throughout history have had to come up with insane ideas to do the simplest tasks such as removing a stain, cleaning your teeth, repelling insects, and more. We have gathered some of the most insane and interesting methods used over time. Let’s find out more!
NO WHITE TEETH
In regards to teeth, we are all obsessed with the whitest-looking and perfect smiles. There are a million treatments and products that can make your teeth look whiter, although some experts have said that the natural color should not be so white. Either way, you can imagine that obsession with teeth is older than anyone really expects, and some practices are questionable.
However, white teeth were not always considered the standard for beauty. Long ago, in several Asian countries, tooth lacquering was actually popular. Some experts have even traced the trend back to 200 CE. In Vietnam and Japan, people followed “ohaguro”, where teeth are tinted completely black. Several chemicals are added to a smile and in just one week, you can rock that weird smile. Luckily, Japan prohibited this practice in 1870.
A person with many skills can find a lot of different jobs, and they can earn a lot with their valuable knowledge. Regardless of the time period, anyone who can do several things at once earn a lot of respect because they make life easier. This applied to ancient barbers, who were also dentists, which might sound crazy.
You have to remember that dentistry is a fairly new practice, and dentists weren’t always available. Therefore, barbers also stepped in when it was time to pull teeth out. They were not performing cleaning or anything complicated, but when a rotten tooth needed to come out, you went to the barber. That way, people could cut their hair and fix their aching tooth in one visit.
WAXING WITH X-RAYS
X-rays were invented in 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen, and this electromagnetic radiation is currently used to see bones or other internals in the medical field. However, you might be surprised to learn that X-rays were also used to remove body hair in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, they took the practice to the extreme that was actually dangerous for their health.
Nowadays, we even wear protection, such as a vest, during a teeth x-ray. But, back then, they had no idea that radiation was so dangerous for living beings. People who hated body hair would expose the area to around a maximum of 20 hours of radiation. Obviously, when these people got all sorts of cancer, scientists started to notice the awful side-effects of this exposure.
MUMMY POWDER WAS THE CURE
It might sound surprising but Arabs were fond of using mummy powder for several things. The product is known as “mummia”, which comes from the word “mūmiyā”, and it’s the resin exudates of the embalmed dead Egyptians. It was considered pretty effective for curing several diseases. It could treat cuts, bruises, and even help with bone fractures.
THE FIRST DEODORANT
The first commercial for deodorant was presented in 1888 by Mum, and it was made by a US inventor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania named Edna Murphey. We have used it for the decades, but people in older times had to come up with their own ways to reduce the odor from their armpits. They would use a bunch of things just to stop the smells such as the nosegays mentioned before.
Normally, people would not speak about your bad odor to your face, considering the fact that probably everyone smelled pretty rank due to their lack of frequent baths. Meanwhile, Edna’s brand was called “mum”, which is a sort of slang that means “to keep quiet”. It was cream that would kill the body smell and had a subtle scent.
THE OLD-SCHOOL ENEMA
You might have heard the phrase: “Blow smoke up your ass”. It has always been used as an insult, and this might be the reason why it exists at all. Once upon a time, people had tobacco smoke enemas, which would be blown up the rectum. It was mostly performed by Native American and presented to the Europeans later on.
They started practicing the same as well to cure several conditions and even help with better respiration. This image shows the enema kit, and it consisted of a tube and bellows. Tobacco was considered medicinal by most Europeans after they discovered it in the New World. They used it for drowsiness and colds, but eventually, it was discovered that nicotine was dangerous for the body. Luckily, tobacco smoke enemas also disappeared.
HERBS FOR TEETH CLEANING
Dentistry might be a fairly new practice, but people have considered cleaning their teeth for a long time. We already learned that Greeks and Romans used urine as a mouthwash, but there were other methods that were probably the first inspiration for our current hygiene methods. People used herbs to clean their mouths.
SOMETHING TO INDUCE VOMITING
You might have heard of “eating yourself sick”, but it’s usually a warning from your parents. However, once upon a time, it was actually done for recreation. Back in the 18th and 19th century, there was a particular way where people induce vomiting voluntarily. Nowadays, “eating yourself sick” just means ingesting all kinds of unhealthy food too quickly and suffering from a stomachache.
There have been several times in our lives, especially for women, when we go to a salon and get the best hairstyle of our lives. We tend to wish it would last longer without much fuzz, and it seems that the women in the 18th century also had this idea. However, since their hairstyles were even more complicated than the popular ones of our time, it was easier not to remove the “do” at all.
STRAW ON FLOORS
Back in the day, there were not comfy beds or a store nearby that would offer all kinds of payment plans to everyone. People had to make the best with what they had, and everything could be used in many ways. Cement hadn’t been invented yet, but no one likes to have a floor made out of dirt in their own home.
Furthermore, wood was simply not used at the time, and the only other option was straws (the kind similar to hay). The straw was also the way to protect their feet from the cold and moist ground, and it was most likely used as their bedding as well. They would place several layers and only replace the top part every once in a while.
NO WASHING CLOTHES
The winter season can be brutal in several countries. Everyone needs to dress warmly and try not to catch a cold or get wet because of the amounts of snow. Years ago, it seems that personal hygiene was not that important during the winter months. In the winter, most people wouldn’t wash their clothes, but the reason is that it was simply too chilly to be naked.
PRETTY BUT DEADLY
Nowadays, everyone is worried about all the chemicals we have used to look prettier, and we are getting more informed about the real long-term side-effects using such products. People are trying to find more organic materials for the same purpose and how they can be mass-produced. Meanwhile, women in the 16th and 17th centuries used a particular kind of plant for beauty.
BODIES OF WATER
After the previous item, you might be wondering why they didn’t just dump all their waste in the nearest body of water. Not every city was close to a lake or the sea, but there were other reasons why it was discouraged. In the 14th century, the English Parliament started issuing many taxes on people who just threw stuff into the nearby rivers and lakes.
CAUTERIZATION WAS THE BEST OPTION
We have already said that sterilization was not even thought of at some point because people didn’t know what germs were. However, surgeries were still being performed, and they were not very cautious with wounds. The most important part of medieval surgery was cauterization, which was essentially their only way to close the wound after the procedure.
KILLING BED BUGS
In the 1940s, people would use kerosene to kill bed bugs, but it was a homemade remedy. It was considered one of the most popular methods of getting rid of those pesky critters. Some would say that it worked great, but others would claim that it didn’t get rid of the bugs. Nowadays, people actually have to tent their houses and get an expert to treat the problem.
DANGEROUS USE OF MERCURY
Many people around the world suffer from cold sores, which are tiny blisters that appear every once in a while around the mouth. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1, and it can be spread through saliva as well as skin contact. There are also many treatments that will clear the blisters out quickly, although there is no cure for herpes still.
FLOWERS TO MAKE PERFUME
Flowers are used in many products like perfumes and cleaning supplies. Their scents can be pretty pleasant and rthey are used to disguise other foul smells. That’s exactly what ancient people did with flowers because they normally had horrible body odor. People didn’t bath or clean themselves as often as we do today, and they needed something to hide it.
NO MORE FRECKLES
Freckles are natural flat spots found in the skin, and some people have more on their faces than others like the girl in this image. Some appear when you get too much sun exposure, but they are not considered dangerous. Moles are the ones most attributed to cancer, but freckles, in general, are pretty harmless.
WIPING BEFORE TOILET PAPER
We can buy toilet paper in almost any store, and it’s has become the best way to clean your butt when there is no water around. However, you might have experienced the awful situation of having no toilet paper around when the need arises, perhaps while camping or at a public bathroom. So, imagine what it was like before the invention of toilet paper.
Back in those days, they might have used leaves, which you can do when you’re camping, but they also had rags, sticks with cloth, and some would utilize their hands. In Japan, they would use specific sticks to clean their dirty parts back in the 18th century. Therefore, we have to be glad to have been born in this era.
GUNPOWDER FOR TEETH
Teeth-cleaning was a huge issue before the invention of toothpaste. We have already learned that the Elizabethans deemed tooth decay trendy because they had sugar, others used herbs to maintain fresh breath, and Romans had urine mouthwash. However, in Regency times, the British had another idea. They would mix gunpowder and alum for their oral hygiene.
LEAD WAS EVERYWHERE
We have already mentioned many women using lead-based makeup that would eventually ruin their skin and make them sick. This material is a heavy metal, which means that it could handle huge weights. Therefore, people thought it would be great for water storages as well as their pipes and vats. Later on, it was discovered that it could be pretty harmful because people drink or bathe in that water.
PALE SKIN WAS BEST
Back in the day, white skin was considered the ultimate sign of aristocracy and beauty. You might have seen portraits of pale women from the past, and that’s because it was the perfect way to show off your socio-economic status. Basically, pale skin meant that you were so rich that you didn’t spend any time in the sun. Furthermore, it applied to men and women.
THE HUGE HAIRSTYLES
There are many portraits of women with the biggest hair, and some of the epic movies in Hollywood have recreated some of these trends in their movies about the Elizabethan era or older. During the 17th century, having a big hairstyle was the norm, especially because there were so many balls, and women needed to impress others.
Plumbing is one of the best parts of being a modern society. You can easily clean your house and dispose of dirty waste. Meanwhile, human waste is discarded without issue. However, people had their own methods back in the olden days. They would normally discard their stuff in large bodies of water like an ocean or river, which is one of the reasons why most people settle near them.
MOUTHWASH AND STAIN REMOVER
Some of these hygiene methods are pretty interesting, yet disgusting at the same time. However, things might get even worse when you learn that urine was used for many purposes throughout history. It was once utilized as a source of electricity, and it was also a great stain remover. However, that doesn’t sound that bad, after all, it had ammonia.
THE SAME CLOTHES ALL THE TIME
Fashion is a huge part of many people’s lives. We are surrounded by ads selling clothes for all sizes, in all colors, and for all tastes. You can get anything as long as you have enough money. Furthermore, some people change their style depending on the season, especially if it’s chilly. However, in older times, most people just had four outfits.
THE SOLUTION FOR BALDNESS
Both men and women can suffer from alopecia or hair loss. At some point, when we get older our hair starts falling off, but some men have it especially hard. It’s not a deadly condition, and most people pay no mind to it. However, there are others who have a difficult time with it, and we have to admit that it’s a psychological impact.
NO MORE LABOR PAINS
We are lucky to live in a time when women don’t have to suffer that much during labor because there is spinal anesthesia and other painkillers that can help. However, some women still refuse to take these substances, opting for more natural births. In medieval times, there was simply no other option than facing the pain, but they definitely tried reducing the discomfort.
GO IN THAT HOLE
From this list, we know that humans tried using everything to solve simple tasks, and that might be the reason why our lives are so simple, at least, in terms of hygiene and cleanliness. Thanks to their resourcefulness, people have managed to discover what works, what is dangerous, and what is useful. The toilet is one of the best inventions ever made.
THEIR HUGE WIGS
You might have seen pictures of men wearing these massive wigs throughout history. Even barristers in the UK still wear them to proceedings sometimes. However, the truth is that these accessories were more disgusting than you can imagine. Of course, modern wigs are made in factories, mostly out of plastic, fabric, and other normal materials.
USING YOUR HANDS
Aside from the fact that people didn’t bathe that often, people didn’t wash their hands either. We know now that unwashed hands are a huge factor in spreading diseases. You touch doorknobs and other things that strangers have been in contact with, and if you don’t wash your hands, you might get infected.
THE TEETH FROM CORPSES
As we get older, only the people who took really good care of their teeth all their lives can still have their original set. Luckily, technology has made it possible for people to replace their faulty smiles with dentures made of all kinds of materials such as plastic, porcelain, or plastic. Some are permanent while others are removable.
NO BATHROOM BREAK
Period movies like ‘The Favourite’ and others romanticize the idea of the royal court, especially before Elizabethan times. It’s all about glamour and big dresses with lots of makeup. However, have you ever wondered how these ladies went to the bathroom in those massive gowns? Furthermore, they also had layers and layers of clothing.
CERTAIN ADVERTISING WAS ILLEGAL
Due to the Comstock Act of 1873, the advertisement of birth control products was banned in the United States. Furthermore, there was also a prohibition of distributing these items all over the country, which sounds insane. In fact, the postal service office was allowed to confiscated items ordered by mail, but luckily for these women, companies came up with certain ideas.
THE RICH HAD SUGAR
A long time ago, certain things signified a higher status others. Things like paler skin, flashier clothes, and food indicated that someone was richer and had a better socio-economic standing than the rest. In the Elizabethan period, one of these indicators was sugar. The sweet treat could only be purchased by the wealthy, but there is a huge problem.
FIXING YOUR HAIR WAS DANGEROUS
There are many social studies and experiments that have proven how a hairstyle can affect a person’s mood and social interactions. Therefore, caring for your hair and maintaining great hygiene has been done for a long time. In fact, most women carry a comb in their purse just in case. A lot of people just want to look their best at all times.
We have all already seen a bunch of ways humans used mice in their daily routines such as toothpaste. Here is another one. Women have been obsessed with their eyebrows for centuries it seems. Trends come and go, but in the 17th and 18th centuries, women from aristocratic families would remove their natural eyebrows.
SHOE POLISH WAS DEADLY
One popular saying goes “if you give a girl the right shoes, she can conquer the world”. That might be true, but you have to make sure that your footwear is well taken care of. Once upon a time, shoe polish was extremely important to people, and some would actually use a risky substance. In the early 20th century, one vital ingredient of shoe polish was nitrobenzene, which would achieve the desired results easily.
HONEY ATTRACTS FLIES
There is a popular saying that reads: “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. This was particularly true for ancient Egyptians, and they took the meaning literally and not figuratively like most of us do nowadays. Honey is made by bees from the pollen they collect from flowers, and it has been used for many medicinal and cooking purposes for hundreds of years.
SKINCARE IS IMPORTANT
Everyone knows that urine contains a great amount of ammonia. Therefore, it was probably not surprising to learn that people washed their clothes with the liquid. It has been said that you can even tan leathers with it. We have also mentioned that ancient folks used it as a mouthwash. And, they also washed their faces with pee.
THE REASON FOR MOATS
Moats might look pretty outside castles, and these structures often remind us of fairytales. They were used for protection as people couldn’t reach the castle if the bridge was up. However, you might not think that they are so romantic-looking after learning that they were also the public sewer for the people in the castle.
We know that modern plumbing was not a thing until a couple of hundred years ago. But humans have always needed a way to relieve themselves and get rid of waste. Cities did build sewer systems, although they were completely different from what we experience today. They had these underground tunnels.
THE HONEY CORPSE
Mummies were obviously used in many ways throughout history for medicinal purposes, and that’s just crazy to us. There are texts in medical texts from 16th-century China that talk about the practice of making a mellified man. A mollified man is created when an older fellow who is near death starts eating only honey.
This society believed that everything would eventually turn to honey inside their bodies, even their sweat and poop. They would place these people in a stone coffin that had a bunch of honey as well. Later on, they would sell pieces of the body off as cures, and people believed that eating them would heal many things such as broken bones.
We cannot believe some of the craziest methods on this list, and we have to wonder how many of them actually worked. Let us know which one was the weirdest in your opinion. If you liked this article, share it with your friends who love to discover new details about human history. See you next time!