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10 Unpleasant Hygiene Practices From the Past That Will Make You Grateful You're Living in 2016

FUN FACTS July 19, 2016 By Hugo

Believe it or not, there once was a time when modern-day necessities didn't exist. Yet most of us still take such things for granted. We can wash with ease, use the bathroom in the privacy of our home and even avoid the nightmarish tools that were around before the advent of modern medicine came into play. However, if you lived only a few hundred years ago, it's safe to say you wouldn't have had an easy ride.

Medieval practices

Here, we'll go through 10 of the wackiest medical and hygiene practices from the past. 

Not so long ago, people would defecate and urinate in wooden containers, known as 'chamber pots'


We often take indoor toilets for granted. But just over a hundred years ago, outdoor lavatories were usually the only place they existed. To avoid catching a winter cold, people would often pull out the bedpan and do their business. When finished, they'd stash the bowl back under the bed! In certain cities, the bedpans would even be emptied onto the street. 

It's safe to say sanitary practices have come a long way. In other parts of the world, however, unhealthy sanitation continues to plague communities. So thank your lucky stars. Not only do you live in an era where indoor bathrooms are available, but you also have the good fortune of being raised in a first world country.

The Groom of the Stool

the royal throne


It's hard to get your head around anyone giving you assistance in the bathroom beyond the age of 5, but centuries ago, cleaning the private parts of the king after he did his business was viewed as a noble practice.

Indeed, the job was highly coveted and given to the sons of nobility. The Groom of the Stool, as they were known, was one of the king’s most trusted confidantes due to the intimate nature of his position.

Peasants would use leaves for toilet paper

wiki media

Peasants clearly didn't have it as good as the king....

All cavity problems were resolved by a tweezer 

Nobody likes going to the dentist but with modern dentistry the way it is, even hours of root canal won't cause much pain thanks to anesthetics. But if you had a problem in the Middle-Ages, your experience would have been excruciatingly painful.

Medieval practices


As was the case in those days, sufferers of toothache would have to go to a barber,  who would then use a special tweezer to pull out the problem tooth if basic, non-invasive treatments failed.

The same clothes were worn for days-on-end

Wearing fresh clothes- thanks in large part to globalization- is only a recent human practice. Hundreds of years ago, however, wearing a different outfit every day was unheard of. 



King James VI of Scotland went months at a time without changing his clothes. Worst of all? He even slept in them.... Often, people only had four outfits — one for each season. Even a prince or princess might not change her dress for months on end.

Wigs were often littered with lice


While wigs were often a sign of superior class and intellect, they were usually swamped with lice and nits. 

Female sanitary items comprised of napkins wrapped around moss


It's hard enough being a woman in the 21st century, let alone in a time when there were no tampons or pads. To get around this, women in the midst of their menstrual cycle would usually collect old rags and cloths and wrap them around naturally absorbent moss.

Urine was used for washing faces!

In the modern-day world of health and beauty, health experts seemingly proliferate every hour with new theories on how best to preserve youth. One day we're told to moisturise. The next, Victoria Beckham is showing the world of the wonders bird poo has done to her skin.

healthy skin

But women taking care of their skin is nothing new. Even hundreds of years ago, women of nobility took excellent care of their skin. It was washed nearly every day… with urine. It seems disgusting, but they firmly believed in urine’s antiseptic ability. Some scientists, even today, still recommend urine as a cure for acne!

Sulfur was used to eliminate freckles


While freckles are now considered cool and attractive, in the Middle-Ages, those with a noticeable amount of facial freckles were found to be unattractive. To avoid such scorn, those with freckles were known to use sulfur to minimize their appearance.

Toothpaste? Forget it


Circa 1900, those who possessed a full set of teeth by the time they reached adulthood were certainly in the minority. After all, there was no such thing as a thick, moist substance with healing properties we know as toothpaste. Instead, most toothpaste usually comprised of burnt ends like rosemary, while wine was a common mouthwash.

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