History of Bathing: To Bathe Or Not To Bathe That Is The Question
Have you ever stood in line and something did not agree with your nasal cavity? You twitch your nose, rub and hope that nobody else believes the profuse smell is not coming from you. Why do some people believe that not bathing on a regular basis, is not healthy? On the other had there are people who are obsessed with bathing in today's society. How many types of soaps, shampoos, perfumes and cologne exist?
Historically how did they deal with this? Keep in mind Royalty, nobles and peasants all had different hygiene practices. Who would you have like to have been? I will be briefly discussing different time periods, which is only a part of history's time line.
During medieval times bathing was seen as letting the devil in you or as a form of intimate debauchery. Many believed that if the water touched your skin, it would make you severely ill. What were they thinking?
With the outbreak of the Black Plague during the medieval times, people were searching for ways to decrease the spread of the plague. The found that keeping areas around them clean along with frequent hand-washing in warm water, vinegar or warm wine also helped.
I am sure the air quality changed during that time and people realized being clean was more comfortable than being dirty.
Medieval royalty had special rooms specifically for bathing or large tubs brought into their boudoir. Scented oils, perfumes or flower petals were mixed with the water that was hand-carried to the rooms. Water had to be gathered, heated and then carried to the rooms but for royalty and their families it was well worth the wait.
It was common for medieval royalty to share the water with more than one family member. Many times bath time would begin from the oldest to the youngest. Once the baths' were complete the water had to be hauled out and dumped.
Peasants rarely bathed. It was common for them to only bathe in plain water. They were lucky to have soap to bathe with and during the Summer months they would take a dip in the ponds or streams.
In many cities in medieval times, there were bath houses where a person could bathe all day. Soft soaps made of natural soda, mutton fat and wood ash were used. Herbs, flowers, soda, lime and olive oil were used for the harder soaps.
Sea bathing and bath houses became popular during Regency times. Having copper tubs lined with linen, the wealthy enjoyed bath time. If the lower class were lucky, they would bathe in wooden tubs.
Even though times changed. Early in the nineteenth century people would bathe every four weeks or sometimes longer. Face, feet and hands were washed more often then in previous centuries.
It wasn't until the later part of the turn of the 19th century when indoor plumbing became common, that people would begin to bathe regularly.
So how did people brush their teeth? Since the first patent for a toothbrush was not until 1857, royalty to peasants had brown teeth. There wasn't any such thing as teeth whitening products like there is today.
Historically speaking, those that tried used the following methods:
Vinegar and mint mixture, used to swish and rinse out the mouth.
Mint, cloves, cinnamon and sage were used to freshen breath.
Using a soft cloth they would rub their teeth to eliminate gunk from left over food particles or they would rinse their mouths with plain water.
People during this period, used the same methods as the Renaissance and Elizabethan times. Using a sponge and warm water or herbs to cleanse the mouth and teeth. In France it was recommended by a French dentist to use ones own urine or gun powder. Isn't it nice to live in this century?
Eliminating Body Odor
Oils mixed with flowers, herbs and spices were common use in the middle ages to reduce body odor. Strongly scented soaps were used, when they did bathe. The strong scent from the soaps would last at least several days until the next bath.
In the movie 'Sense and Sensibility, you will notice that the character carries flowers with her. You will see her occasionally smelling a bouquet of flowers. During these time periods, they were better known as 'Nose-Gays'. One would see people carrying a bouquet of flowers, a sprig of herbs or a sachet. People would hold them to their noses when walking through large crowds.
There is deodorant, perfumes, toothpaste, toothbrush and multiple types of soaps to choose from. Soft soaps, bar soaps and even handmade soaps are used. We can shave, cream or completely eliminate hair.
Dentistry has came a long way from the past. We can gargle with mouthwash and not urine. Today we do not have any excuse for not bathing. So bathe or not to bathe that is the question. Which will you choose to do?
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