Old is Gold, they say. ‘But not always’ is what they forget to add. The methods put in habit to maintain hygiene by our ancestors, both the ancient and the not-so-ancient ones, were a little gross at times. Not one, but all, medieval hygiene, victorian hygiene and the ancient Roman hygiene methods, were creepy and shocking at times.
Check out these weird hygiene and health facts of the past and thank God for today’s medical conditions and habits.
Our ancestors didn't consider it really imperative to have a separate room for doing one's business. They'd either go outside or use chamber pots. To make it more convenient, they kept the chamber pot under the bed so that they won't have to walk a couple of steps in the middle of the night. So extremely healthy and hygienic! Wow! *sarcasm*
Public bathhouses were popular for a time being, but soon declined for two major reasons. First, the church considered being naked as evil. Second, was that bathhouses were also visited by prostitutes, a big no-no. Soon, the idea was spread that cleanliness of a person's clothes holds much more importance than the cleanliness of his/her body, as clothes reflect the social status of the person. Only the wealthy who had regular access of water in their house bathed (almost) daily at home itself. Other not-so-rich people would just wash their visible body parts, such as their faces, hands, and necks, at home. Cleaning the rest of the body was not a matter of hygiene or health for them. Gross.
Shocked? Well, urine was given very much importance in the past. It was used to detect a person's internal health, and by adding certain chemicals, was used as an ingredient in gunpowder production. It was also used in medicines, and as a cleaning agent for cloth and well, face. Actually the ancient Romans were avid users of urine for bleaching leather and wool, given the fact that urine breaks into Ammonia, a natural bleaching agent. In fact, they came up with the term 'Urine Tax', where public toilets would collect urine and give it to the concerned government bodies. Laundry shop owners would buy urine from there.
Of course, not all the communities used rotten rushes as flooring. The wealthy had stone, tiles, wooden flooring, and rugs, but the rest used layer of dried rushes or straw to cover their floors. The idea behind was that they could be replaced once they've soaked enough dirt and food. But, as hygiene was a second priority in those days, most people just piled new rushes on the top of old ones rather than replacing it.
They were everywhere, thanks to the bathing habits of the people. Moreover, in places like inns, the travelers, even strangers usually shared beds, leading to spreading of bed bugs and lice rapidly. These tiny parasites were rampant to the point that they even resulted in epidemics like the Bubonic plague.
The reason you ask? Well, the additives like lye, sulfur, ashes, charcoal and even urine. Human beings have been using soaps for about 3,000 years with laundry detergent and additives changing with time. But, with the laundry of our ancestors, came the smell of urine and sulfur. And that wasn't very hygienic too.
Until some great minds came up with the concept of toilet paper, soft and gentle bums were wiped with some real creepy and gross things, including leaves, wool, hemp, stones, wood shavings, sticks (?), corncobs, moss and sand. But of course, ancient Romans were a step ahead of the Medieval and Victorian hygiene concepts. They'd use a sponge tied to a stick to wipe their butt. To make it creepier, they'd keep that sponge in a bucket of vinegar after each use. And this again, was communal. Such wonderful hand hygiene methods!
Thanks to their remiss bathing habits, they smelled a lot, like real bad. Even the rich didn't smell very good. The big and powdered wigs worn by the 18th century elite were styled using a pungent mousse (foamy cream) made from animal fat.
Want your 'bad blood' out from the body? Let leeches take care of the matter. Leeches have been a part of ancient medicine for a very long time. They were considered the perfect option for bloodletting as they can keep drinking blood because of the presence of an anticoagulant in their saliva. Well, even today they are used to block blood flows in surgeries.
During the Middle Ages, people used to share utensils at the table. Forks weren't in till the Renaissance, and knives and spoons were used mostly. Generally, rich people would share plate, knife and spoon and cup, mostly in pairs. The poor were going through pretty bad and unhygienic conditions though. They usually gathered around one single communal bowl and eat.