23 Shocking Hygiene Practices From The Past

We have come very far from being the unwashed masses. Be thankful, friends, it was rough going back in the day.

Do you go out and start your day without brushing your teeth, showering, or getting dressed? Of course not! In today’s society we don’t even think of going out without basic personal hygiene.
Our ancestors had a different life with hygiene practices which may now seem gross or ridiculous to you. They did not have electricity, technology, or the medical services we enjoy today. How would feel if about using chamber pots kept under your bed for urinating and defecation?

Here are some examples that may shock you:

1. People used to pee and poo in pots kept under their beds.

If you were to wake up in the middle of the night realizing that you had too much water before going to bed, you wouldn’t run down the hall to the bathroom. You’d reach right under your bed to pull out the bedpan. When you were finished, you’d just stash the bowl right back where you got it.

In certain cities, the bedpans would be emptied out the window and right onto the street. Blarf!

2. If you had a toothache or a cavity, you’d just pull out your tooth.

If you think going to the dentist is a scary proposition in our modern age, imagine visiting one in the era before anesthesiology.

Dentists didn’t even exist in the middle ages; you would have to visit a barber. The barber was responsible not just for cutting hair, but pulling teeth, letting blood and performing some other minor surgeries. If basic, non-invasive treatments of toothaches didn’t fix the problem, there was one solution: that tooth was coming out… without the help of novocaine.

3. Someone was paid to wipe the king’s bum.

If you think your job is bad, just be grateful you aren’t the “Groom of the King’s Close Stool.” This position carried the responsibility of following the king around with his portable commode and washing instruments. The groomsman assisted the king with his personal business and the, um, cleaning afterwards.

It may sound like the least respectable position in the court, but it was actually a coveted role given to the sons of nobility. The Groom of the Stool was often one of the king’s most trusted advisors and confidantes due to the nature of his position.

4. Peasants had to use LEAVES for toilet paper.

Peasants obviously didn’t have it as good as the king. Instead, they resorted to using dried leaves as toilet paper.

5. People RARELY changed their clothes.

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

6. If you were feeling sick, you might have a leech drain your blood.

The cure for most ailments during this time was bloodletting through leeches. It was believed that blood was stagnant, not circulating. If you were ill or had a cold, the blood would be fed to a leech. If leeches disgust you, keep in mind that the alternative would be bloodletting with a dirty knife. I’LL HAVE THE LEECH, THANK YOU!

7. Eagle dung was present at most births.

Forget the epidural. When a woman was going through childbirth, she had few comforts. She was given oil and vinegar to drink, and poultices of eagle dung were used to ease her pain.

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