Disgusting Vintage Hygiene Rules | 22 Words | 22 Words

We've come a long way when it comes to basic hygiene products. Smelly pits? Just slather on some deodorant and-VoilĂ ! No more B.O.! Need to do a load of laundry (or 10)? Simple dump your clothes in the washing machine and let it do the dirty work for you. Need a bath? Most people now have the privilege of being able to bathe in a fresh tub of water without having to share it with anyone else.

But back in the day, people weren't so lucky. Not only did they have to share bath water with their entire families, but they also used some seriously horrifying things in place of products we take for granted today, like tampons and toilet paper. In fact, hygiene practices throughout history were actually not particularly hygienic at all. They were pretty gross...and they probably did more harm than good in most cases.

Ready to feel a whole lot better about your morning routine? Keep scrolling to find out the various how ancient people made themselves presentable every day. These gross medieval hygiene practices will leave you grateful for living in the 21st century. A fair warning: If you have a weak stomach, you might want to skip #19. And #29. Actually, they're all pretty bad. Proceed at your own risk. And maybe have a bucket handy.

Snail slime was a common remedy for scratchy throats.

A snail against a plain backdrop

via: Getty Images

Throat feeling a tad sore?

Here's the perfect cold-fighting concoction: A hot cup of tea, a bowl of chicken noodle soup, and one pound of snail slime mixed with one pound of sugar.

Sure, it sounds insanely gross, but back in the day, it was basically old-timey Dayquil. As ancient hygiene practices go, at least they put in sugar so that you could overlook the taste. Not awful.

Urine was a popular mouthwash...

A woman swishing something in her mouth

via: Getty Images

I know, I know. Pee as mouthwash? No thank you.

But urine is sterile and contains ammonia, so it was actually a pretty good cleansing agent. While it is a gross medieval hygiene practice, at least it has some rooting in science.

...AND facewash.

A woman splashes water on her face

via: Getty Images

...which is why they also used it as a facewash AND a laundry detergent.

So basically, they pretty much smelled like pee at all times. Who doesn't love urine-related hygiene practices throughout history?

Some seriously weird stuff was used in place of toilet paper.

A woman sitting on the toilet reaches for toilet paper

via: Getty Images

Toilet paper as we know it today wasn't invented until 1857, meaning people were forced to improvise when it came to bathroom time.

So what did they use, you may ask?

Wet rags, leaves, sticks, and, most horrifyingly of all, their hands. If you're truly masochistic, look up hygiene practices throughout history with regards to toilet paper alternatives. It can get...graphic.

Rotten teeth were actually a sought-after trait.

A woman holds up a picture of rotted teeth in front of her face where her own mouth would be. It's unnerving.

via: Getty Images

Only the wealthy elite had access to refined sugar in the Elizabethan era, so if your teeth showed signs of rot and gingivitis, it was actually a status symbol. What a delightful vintage hygiene tip: don't brush those teeth. I'm sure the smell was just great.

Pretty much the exact opposite of our feelings today.

Vintage toothpaste left your breath anything but fresh.

A black and white photo of a young boy brushing his teeth

via: Getty Images

If you were alive during the Roman era, it would be totally normal to brush your teeth with something straight out of a horror movie: pureed mouse brains.

The ancient Greeks used crushed oysters, which somehow still sounds better than mashed-up mouse guts. Honestly I'm glad we don't have information about more ancient hygiene practices, because if these two are any indication I do not want to know.

Those powdered wigs were filled with horrifying creatures.

A fancy man in period dress holds an apple

via: Getty Images

Sure, those tall white wigs (which were a mixture of fake and real hair) looked downright dapper, but they were rarely washed and therefore attracted all sorts of pests, like tiny bugs and vermin. Imagine going to court and seeing a mouse in someone's hair...and that was normal! This is a seriously gross medieval hygiene practice.

Bathwater was re-used.

A baby sits in a small bathtub

via: Getty Images

Keeping clean was extremely important to Christians during the Middle Ages, as illustrated by the old saying "cleanliness is next to godliness".

The only problem was that lower-income families couldn't afford to heat more than one tub of water per night, so entire families would be forced to share the same bathwater. That's...one kind of medieval hygiene habit.

Is it just me, or does bathing in dirty water seem counter-productive?

Birth control was a tad different for ancient Egyptians.

A crocodile next to water opens its mouth wide

via: Getty Images

In 1850 BC, ancient Egyptians tried to prevent unwanted pregnancies by inserting themselves with pellets made from crocodile poop.

Even weirder?

Modern studies have shown that this was actually fairly effective. I really want to know how they figured that out. Some of these ancient hygiene practices are astounding.

...but I still don't recommend you try this one at home.

Early 20th-century shoe polish could kill you.

Someone scrubs at a shoe with polish

via: Getty Images

Here's a vintage hygiene tip: always make sure your shoes are good and shiny. Of course this tip has a little bit of a problem associated with it.

Ever heard of a little ingredient called nitrobenzene?

In the early 1900's, it was commonly found in shoe polish, even though it caused fainting when inhaled and, in the worst cases, death when mixed with alcohol.

But, man, were those shoes shiny.

Dentures were made from the teeth of the dead.

A pair of dentures against a plain backdrop

via: Getty Images

What did you do in the 18th century if you needed a new set of chompers?

Grab some from a dead guy, obviously.

It's not like he's using them, right? What is with all these gross medieval hygiene practices?

Doing laundry just wasn't a thing in the winter.

A vintage drawing of women hanging up sheets while a man hides and watches

via: Getty Images

It makes sense that if you didn't have heating, you might spend most of your winter wearing every piece of clothing you own. Getting wet and cold while scrubbing at laundry could lead to illness. So it makes sense that this vintage hygiene tip was to skip laundry until you could do it in the warm.

It might sound great to take the entire winter off from having to do laundry, but if you really think about it, it's extremely gross.

I'd take this annoying chore over wearing the same B.O.-covered outfits for four straights months, but maybe that's just me.

Ancient tampons were pretty darn horrifying.

A pile of tampons

via: Getty Images

If you think today's tampons tend to be anything but comfortable, consider yourself lucky. There are some menstruation related ancient hygiene practices that will make you shudder.

Both Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks concocted a mixture of honey and mud, then wrapped it in cloth and inserted it inside themselves.

And, even worse, Ancient Indian women used a combination of oil and rock salt.


Cannibalism wasn't as frowned upon as it is now.

A long sandwich with lettuce and a person's arm stuck in the middle of it

via: Getty Images

During the 17th century, people believed that eating human flesh and drinking blood was the best way to stay in peak physical condition. I mean I guess that's one vintage hygiene tip...

I think I'll stick to my smoothies.

Balding was "cured" with chicken poop.

A rooster

via: Getty Images

We all know the hair-growing benefits of chicken poop, right? It's a classic part of any vintage hygiene routine, yes?

Well, people in the 17th century sure thought so, since bald men would mix it with lye and slather it on their heads in the hopes of re-growing some of their fallen locks.

Spoiler alert: it didn't work. And it probably smelled.

1920s Lysol was used MUCH differently.

A bottle of Lysol

via: Getty Images

These days most of us are aware that if you do douche you should be very careful about what kinds of products you use. Unfortunately for those in the 1920s, that kind of wisdom was not around. It was a common vintage hygiene tip to use Lysol, the kitchen and bathroom cleaner, as a feminine hygiene product.

Bonus: It also doubled as birth control!

Radiation was used as a hair remover.

An xray of ribs

via: Getty Images

These days, that pesky unwanted peach fuzz is easily taken care of with a quick shave, but back in the early part of the 20th century, women used something much more dangerous than a razor: radiation. This is not just a gross vintage hygiene practice, it's also a terrifying one.

As you may have guessed, this tended to result in cancer, since these unsuspecting women had to be exposed to radiation for over 20 hours in order to achieve the desired results.

Beaver genitals were yet another bizarre form of birth control.

A beaver sitting in the grass

via: Getty Images

Yep, you read that correctly.

People have tried a lot of things to keep from getting pregnant over the years. Just about everything...

It was an ancient hygiene practice to grind up beaver genitals and turn them into a pregnancy-fighting elixir that women then drank.

I feel sorry for both the women and the beavers in this scenario.

Barbers did more than just cut hair.

The outside of a shop with a barber pole

via: Getty Images

They also pulled rotten teeth! I guess if you were having tooth problems, it was a vintage hygiene tip to take a trip to the barber. Maybe you could get a little trim while you're there.

In fact, barbers were not only licensed to cut hair but to perform minor surgery as well.

Bad smells were covered up with flowers.

A vintage drawing of a woman holding a bouquet of flowers and reading a note

via: Getty Images

Since bathing wasn't an everyday thing and deodorant didn't exist yet, back in the day, flowers were used to mask funky smells.

It was a medieval hygiene habits for people to carry bouquets of flowers around with them or pin them to their clothing in order to distract from body odor.

I'm guessing this method was not very effective.

Silverware wasn't a thing in medieval times.

A man dressed as a king messily eating chicken

via: Getty Images

If you've ever been to Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, you might remember that you were given crudely carved utensils made from wood to eat your meal.

This, shockingly, was not historically accurate, since medieval folks just ate everything with their hands. Ancient hygiene practice was to just...dig right in.

Surgery was a whole lot germier than it is today.

A vintage drawing of a man with something wrong with his leg. Another man leans over and ladles something onto the leg.

via: Getty Images

All the way up until the 1800s, sterilizing tools for surgery just wasn't a thing. No one knew about germs, and the idea that there were tiny beings causing illness sounded ludicrous.

So even though there are records of brain surgery being performed hundreds of years ago, it was all done with zero sterilization. What a cool medieval hygiene habit.

Sulfur was used to remove freckles.

A young girl with red hair, bright blue eyes, and prominent freckles

via: Getty Images

Hundreds of years ago, freckles were far less desirable than they are today.

In fact, they were so despised that it was a medieval hygiene habit to rub sulfur on them in order to get rid of them. I'm sure those sulfur burns were much more attractive than freckles. Just kidding, this is horrifying.

As a freckle-covered ginger, this offends me on a personal level.

Eagle poop was used to help labor pain.

A bald eagle gliding through the sky

via: Getty Images

As an ancient hygiene practice, eagle dung was mixed with oil and vinegar and eaten as a way of lessening pain during labor.

Sounds delish!

I'd be willing to bet all the money in my bank account that this actually made labor even less pleasant. But maybe the taste distracted you from the pain?

Wardrobes in the 19th century consisted of just four outfits.

A vintage photo of an unsmiling family.

via: Getty Images

Think your wardrobe could use a few additions?

The lower class in the 19th century were forced to wear the same outfit all season long, meaning they only had a total of four different outfits per year.

And we now know how often those clothes were washed, too!

Castle moats were basically giant toilets.

A castle sitting in a swamp

via: Getty Images

I've had a fascination with moats since I was little, so you can imagine my disappointment when I learned that people used to dump garbage scraps and human excrement in them. At least the ancient hygiene practice was to dump all of that outside the castle instead of somewhere inside the castle.

But there goes my romantic dream of taking a swim in my very own castle moat!

Bathrooms in medieval times were pretty much just giant straw piles.

A pile of straw

via: Getty Images

Not only were piles of straw used as bathrooms in medieval times, but people would often refrain from throwing out the old, soiled straw and simply put a new layer on top. Here's your great vintage hygiene tip: if your toilet isn't working, just throw some more straw on there!

And you thought your house smelled bad!

The King had a servant whose sole purpose was to wipe his butt.

A medieval drawing of a king and many people surrounding him

via: Getty Images

Get ready to feel about a million times better about your job.

The Groom of the Stool, a position in the English court, did exactly what you might imagine: wipe the King's butt after he used the bathroom.

While it may sound vile, it was actually a fairly prestigious position, since they acted as the King's confidant and therefore became privy to all of the juicy royal secrets. See what I did there? Privy?

Dead bodies became an edible health potion.

A jar of honey

via: Getty Images

Ever heard of the "mellified man"? This ancient Arabic and Chinese hygiene practice involved soaking a dead body in honey for as a century or so.

The body would turn into a sweet candy-type substance and was thought to provide a number of body-healing benefits. Then it was a common practice to eat it.


Mercury was a "miracle cure" for cold sores.

Close up of a woman's face with a cold sore on the lip

via: Getty Images

If you've ever had a cold sore, you know just how painful and annoying they can be.

But you know what's even more annoying?

Getting mercury poisoning from putting toxic metal on your face, which is what people experienced after using mercury as a cold-sore cure. Clearly this was not a great medieval hygiene habit.

Next time, just pick up some Abreva.