Over the last few hundred years, we’ve learned a thing or two about our world that previous generations were completely clueless about. While some of their beliefs were harmlessly misguided, there were other “old fashioned” practices that actually posed a serious threat to those who performed them.
Not only are these 20 hygiene tips and practices from the past dangerous from a health standpoint, but they’re also utterly revolting by today’s standards. Whatever you do, definitely do not try any of these at home!
1. Bathing: Back in Medieval times, heating water for a single bath took so long that families would actually share used bathwater. Let’s hope they only shared their baths with other people…
2. Baldness Cures: Balding men of the Renaissance were convinced that rubbing a combination of chicken poop and potassium on their heads would help their hair grow back. Did it work? Judging by what Shakespeare looked like in his later years, the answer is a resounding “no”.
Internet Archive Book Images / Flickr
3. Cough Remedies: Have a tickle in your throat? Doctors once believed that combining one pound of slimy snails and one pound of sugar would create a syrup perfect for coating the throat and curing coughs. Just make sure they don’t get on your face…
4. Contraception: Ancient Egyptian women once used crocodile dung as birth control. Molding the dung into the form of a pessary, they believed that the excrement was thick enough to prevent pregnancy.
5. Makeup: When paleness was once seen as the ideal skin tone, chalk became the primary means of whiting the face. Not only did women smear chalk powder on their face, but they also ate it as well, making them so sick that they’d turn pale as a result.
6. Feminine Products: The invention of tampons and most feminine products are relatively modern, so women of the past had to make do with whatever they had lying around. That included clumps of moss, torn right out of the forest floor!
7. Dental Health: During the Elizabethan era, sugar was only available to the upper echelon of society. Therefore, sugar-rotted teeth were considered a symbol of wealth, and peasants would even go as far as faking the disease just to look richer.
8. Birth Control: Before the days of pills and injections, women drank all kinds of concoctions to prevent pregnancy. The grossest of them all was a tea from Canada made entirely from the genitals of male beavers.
9. Fashion: Why buy another outfit when the one you’re wearing fits just fine? This was the logic of many families before the 19th century when most people had an average of four pairs of clothing to their name—one for each season.
10. Dentures: Back before false teeth were invented, those looking for a new set of pearly whites had to get them from the only people willing to give them up: the dead. In fact, many dentures during the time were constructed from the teeth of dead soldiers.
11. Flowers: These petaled beauties certainly aren’t gross, but some of the things they were once used for definitely are. In the times where people didn’t bathe much, flowers were always kept on hand to mask the stench of body odor.
Clemens v. Vogelsang / Flickr
12. Medicine: In the days before their deaths, 16th-century Arabic men ate nothing but honey and were then buried in coffins full of honey after passing. The corpse was dug up several weeks later and pieces of the body were eaten as a miracle cure.
13. Laundry Day: Before we had OxiClean and Tide, we had urine, which is sterile and contains ammonia. Not only did people once wash their clothes with urine, but they also used it as mouthwash, too.
Jays Thought Stream
14. Labor Aides: No epidurals here, just more animal dung. During labor, Medieval women were given eagle poop mixed with oil and vinegar in order to ease the pain of childbirth.
15. Surgery: Germs weren’t a thing until the mid-1800s, so none of the surgical equipment used by doctors before then was ever sterilized. Maybe getting a checkup back then wasn’t such a good idea after all…
16. Dental Hygiene: Toothpaste is another modern invention, and in the days before straight baking soda was introduced as a dental hygiene product, people would often use burnt herbs like rosemary and mint to brush their teeth. That’s better than the Romans, who reportedly brushed their teeth with mouse brains.
17. Dieting: Why watch your diet when you can eat anything you want and not gain a pound? That was the pitch by quack doctors of the early 20th century when they pushed tapeworms as weight-loss supplements.
18. Toilet Paper: Just kidding! There wasn’t any. That’s why when nature came calling, people would use things like leaves, rags, a wet cloth on a stick, or even their own hand to get the job done.
Huong Chi / Flickr
19. Feminine Hygiene: You’ve heard of Lysol as a kitchen cleaner, but Lysol as a feminine product? Before it found its way under every kitchen sink in America, Lysol was initially marketed as a way to “keep women fresh”.
20. Cleaning Solutions: Forget everything you know about mopping the floor because ancient Egyptians once used the powdered remains of mummies to clean their homes. They also used the powder as a cure-all, rubbing it on their skin and ingesting it in large doses.
Can you believe the kinds of things that used to be passed off as good hygiene practices? Thank goodness for modern science!
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