History books do mention plagues and old-timey health tips. But they skip a lot on how yucky the past was. Probably because if people knew how icky things were, they wouldn’t admire many of our past heroes. If you love being clean, thank your lucky stars for being born now.
Ancient Romans: Cleaning with… Pee?
The Ancient Romans? Super ahead of their game with cleanliness and big buildings. They figured out pee had ammonia, which is great for cleaning. We use ammonia now, but we get it in less gross ways.
The Romans? Not so picky. They just grabbed fresh pee. Yep, they brushed their teeth with it for that bright smile. And guess what? They also washed clothes with pee. Kinda gross, right? But you gotta hand it to them. They knew about a cleaning trick we still use today, just in a less stinky way.
Only a Few Outfits? Talk About Boring Wardrobe!
Nowadays, some people moan about having too many clothes. Closets jam-packed, dressers overflowing. Lots of us have heaps of outfits. But zip back in time? Not so much.
Until the 1700s, most women had maybe 2-4 outfits. Men? Even less. Go back to the Middle Ages, and it’s even worse. Most people had just two outfits. Nothing fancy, just the basics. They’d wear one while washing the other. And then switch. How’s that for fashion?
Wigs Made of Animal Hair? Yikes!
Wigs today? A whole lot different than the ones from the past. Now, people grow their hair out, donate it, and voila! Someone battling cancer gets a fresh set of locks. These modern wigs, especially the ones made of real human hair, are super clean. I mean, the cleaning process? Super strict. And they’re so good that people can rock them for years and nobody’s the wiser. A far cry from those old-timey wigs made of animal hair.
Way back in the day, even up to when people wore those powdered wigs, horse hair was the main ingredient. Cleaning them was a pain, and worse, they were lice magnets. But get this: many people thought these wigs shielded them from lice! There was even a time in ancient Rome when people would shave their heads, pop on a wig, and think, “Let the wig catch the lice, not me!”
That Weird Saying About Babies and Bathwater? Here’s the Scoop.
Ever scratched your head at the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?” What it means is don’t ditch the good stuff just ’cause something seems bad. This saying’s got roots in an old German proverb, but us English speakers? We got it from the American settlers. These people weren’t too savvy about staying clean, had little water, and made some, let’s say, questionable health choices.
Picture this: it’s bath night, the night before church. The family hauls up water and Pa, who’s probably dirtier than a pig in mud, bathes first. Then Ma hops in, and then each kid from oldest to youngest. Some did boys first, then girls, but the baby? Always last. With this setup, it’s kinda heartbreaking but not shocking that many kiddos back then didn’t live to see adulthood.
The Thames? It Was Once a Giant Poo Party.
Some people gripe about today’s rivers being dirty, but let’s chat about the Thames. Nowadays, you might not wanna take a dip, but back in the day? It was way, way worse.
Flashback to 1859, and London’s in a stinky mess. Literally. They had some plumbing, sure, but most of it? Dumped right into the Thames. And if you didn’t have plumbing? Well, you chucked your waste in the closest water source. The Thames turned into this thick, brown, sludgy poop soup. And the smell? Ugh, so bad you could almost taste it from miles away. This yucky period got dubbed the “Great Stink,” and thank goodness, it spurred people to clean up their act and the river.
Horse Poop Galore on the Streets? Yuck!
Nowadays, we moan about potholes, but back then? Streets had a way messier issue. Ever noticed people in old photos rocking boots? Blame the horse poop. Anyone who’s hung around horses knows cleaning up after them ain’t a walk in the park.
Imagine this: no cars, just horses. Everywhere. Tons of poop. And while cities tried their best, sometimes it was like trying to hold back a wave with a broom. In 1894, big cities like London hit a poop crisis. Streets? Overflowing with the stuff. And cleaning efforts? Just couldn’t keep up.
It was even rougher in medieval times. Think open sewers, no plumbing, and even more horse dung. Streets weren’t just dirty; they were downright gross.
Deodorant and Mouthwash: The New Kids on the Block
Skip a shower and forget deodorant today, and you’ll feel icky and worry about side-eyes from pals. And after garlic bread? Grab that mouthwash, pronto! But once upon a time? People didn’t give two hoots about these things.
Get this: deodorant popped up in 1888. People back then didn’t fuss over a little BO, and ads had to practically shout, “Hey, you stink!” to get them to try the stuff. And mouthwash? That’s a 1878 invention. Dr. Joseph Lawrence coined a fancy term, “halitosis” (aka bad breath), to market his brainchild—Listerine. He made everyone think their morning breath was some big crisis! Marketing, huh?
When in Rome: Rats, Fiery Toilets, and Shared Sponges
Everyone raves about Ancient Rome’s plumbing, but let me tell you, it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong, the Romans were way ahead of their time. But for our modern tastes? Yikes!
Imagine this: you’re in the loo, and a rat pops out of the pipe—yep, that was a thing. Even worse, sometimes you’d see flames burst from public toilets because of too much gas in the pipes. And when you’re done? There’s this sponge stick everyone shared to clean up. After each use, just a quick rinse and voilà, ready for the next guy. Gross, right?
The Black Plague: When People Were Just… Yuck
You’ve heard about the Black Plague, right? Many say it got bad because people started offing cats, which boosted the rat population. But honestly? With the amount of trash and muck everywhere, a few more cats wouldn’t have saved the day.
Back then, people dumped their junk right outside their homes. Clean it up? Only when the stench got too bad. Some towns tried making people tidy up, but usually, they just chucked everything into the closest river. And while they didn’t toss their waste right on the streets, they weren’t neatniks either. The poor people? Into the river it went. The rich? They had these nasty pits in their yards, filled to the brim with waste. Some brave souls even made a living emptying those stinky pits—and man, did they earn every penny!