If you love taking baths and making sure you have great hygiene all the time, well there was a point in time where taking baths regularly and having good hygiene didn’t exist. Bathing and hygiene was very uncommon, that even Queen Elizabeth I would take a bath once a month. That’s just the Queen, imagine the wealthy, the middle class and the lower class and how often they would bathe themselves. Bathing and hygiene in England during the 1700’s and 1800’s was drastically different and especially unsanitary which can be seen through their toiletries, daily routines, and the products they used. A bathroom or toilet back then was referred to as a garderobe or privy.
Garderobes were a room in a castles or monastery that had a bench with a hole inside the bench. They would wipe themselves with straw, moss, leaves, wool, or linen rags. The waste would fall down into a pit or a moat. Garderobes were sometimes blocked off by a screen or door and sometimes they didn’t have any privacy. For peasants, a toilet was a bucket in the corner of the room. They would throw the waste behind their house or into a river. Unfortunately the water they used for cooking and bathing would come from the same river.
Perhaps that’s why people would get sick because of the diseases and bacteria that was going around in the water. It became more popular to bathe during the outbreak of the plague because people were looking for ways to how decrease the effects. They found that frequent hand-washing in warm water helped.
To some people bathing was seen as a form of sexual pleasures and by others seen as letting the devil into you.Some Medieval Kings and Lords and including their household bathed more than most. Some of them had special rooms set aside for bathing and others bathed in huge tubs that were brought into there rooms. The tubs would take forever to fill up because the water had to be gathered, heated and then carried in buckets to their rooms.
Occasionally the water was mixed with perfumes, scented oils and flower petals. To some people gathering water was very difficult and water wasn’t always available. It was mostly the poor people that would just use one tub of water for the entire family. The oldest would go first down to the youngest. All the filth from one person would stay in the tub and it would be the same for the others.
So the whoever the youngest person in the family was would basically bathe themselves with their families filth. They wouldn’t bathe regularly, they would bathe once a month or after two months so imagine all the filth their bodies had. Perhaps this is why they thought bathing could make you ill and at the same it’s iconic because “The medical belief was that sea air and bathing in salt water could cure many diseases”(Le Faye 64). A person’s hands and face were the things most likely to be cleaned daily, if possible.