25 Gross Hygiene Practices You Won’t Believe Were Real

Posted by , Updated on March 23, 2024

Not THAT long ago, we use to have some really gross hygiene practices. Seriously. We’re talking about people doing things like using dead animals to treat tooth aches, urine to sterilize surgery equipment, even using dung to treat bad breath! Crazy right? Did you know, for example, that some medieval ladies made fake eyebrows from dead mice’s fur? Or how about the use of chicken manure to cure baldness? To learn more about some of the most revolting old hygiene practices, check out these 25 gross hygiene practices you won’t believe were real.



Before the invention of the toilet paper, people used many interesting techniques to do the job. Old Japanese, for example, used flat sticks known as “chugi”, ancient Greeks cleaned their bottoms with pottery shards and Native Americans used twigs, dry grass, small stones and even oyster shells.

clamsSource: http://farmersalmanac.com

Those who couldn’t afford to have a private bath (that was a vast majority of people in the medieval times) had to bathe in public bathhouses with bunches of other, completely strange people.

public bathhouseSource: medievalists.net

Before oral hygiene was well understood, physicians commonly believed that toothaches were caused by worms that lived inside the teeth. They would fill your mouth with candle smoke to drive those nonexistent worms out.

tooth with wormsSource: showmethescience.net

Leeches were the most common method of bloodletting. They were extremely popular in earlier times because it was widely thought that most diseases were caused by an excess of blood.

LeecheSource: sciencenetlinks.com

In medieval Tudor castles, slabs of wood covering holes in the floor that took feces into the moat served as toilets. So the romantic scene of a towering castle surrounded by the pristine sparkling waters of a moat is not always true.

Tudor castleSource: owlcation.com

The graceful wigs you see in portraits depicting nobility of the 15th to 18th century may seem beautiful and grand, but they were usually covered with lice and nits.

medieval wigSource: littlethings.com

A 17th-century medical handbook advised men to put chicken manure on their scalps to cure baldness, infertility, "stinking breath", head lice and aching breasts.

chicken manureSource: telegraph.co.uk

The blood moss, a European plant with unique astringent and blood-stopping qualities, might have gotten its name because it was used as a menstrual material, possibly in tampon form, among medieval women.

Mosses Green BryophytesSource: bustle.com

One of the most brutal medieval medical practices, cauterization was used to stop heavy bleeding (e.g. during an amputation) by applying a piece of heated metal on the wound. It did stop the bleeding and prevent infections but it caused extensive and very painful tissue damage.

hot metalSource: Wikipedia

Amorous Ancient Egyptian women used pessaries made from crocodile droppings. Documents dating back to 1850 BC refer to this method of contraception. Crocodile dung is actually slightly alkaline, like modern-day spermicides, so there is a little chance it worked.

crocodileSource: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

In medieval times, one theory was that illnesses were caused by bad smells. Consequently, dental hygiene was focused on keeping your breath good, so if your teeth were rotting, as long as you chewed some decent spices to cover up any smell, you would be considered fine.

toothacheSource: guff.com

For centuries, paleness indicated a woman of superior breeding while tan women, who worked outside on the sun, were considered a low birth. Therefore, medieval women whitened their faces with wheat flour or lead based paints, some of which contained significant amounts of toxic arsenic.

medieval womanSource: barefacedtruth.com

Poor hygiene caused medieval people to smell bad, which is why they carried around little fragrant bouquets of flowers (known as nosegays) to mask the stench.

nosegaysSource: collectorsweekly.com

Urine was sometimes used as antiseptics in the medieval times. It might not be as insane as it sounds because urine is sterile after it leaves the body.

manekeen pissSource: listverse.com

It was not until the 16th century when eating utensils became common in Europe. Before that, people – including nobility – used to eat food with their bare hands. In American colonies, forks and knives started to be used as late as in the 17th century.

medieval eatingSource: smithsonianmag.com

In medieval times, laundry was a once or twice a year concept. Back then, they used a mix of urine, lye and river water to clean clothes.

laundrySource: allday.com

In days of yore, people covered their natural dirt floors with straws and rush. Naturally, these floors became a frequent source of infection, illness and also unbearable stink.

Inside The BarnSource: medicaldaily.com

During the Middle Ages, dentists, doctors and barbers were all the same person. These “barber surgeons” were responsible for everything from cutting your hair to pulling your teeth and healing wounded soldiers.

medieval barberSource: showmethescience.net

Mercury, the extremely toxic chemical element, was often used to treat various skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and even the dreaded leprosy.

MercurySource: scribol.com

Sugar-rich diet led to frequent tooth-decay among the nobility so ladies of fashion often sought false teeth made from ivory or porcelain but, where possible, they preferred to have "live" teeth in their dentures. Poor people were encouraged to sell healthy teeth for this purpose.

rotten teethSource: express.co.uk

Medieval men avoided removing their hats during a meal as a way to keep head lice from falling into their plates.

medieval eatingSource: medicaldaily.com

Ancient Egyptians believed putting a dead mouse in your mouth would ease toothache. In some cases, mashed mouse was blended with other ingredients, and the resulting poultice was applied to the painful spot.

mouseSource: cbsnews.com

Until Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis discovered how important hand-washing was in 1846, most surgeries and medical operations were performed with dirty hands, which lead to many infection-caused deaths.

Dirtyhands2Source: npr.org

The chamber pot was a common type of toilet in medieval houses. No flushing required. You simply poured the smelly contents out the window and unto the streets.

chamber potSource: allday.com

Some enlightened ladies feared their eyebrows were not prominent enough for the heady tastes of their medieval era so they would set a trap, catch a mouse and make artificial eyebrows from the dead animal´s fur.

eyebrowsSource: express.co.uk

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