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    Nature & Science

    The Interesting Ways People Took Care of Their Hygiene in Medieval Times

    Image Source: tomertu / Shutterstock

    In medieval times, dental insurance didn’t exist. People dealt with toothaches caused by decay by visiting local barbers who would remove the affected tooth without any anesthetic. Despite this lack of formal dental care, there were some practices to maintain dental hygiene.

    To keep their teeth clean and white, people would use a rough woolen cloth and evidence suggests they also used toothpaste and mouthwashes. Additionally, it was common to chew on mint or cloves for fresh breath.


    In medieval times, the use of forks was not common. Peasants used their hands while royalty used spoons and knives made of precious metals. Despite this, both social classes followed etiquette guidelines, including washing before and after meals. The use of a fork was even considered inappropriate in some instances.

    Despite the perception of poor hygiene, people in medieval times followed etiquette guidelines, including regular washing.

    Medieval Floorings Harbored Filth

    Floors in the Middle Ages were covered with rushes, which were replaced periodically. However, beneath the rushes, dirt, fleas, lice, and vermin thrived. Efforts were made to keep the floors fresh by adding flowers or herbs, but this did not prevent the spread of infections and diseases.

    Despite attempts to keep the floors clean, they still harbored contaminants, contributing to the spread of diseases.

    Taking a Bath in the Middle Ages

    Bathing practices varied among different social classes. While some kings bathed in tubs filled with hot water and aromatic herbs, the common peasant frequented public bathhouses that were sometimes prohibited by church leaders due to concerns about illicit behavior. After the Black Death, public bathhouses went into decline due to fear of infection.

    Bathing facilities were popular, but they faced decline due to concerns about spreading disease after the Black Death.

    Medieval Surgery Was Often Fatal

    In the Middle Ages, hospital care was more reminiscent of hospice care, and surgeries were often performed by barbers or butchers. Anesthetics were not used, and tools were not sterilized, leading to fatal infections in many cases.

    Surgeries in the Middle Ages were often fatal due to the lack of anesthetics and sterilization of tools.

    You’ll Never Guess What They Used Urine For

    Urine was used for various cleaning purposes in medieval times, including wound cleaning and as a laundry spotter. It was even used as a facial exfoliator by the aristocracy, similar to lye, an alkaline cleaning substance.

    Urine had various uses in medieval times, including cleaning and laundry purposes.

    Shaving Was Not a Thing in the Middle Ages

    Shaving was not common among peasants in medieval times, and those who did shave typically visited the barber. Beards were fashionable and convenient due to the lack of mirrors and proper razors. In modern times, there is even evidence suggesting that clean-shaven men are more likely to harbor harmful bacteria on their skin compared to bearded men.

    In the Middle Ages, shaving was not common, and beards were considered fashionable. Interestingly, modern research suggests that clean-shaven men may harbor harmful bacteria on their skin.

    Medieval Sleeping Conditions

    While the wealthy aristocracy had luxurious beds with protective canopies stuffed with feathers, peasants had to make do with straw mattresses, often infested with pests. Their bedding, made of straw, was sometimes piled up into a mattress, which was sometimes woven tightly into a bed. Additionally, not all beds lay flat; commoners often slept on a sloping bed similar to a recliner.

    The mattresses, which were only changed and replaced yearly, were teeming with fleas, lice, and bed bugs. Fur covers and feather bedding, while warm, also attracted parasitic pests like fleas.

    Medieval Bathroom Facilities

    In Medieval castles, protruding masonry walls called garderobes were used as bathrooms, allowing waste to fall into the moat. Public sewer systems were non-existent in the Middle Ages, and it took centuries for Medieval cities and towns to transition to functioning urban sanitation systems.

    Depending on the castle’s occupancy size, moats may have developed quite a stench due to the waste disposal system.

    Medieval Toilets and Latrines

    Garderobe latrines, with holes leading directly to the surrounding moat, played a vital role in military defense strategy. Monasteries and commoners also had their own types of toilets, and public facilities were regularly emptied into cesspits, sometimes repurposed as fertilizer for agricultural use.

    Chamber pots were also commonly used inside homes, and their contents were often disposed of out of windows onto walkways.

    Image Source: tomertu / Shutterstock

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