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25 Vintage Hygiene Hacks That Are Nasty and Unusual

25 Vintage Hygiene Hacks That Are Nasty and Unusual January 6, 2020Leave a comment

Some ways that people used to take care of themselves might seem bizarre to us now, but for them, it was as normal as brushing their teeth! If you find yourself repulsed by some of the facts you learn below, the joke is on you. Some of your ancestors probably took part in some of these practices long before you were born.

One Man Had the Job of Being the King's Butt Wiper


It was once an honor to be the man who wiped the King’s behind after his restroom trips. During the Victorian Era, there was a prized man crowned the “groom of the King’s close stool.” He was solely responsible for everything that happened in that restroom, underneath those extensive clothes (and without sanitary napkins).

Entire Families Used the Same Bath Water

Ancient Surfaces

In poorer areas of the world, having your own bath water was a luxury. People went days without bathing. And when they did, they shared their water with their entire family and sometimes an entire town shared bath water!

Men Used Chicken Poop to Cure Their Balding Heads


Somebody once told men that by rubbing chicken poop on their bald head, hair would magically grow. They mixed the dung with a form of potassium in the hopes of regaining their long forgotten locks. Unfortunately, chicken poop contains a poisonous alkaline solution which explains why no one uses this method today.

Sugar and Snails Makes the Perfect Cough Syrup

Getty Images

While we use a cup of tea and a little bit of honey to ease a sore throat nowadays, that’s wasn't always the route taken. Before this tea nonsense became popular, doctors combined a mixture of snail slime and sugar to make quite possibly the most repulsive cough syrup known to man. The thought might make you queasy, but how different is it from honey, really?

Crocodile Poop Was Used As a Contraceptive For Women


Little tablets called 'pessaries' were created out of crocodile poop as a contraceptive method for women. They would insert the tablet into their lady bits and call it a day. This was a fad back in 1850 B.C. among Egyptian women. Crazy or not, modern science has proved this ancient method quite effective because of its chemical similarities to modern medicine.

Chalk Powder Made the Skin Paler


Being pale was seen as a sign of wealth and fortune hundreds of years ago. Women with tan skin were known as laborers and that was something wealthy women did not want to be associated with— work. Women not only drew on themselves with chalk to give their skin a paler appearance, they also ate the chalk to make themselves sick. The sicker they were, the paler their skin was and the more wealthy they looked.

Moss Clumps Were Used As Tampons


There weren’t very many ways for women to take care of their monthly cycles before the invention of modern sanitary napkins. Clumps of moss, later known as Blood Moss, were used the way tampons are used today. They were placed between a woman’s legs in order to soak up blood from the month’s cycle. Nobody thought it was strange for centuries and feminine products on a higher standard than moss clumps weren’t invented until a long while later.

Gingivitis Was a Sign of Wealth

Columbia Pictures

Only the wealthy could afford such a prized commodity as sugar. In order to display this wealth, women found it alright to give themselves gingivitis and rotting teeth. The worse their teeth were, the more money they had at their disposal. It’s almost too bad that dentists weren’t aware of the harm that too much sugar (and vanity) can do to your teeth.

People Had Four Outfits... For the Entire Year

Smithsonian Institution

One of the most coincidentally sustainable practices people in the middle ages partook in was having only four outfits. Washing clothes wasn’t a weekly event for most people until the 1900's. So, they saw no reason to have more than one outfit per season. When the season changed, they would bathe and redress in next season’s wardrobe.

Other Methods of Toilet Paper

Getty Images

There was once a time when sanitary napkins didn’t exist. In fact, humans lived a long time before toilet paper was invented. During those days, people would use leaves, cloths, and even their bare hands to wipe themselves. Plus, running water wasn’t a thing, so count out ancient bidet devices. Using the restroom during those times had to have been a travesty to witness or endure.

Women Burned Their Hair to Achieve the Perfect Curl

Bauer Media Group

Women used hot coals to perfect those 1920's curls we awe at so frequently. When women finally got their curls the way they wanted, petroleum jelly was used to keep them in place. And because it was so difficult to achieve this look in the first place, women often didn’t wash their hair for days, or sometimes weeks after doing their hair. They usually burned their hair in the process and made it a welcome home to creepy crawlies by not washing regularly.

Women Used Urine As Facial Wash


Forget every one of the thousands of facial creams and exfoliate scrubs sold by Sephora. Women actually used urine as a facial wash for quite a while! They believed that urine had certain antiseptic properties that kept their faces clear and free of wrinkles. A facial cleanser that costs nothing and is available all the time... Why women stopped this trend? We have no idea.

Poisonous Plants Were Used to Achieve Beauty


Belladonna is both a hallucinogen and poisonous. But, women in the 16th and 17th centuries used this plant in order to make their pupils dilate. Dilated pupils and blushing cheeks (from the resulting rash) were deemed attractive. For some reason this trend lasted for centuries without anyone really caring about the hazard to their bodies.

X-Rays Removed Body Hair

Public Domain

In the early 20th century, people believed that they had figured out the end-all-be-all way to get rid of body hair without having to shave. Before anybody cared about the radium found in X-rays or the harmful effects it has on people, women used X-rays to remove their body hair. While it was extremely effective, many people who followed through with this hair removal process ended up with cancer.

Dead People's Teeth Made the Best Dentures

George Washington's Mount Vernon

Before dentists made dentures out of acrylic resin, the teeth of old war soldiers did just fine. People who needed new teeth needed to find a set from someone who was no longer using them. Although it sounds wild, nobody really minded wearing the teeth of dead people and the dead people didn’t even notice they were missing.

Eagle Poop Eased the Pain of Childbirth


There were really no official or even sanitary ways for women to handle pain in past centuries. As a way to relieve women during childbirth, before ice-chips were thought up, a mixture of eagle poop and olive oil was concocted for them to consume. Luckily for the population giving birth, pain-relieving methods are a lot more hygienic now.

Eating Spices Got Rid of Bad Teeth


Most people believed that if you had bad teeth, it was because your breath didn’t smell good. They assumed that if you fixed your breath by eating spices, then the rotting teeth would go away as well. Spices were a cure for bad teeth in general, not just bad breath. It was a vintage cure-all.

Flowers Were Carried Around to Mask Bad Odors

We Heart It / niabechill

Using flowers to hide smells isn’t a terrible thing. Quite the contrary, we use candles all of the time today. And we now know that baths were far and few between in the old days. It shouldn’t be a surprise that people walked around with flowers in their pockets to mask their body odors. This is a lovely trick that has transformed pleasantly over the years.

Nothing Was Ever Sterilized

Public Domain

Surgeons had nothing to sterilize their equipment with in the recent past. The reason for this being that before the 1800's, nobody realized that germs even existed. Until this realization was made, doctors and surgeons making house-calls used the same tools on each patient they visited and never sterilized them. This proves true for surgeries performed hundreds of years ago by Mayans as well.

Burnt Herbs and Sometimes Mouse Brains Made Good Toothpaste


Similar to toilet paper, toothpaste is a modern invention. Before toothpaste existed, people burned herbs like rosemary and mint in order to brush their teeth. While herbs don’t sound so bad as a toothpaste solution, consider when Romans used mouse brains to brush their teeth. You have to wonder if herbs just didn’t make the cut.

Tapeworms Were Advertised As Weight-Loss Supplements

News Dog Media

In order to embody the desired image of the perfect Victorian woman, women made the conscious decision to house parasites in their digestive systems. While the intention was to lose weight, it didn’t always work out that way. Sometimes the parasites achieved the opposite and made women gain weight instead. Overall, it was a truly dangerous and inconsistent way to lose desired weight.

Lysol Wasn't Always a Kitchen Cleaning Product


We all know the Lysol brand, but we recognize it for its cleaning products. It turns out that back in the 1920s, Lysol tried to rebrand themselves as both a cleaning product as well as a feminine hygiene product. It was meant to act as both a cleaning agent and birth control method. Unfortunately, Lysol proved too strong and was discouraged by medical professionals.

Dying People Turned Their Bodies Into Medicine


The entire process of 'Mellification' was created by Arabic people, which consisted of dying people spending their last days eating nothing but honey in order to turn their bodies into a preserved candy bar of sorts. Of course, this person would have to agree to donate their bodies to their community prior to their death. After they died, their bodies would be buried in a honey-filled stone coffin for close to a century. Then, the honey coated remains of the dead would be consumed as a healing solution. 

No Laundry November (Or December)

Public Domain

Because the months of October, November and December are generally cooler than other months and laundry was traditionally done outside, laundry was hardly done in the winter. Nobody wanted to go outside in the chilly weather to wash clothes, so no one did. Instead, people lounged around from the summer months to spring in the same dirty clothes. Even if they changed per the season, the body odor didn’t go anywhere.

Everything Was Finger Food


Utensils weren’t invented until the Byzantine Era and until they were, everything and anything was considered finger food. Don’t forget that it was rare for people to wash their hands and when they did, they washed them in urine. There’s no way health codes were up to date in those days. Everyone was touching everything and then eating every germ they came across.