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Parent Category: 18th Century History Articles
Category: Medical History
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The 18th century maybe people’s favorite period, but this doesn’t mean it didn’t have its ugly and dirty parts. Most articles about historic times show the nice parts of history and intentionally avoid the bad, but for you to decide what your favorite time was, you need the whole picture.

Here is a list of unfortunate facts about the 18th century that may surprise you. But we assure you, they’re all true. Keep reading!

Personal hygiene wasn’t really a thing

Nowadays we don’t go to bed or leave the house in the morning without taking a shower, but back then people rarely immersed themselves in water. Some people even thought that bathing wasn’t a healthy habit because when they soaked in hot water, diseases could enter their bodies. And the people who decided to take a bath chose to keep their clothes on. The habit of soaking into the water with clothes remained until the end of the 19th century. 

No deodorant

Can you imagine a life without deodorant? You wouldn’t survive at the gym if people wouldn’t use it. But because it was invented in the 1880s, in the 18th-century people had no problem to smell like a goat the entire day. The rich ones who hated baths and tried to hide the smell would douse themselves in perfume. And you know how great it works to cover the smell with perfume. It doesn’t! 

We should mention that the polymath Ziryab introduced the idea of underarm deodorant to Moorish Iberia, but it didn’t catch on. The first brand to ever produce deodorant was Mum, and it’s available even nowadays. 

Body hair stayed on the body

Women didn’t even consider to groom their body hair in the 18th century. In the western world, it became a habit in the late 1920s. But you shouldn’t be surprised because many nations still have a reputation for their women keeping their body hair. Feminist movements actually support women embracing their natural shape. 

There were no toilets

Even if everyone is charmed by the magical 18th century, you wouldn’t want to live in one of their houses because they stunk of feces and urine. Because there was no plumbing system in place people used a chamber pot and left it in a corner of the room until they filled it. And from time to time they open the windows and throw the content out. Even if in later times outdoor lavatories were invented, many people still kept the pots for night time emergencies. 

Nowadays you cannot live a day without using your bathroom. If one day it breaks, you immediately call plumbing experts to identify the problem and fix it. 

No toilet paper

If your partner forgets to buy toilet paper it’s World War III. But in the 18th century, people didn’t have a store where they could buy toilet paper so they used leaves, old rags, or even their hands. Only rich people had the luxury to use strips of linen. And when you think that Ancient Romans had a better system than people who lived in the 1700s, they used a cloth on a stick they dipped in a bucket of water. 100 years later, toilet paper was invented, and even nowadays it’s one of the most purchased products. 

Bed bugs everywhere

Bed bugs were as often as dust. They were spread in all houses and were considered part of a normal life. If your house is nowadays infested with bed bugs you call pest control and spray your entire house to get rid of them. You have rashes on your skin, you cannot sleep at night and spend hundreds of dollars on medicine to treat your skin irritations. But back then people had to live with them even if they caused many diseases. In the Victorian era, women used kerosene to wipe the beds and kill the insects. Not only people in the 18th century dealt with bed bugs, but also the next generations because they remained a constant issue for homeowners until modern times. Even at present, they infest houses, but the good news is that now we have so many solutions to kill them. 

The streets were dirty

In urban areas, the streets were covered in human feces, animal dung, and rotting plants and vegetables. People threw away all their trash in the street. You may have seen movies with gentlemen who walked on the outside arose to protect the ladies. They did it to protect them from water splashes passing carriages created. Sometimes they even had to use their capes to cover the dung so that the ladies don’t pass with their elegant shoes in the puddle. 

This teaches us that we should no longer be angry when streets are muddy after rain. 

Dental hygiene was simple

Back then, people use a cloth to wipe extra food from their gums and a toothpick to clear the space between their teeth. Because women lose vitamins during pregnancies, they had even worse dental hygiene than men. 

However, we should mention that only poor people had this issue, because the Italian brand Marvis created the first toothpaste in the 1700s, and they still produce it nowadays. But poor people barely afforded to buy food so they weren’t concerned about dental health. 

People used mercury to kill lice

In the 18th century, everyone was infested with body and head lice, so they had to kill them with a treatment they had at hand then, and that was mercury. But people from the 1700s had a love affair with mercury, especially in Europe, so they used it for everything. They washed their skin with mercury, ate it, and then asked why they acted strangely or died. Mercury did kill lice, but it also killed the host long term. 

The 18th century is depicted as an entertaining period because it was common for people to spend time together and socialize. But they also dealt with some problems that threatened their health.