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Modern society takes personal hygiene as something ordinary, routine, and self-evident. Now we have countless personal hygiene products and life even without some of them brings discomfort. But a few centuries ago everything was different.  


The first toothpaste appeared in the early 1700s. The company Mavris (Jason Dike, 2015) that started the industry, is still functioning today. Before that dental care included two options: toothpicks and pieces of cloth. By the way, women suffered from them even more because of vitamin deficiency due to pregnancy.


Another common mean of personal hygiene in those days was mercury (Siobhan O’Shea, 2018). It was meant to solve the problem of hair and body lice. What did they do with mercury?. They ate it, rubbed it into the skin and, of course, died. But there is good news, lice died first. You will say that there are simpler ways like bath and soap. But then it was believed that immersing oneself in water was bad for health.

Feminine pads

Women's pads or rather their absence forced to use two things. One of them, as is the case with dental hygiene, was pieces of ordinary tissue. After use, they were washed, dried, and reused. The second remedy for menstruation was ... gravity. Pretty comfortable, isn't it? Why do something, if you can do nothing. The first disposable pads (Erin Laskis, 2018) were invented in 1888 by Johnson & Johnson and were known as Lister’s towels.


As you might guess from the information above, people in the 18th century smelled not of roses and vanilla. But let's dig deeper. The fact is that the first deodorant  (Kirsten James, 2014) was created only in the 1880s and before that, an unpleasant smell was considered the norm. Richer people tried to solve the problem of watering themselves with perfumes.

Toilet paper

Let's talk about what worries everyone from the very beginning of the article. Toilets are always a separate topic. In the 18th century, people were not tied to lavatories, since many noble gentlemen had portable ones. It was a special box for excrement and a chair with a hole in the middle. Instead of paper (Edward Higgins, 2019), they used the well-known method of that time - rags. Poorer people used leaves, moss and ... hands.

Unfortunately, as you see, the dark times of humanity did not end with the medieval inquisition with its execution of scientists and medics. Many epidemics and other deadly problems were caused by the absence of those simple things that we perceive today as routine. So think carefully about this the next time you decide to skip brushing your teeth before going to bed.


Higgins, Edward. “What Did People Use Before Toilet Paper?” Farmers' Almanac, 7 May 2019,

Jason, Dike. “Second Look | The Mystery of Marvis Toothpaste • Selectism.” Highsnobiety, Highsnobiety, 26 Feb. 2015,

Kirsten, James. “What Was Perfume in the Eighteenth Century?” The Recipes Project,

O'Shea, Siobhan. “Loathsome Lice Treatments through the Ages.” Interesly, 7 June 2018,

Laskis, Erin. “The History of Periods: Menstruation Through the Ages.” Knixteen,

About the Author:

Joey Feldman is a young technologist with experience in marketing and SEO and a master's degree in computer science. He makes his living by writing academic
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