Bathing and Health

The initial trend toward bathing began in the 1740s, although it had little to do with becoming clean. Certain types of water were thought to provide specific medical benefits. A cold bath would strengthen constitutions prone to ill health and indigestion. A warm bath would soothe nervousness. Other options included baths that contained mineral salts or with some form of added electric shock. Doctors often suggested that their wealthy patients take the waters, whether at a popular seaside town or in private baths at their own homes. While the organized resorts of Britain never fully materialized in the colonies, the custom was known in North America. The first baths primarily meant for becoming clean did not emerge until the 1780s. Further evidence that bathing was not initially connected to hygiene is found in the general absence of soap for bathing during the period. For most people, soap was made at home from a combination of fat, usually lard from pigs, and lye, composed of wood ash and water. While curing for a month or more took away some of its harshness, lye soap was always hard on the hands. It was used predominantly for washing clothes, dishes, and homes rather than bodies; cold water and a hard scrub with a rough towel were generally thought sufficient. Wealthy women had access to perfumed soaps from Europe, but the emphasis was on the perfume rather than its ability to wash. Toilet soaps were not commonly manufactured in the United States until the early nineteenth century. In France, the palace at Versailles was designed to include a bathroom for every suite of rooms. The bathroom customarily held two tubs. The bather removed any dirt, sweat, or grease in the first tub, then rinsed in the second tub. American colonists were gradually able to obtain bathtubs for their own houses. While these were first made from marble, copper gradually became preferred, as it offered better heat retention as well as lower cost. In time, tubs also were made from tin, bringing the price down even more. While some tubs were large enough for the bather to lie down in, most came to the bather’s hips. Other, shallow tubs, designed to catch water dripping from the standing occupant, provided only for a glorified sponge bath. By the late eighteenth century, furniture also was being built to aid in bathing. One such item was the washstand. Often elaborately carved, it usually featured some form of basin for holding water. It also might include shelves for cosmetics or a rack for towels. The nightstand was often used to conceal a chamber pot, still a necessity. Again, these stands could be carved or painted. Other pieces of furniture connected to hygiene included wig stands, shaving tables, and dressing chests. At this time, these specialized pieces of furniture were articles used predominantly by the upper classes and were rarely found anywhere else. A study of probate inventories in Chester County, Pennsylvania, shows only one washstand in 694 estates for the years 1780 1789. A similar study in Essex County, Massachusetts, shows no washstands prior to 1763. Washstands did not become common household items until the mid-nineteenth century. bathing beauties: body care during your bath Health and Beauty Tips alltravel8Bathing in bathful of BEER is good for your health we try it out alltravel8Slimming Bathing Suits for Every Body Type – Health.com alltravel8

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