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What Was Hygiene Like In Colonial America?

Updated 13 Jan 2020 750.2k views12 items

Personal hygiene in the 1700s was heavily maintained through a complicated balance of practicality, religious belief, and social position. Men and women living in colonial America washed their bodies and clothes with varying degrees of regularity, often falling victim to disease and disorder as a result. 

Despite the differing attributes of the original colonies, colonial hygiene in the earliest cities and rural settlements in America always left a lot to be desired, with odors, dirt, and waste being inescapable parts of daily life. Middle- and upper-class people tried to avoid or mask common nuisances like insects, usually to no avail, while lower classes simply struggled to survive. A lack of hygiene didn't go unnoticed, however, with dirt and grime thought to be indicative of bad manners and sloth. With so many factors to consider, here's a look at what hygiene was like in early colonial times.

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