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View Full Version : Consequences of not bathing?


gytalf2000
11-07-2004, 07:57 PM
What would happen to me if I stopped bathing? (This one is purely hypothetical-- I value cleanliness very highly, I'm just curious!) Within a week, I suppose I would reek pretty badly. Within a month -- what? Would someone who never bathed eventually succumb to various infections? Any information would be appreciated!

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
11-07-2004, 07:59 PM
Have you ever wanted to be a rancher?

In a month, you'll have livestock.

Tiny livestock.

Muffin
11-07-2004, 09:08 PM
You will start to smell so bad that you will lose your job and your friends, end up living on the street, and die of an infection after getting rolled.

So get into that bathtub right now, young man. :D

mike1dog
11-07-2004, 09:21 PM
You'll probably start to itch as well. You may develop sores, especially if you scratch your itches. They may get infected, since you're filthy. Your hair will get really greasy and matted(assuming you won't comb your hair either).

Sunspace
11-07-2004, 09:57 PM
You make it sound almost lethal. How did people survive before the arrival of civilisation? Clearly not having baths didn't kill them all off at once...

aahala
11-07-2004, 10:07 PM
One of the immediate advantages is all your friends(if you retain any), will think you lost weight, because from a distance you'll look smaller.:D

duffer
11-07-2004, 10:12 PM
You make it sound almost lethal. How did people survive before the arrival of civilisation? Clearly not having baths didn't kill them all off at once...

After the fall of Rome, for some reason Europeans reverted back to not bathing, for whatever reason. Perfumes and colognes were used heavily for just this reason.

And lethal? Ever hear of the Black Death? Fleas and lice loved to spread that fun little germ around.

clairobscur
11-07-2004, 10:44 PM
After the fall of Rome, for some reason Europeans reverted back to not bathing, for whatever reason. Perfumes and colognes were used heavily for just this reason.
.


Not after the fall of Rome. Bathing was still customary during the dark ages (For instances Charlemagne loved taking lenghty baths and there were public baths in the towns). This custom dissaperead during the late middle-ages due to pressure from the church (public baths were often also brothels, and promoted promiscuity) and apparently also due to concerns about the health of people bathing too often (it could result in unhealthy changes in your "humors", or somesuch).

Muffin
11-07-2004, 11:03 PM
Do you intend to stop wiping as part of not bathing? Or just not bathe that which you still wipe?

Either way, expect a long dry spell until you find a woman with a fetish for smelly sex. Remember, even the Tub Girl used a bathtub.

Muffin
11-07-2004, 11:05 PM
I suppose the up side is that you will not have to worry about being crowded on public transit, or being jostled in lines at the cinema.

asterion
11-07-2004, 11:16 PM
The worst part is that people will start assuming that you're French. :p

Unlike not drinking water, bathing was still fine, right, as the heating of the water would work to kill most of the bacteria?

Blalron
11-07-2004, 11:42 PM
Can't you get Leprosy by not bathing for months?

pool
11-07-2004, 11:43 PM
How about a sort of reverse of this question? What would happen if you spent all your time in a pool of water with temperature control and a carefully monitored PH level?

Let's Assume for sleeping they have some sort of harness connected to the roof or whatever that would keep your head above water but the rest of your body in the water.


Talk about pruny hands :rolleyes:

clairobscur
11-08-2004, 01:16 AM
Can't you get Leprosy by not bathing for months?


Leprosy being a contagious disease caused by a bacillus, it can't appear out of nowhere.

Roches
11-08-2004, 01:28 AM
Yes, and leprosy (now called Hansen's disease because several other diseases were also historically called 'leprosy') is actually not terribly contagious. Around 90% to 95% of humans have some degree of natural immunity to leprosy, and it is spread almost exclusively by contact with an infected person, so it's fairly unlikely that you'd get leprosy in a developed country, even if you didn't bathe. The same goes for lice; you'd have to be in contact with someone who had them, and if you were, bathing wouldn't help much. As far as getting diseases because you didn't bathe goes, it's fairly unlikely you would get sick because you didn't bathe, and you certainly wouldn't revert to medieval levels of health. Everyone else around you would still bathe, so they wouldn't carry the diseases people used to get because they didn't. The social consequences, of course, would be far greater now than in the past.

One of the major reasons people didn't bathe in middle ages, besides the fact that it's very annoying to heat and carry enough water to fill a tub if you don't have indoor plumbing and the Church doesn't allow public baths, is that you have to be naked to bathe. This was considered immoral. Instead of bathing naked, people would wash certain parts of their body (their hands and faces, and probably their underarms and some other areas) but would not often undress and wash their entire bodies.

duffer
11-08-2004, 01:51 AM
Not after the fall of Rome. Bathing was still customary during the dark ages (For instances Charlemagne loved taking lenghty baths and there were public baths in the towns). This custom dissaperead during the late middle-ages due to pressure from the church (public baths were often also brothels, and promoted promiscuity) and apparently also due to concerns about the health of people bathing too often (it could result in unhealthy changes in your "humors", or somesuch).

Argh! I knew it was something along those lines. Thanks for straightening me out.

ralph124c
11-08-2004, 02:11 AM
Years ago, I visited Williamsburg, VA, which is a restored 18th century colonial town. I saw NO bathtubs in any house-not even in the governor's palace! So, how did people smell back then? I did ask the tour guide about this-she said that people would bathe in rivers and ponds (in the summer time), but in winter, almosy NOBDY cleaned up (sabve for a washcloth). Soap was also very expensive (people made it at home, from tallow and lye).
When was mass-produced, cheap soap commercially available? Were people in the pre-soap days infested with body lice, crabs, fleas, etc.?

Walloon
11-08-2004, 03:22 AM
When was mass-produced, cheap soap commercially available?By the 1850s. (http://www.sdahq.org/cleaning/history/soaphistory2.html) And detergent was invented in 1916.

Crafter_Man
11-08-2004, 08:35 AM
I read somewhere that quite few west coat hippies during the 60's were developing mysterious skin lesions. The local MD's had never seen anything like it. It was only when a doctor was reading a century-old medical dictionary that he able to identify the lesions, and (most importantly) the cause: lack of bathing.

It was later realized that it was in vogue amongst many Haight Ashbury hippies of the 60's to forgo bathing (yuck), and they developed skins conditions that had not been seen for a hundred years. (And least that's what I read.)

h.sapiens
11-08-2004, 09:18 AM
Years ago, I visited Williamsburg, VA, which is a restored 18th century colonial town. I saw NO bathtubs in any house-not even in the governor's palace! So, how did people smell back then? I did ask the tour guide about this-she said that people would bathe in rivers and ponds (in the summer time), but in winter, almosy NOBDY cleaned up (sabve for a washcloth). Soap was also very expensive (people made it at home, from tallow and lye).
When was mass-produced, cheap soap commercially available? Were people in the pre-soap days infested with body lice, crabs, fleas, etc.?

I think that another reason you don't see bathtubs in restored buildings is that in past centuries, bathtubs weren't permanent fixtures, like today. They were freestanding metal tubs that were brought out and filled when it was time to bathe. I'm pretty sure the colonial governor of Virginia didn't usually bathe in the stream next to his house.

WhyNot
11-08-2004, 09:44 AM
I think that another reason you don't see bathtubs in restored buildings is that in past centuries, bathtubs weren't permanent fixtures, like today. They were freestanding metal tubs that were brought out and filled when it was time to bathe. I'm pretty sure the colonial governor of Virginia didn't usually bathe in the stream next to his house.
Yep, and they were often the same tubs used to wash the laundry and bleed the pigs at slaughtertime and smoosh the apples for cider at harvest and a number of other uses. So maybe the tub was in the laundry or near the slaughterhouse. Having multiple watertight tubs was simply too expensive for most people. If your tub had pig guts or cider or laundry in it, you'd simply wait to take a bath another day.

On a related note, is it true that people in desert areas "wash" with sand? How does that work, exactly? Sounds painful.

BrotherCadfael
11-08-2004, 09:50 AM
I read somewhere that quite few west coat hippies during the 60's were developing mysterious skin lesions. The local MD's had never seen anything like it. It was only when a doctor was reading a century-old medical dictionary that he able to identify the lesions, and (most importantly) the cause: lack of bathing.

It was later realized that it was in vogue amongst many Haight Ashbury hippies of the 60's to forgo bathing (yuck), and they developed skins conditions that had not been seen for a hundred years. (And least that's what I read.)I recall reading something along these lines, where doctors were seeing diseases that hadn't been seen in so long that they had names like "the rot" and "the crud".

It does have rather the flavor of an urban legend, though...

Bear_Nenno
11-08-2004, 09:50 AM
Once I didn't bathe for a little over a month (unless you count rain, snow or ice storms.) It was winter so I got to wear a lot of layers. My hair didn't get too greasy, I rubbed snow through it all the time. I didn't get any infections or die or anything.

Bear_Nenno
11-08-2004, 09:56 AM
Oh, btw, I'm not trying to condone it or prove it doesn't cause problems. I KNOW it does. I just wanted to share an anecdote.

Anaamika
11-08-2004, 10:20 AM
There is a local religion that doesn't permit washing of hair. My father met one of their adherents once, when he was working at the gas station (yes, he's Indian. Yes, he doesn't speak very good English. And yes, he worked at a gas station. Laugh. I still do.) She hadn't washed her hair in 17 years, she said! :eek: Anyway, she seemed to be doing just fine...her hair was long, too. I would have thought lice at least, but she didn't say. She washed everything else I presume.

twelvericepaddies
11-08-2004, 12:11 PM
I am surprised that nobody mentioned Tibet and parts of China where they are reputed to bathe only at birth and wedding. I know this is true. The various natives in the far North of Canada also are pretty sealed up in heavy clothing and bathe only very infrequently.

BrotherCadfael
11-08-2004, 12:58 PM
It was said of Queen Elizabeth I that, "she bathes once a year, needith it or no."

Muffin
11-08-2004, 01:27 PM
The various natives in the far North of Canada also are pretty sealed up in heavy clothing and bathe only very infrequently. You might want to qualify that as to time period, for these days, folks in the far north of Canada bathe as much as anyone else hereabouts.

fortytwo
11-08-2004, 01:32 PM
There is a local religion that doesn't permit washing of hair. My father met one of their adherents once, when he was working at the gas station (yes, he's Indian. Yes, he doesn't speak very good English. And yes, he worked at a gas station. Laugh. I still do.) She hadn't washed her hair in 17 years, she said! :eek: Anyway, she seemed to be doing just fine...her hair was long, too. I would have thought lice at least, but she didn't say. She washed everything else I presume.

I can remember many years ago seeing a programme on TV where they tested the theory that not washing your hair had no detremental effect. It took a few weeks for people to get used to it but then the natural oils in the body took over and the hair then was kept clean by the oils.
I've just tried to back this up by searching but had no luck. I'm convinced I didn't dream it though.

Mirasawa
11-08-2004, 02:23 PM
I can remember many years ago seeing a programme on TV where they tested the theory that not washing your hair had no detremental effect. It took a few weeks for people to get used to it but then the natural oils in the body took over and the hair then was kept clean by the oils.
I've just tried to back this up by searching but had no luck. I'm convinced I didn't dream it though.

Long hair still would need to be combed. I hear that cleans the hair somehow, perhaps by mechanical removal of stuff that ain't hair.

Wasn't it fairly recently that Americans traditionally took baths on Saturday night?
Splish splash...

_
_

Ranchoth
11-08-2004, 06:40 PM
I read somewhere that quite few west coat hippies during the 60's were developing mysterious skin lesions. The local MD's had never seen anything like it. It was only when a doctor was reading a century-old medical dictionary that he able to identify the lesions, and (most importantly) the cause: lack of bathing.

It was later realized that it was in vogue amongst many Haight Ashbury hippies of the 60's to forgo bathing (yuck), and they developed skins conditions that had not been seen for a hundred years. (And least that's what I read.)

Ich...why, exactly, was this popular among hippies? Were they copying Mao,* or something?



*Mao Tse Tung said he didn't bathe...although he did swim in a pool fairly often. He didn't brush his teeth, though, IIRC. (Which I almost hope I'm not Recalling Correctly.)

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
11-08-2004, 07:08 PM
Ich...why, exactly, was this popular among hippies? Were they copying Mao,* or something?



*Mao Tse Tung said he didn't bathe...although he did swim in a pool fairly often. He didn't brush his teeth, though, IIRC. (Which I almost hope I'm not Recalling Correctly.)

Bleaaarrrrghhchh!

I guess some hippies really were scuzzy. I went to college in the late '70s, at a time when many of us strove to continue some of the lifestyle elements of hippie culture--long hair, "head" music, and for some, drugs. But we all washed. I had fairly oily hair when I was younger; if I didn't wash it at least once a day, it felt terrible!

Zsofia
11-08-2004, 08:58 PM
When my dad was growing up in the poor rural South, you bathed on Saturday night. (So you'd be clean on Sunday, of course.) I assume it's because all hot water had to be heated on the stove. I'm pretty sure all 8 kids had just the one set of bathwater, and they worked hard as tenant farmers so you know they were dirty.

Of course, I'm sure they washed throughout the week, just not a full-on bath.

Colibri
11-08-2004, 09:28 PM
What would happen to me if I stopped bathing? (This one is purely hypothetical-- I value cleanliness very highly, I'm just curious!) Within a week, I suppose I would reek pretty badly. Within a month -- what? Would someone who never bathed eventually succumb to various infections? Any information would be appreciated!

There's an awful lot of misinformation being promulgated in this thread. Nowadays we have such a fetish about cleanliness that we imagine we will become sick simply by not bathing. Not bathing, in and of itself, doesn't have any particular ill effects. Off course, with the modern taboo against having any discernable natural body odor, it would affect your social life.

If you were walking around with little or no clothes there is no reason you would get skin infections. However, if you habitually wore wet or sweaty clothes there could be a problem. You wouldn't develop lice unless you came in contact with someone else who had them (or their clothes or bedding).

As has been pointed out, in certain societies bathing has not been common. It doesn't mean they were necessarily less healthy.

Sunspace
11-08-2004, 09:46 PM
I was wondering more about hunter-gatherers, cave dwellers and human-like hominids.... before the invention of organised washing. Surely our ancestors developed to withstand the effects of not bathing more than the occasional swim in a creek. I remember reading that children exposed to dirt have stronger immunie systems that those kept squeaky-clean. Is it possible that our frequent bathing makes us weaker?

Excalibre
11-09-2004, 07:50 AM
Long hair still would need to be combed. I hear that cleans the hair somehow, perhaps by mechanical removal of stuff that ain't hair.

Wasn't it fairly recently that Americans traditionally took baths on Saturday night?
Splish splash...

_
_
Combing it would certainly get the physical crud out, and my understanding is that in medieval society, various powders would be combed through the hair, absorbing the oil, but it was a process that took quite some time. But I don't think the oils on hair are any great risk in themselves; so long as the hair was combed and the scalp rubbed to get rid of skin flakes, it doesn't matter much if your hair is oily.

BrotherCadfael
11-09-2004, 06:14 PM
Ich...why, exactly, was this popular among hippies? Were they copying Mao,* or something?The hippies of the day decided that pretty much everything their parents ever told them was wrong. Including, unfortunately, the need to bathe reasonably often.

olefin
11-09-2004, 07:16 PM
Yep, and they were often the same tubs used to wash the laundry and bleed the pigs at slaughtertime and smoosh the apples for cider at harvest and a number of other uses. So maybe the tub was in the laundry or near the slaughterhouse. Having multiple watertight tubs was simply too expensive for most people. If your tub had pig guts or cider or laundry in it, you'd simply wait to take a bath another day.


Yep, that was the way it was for my first 13 years. We only had one tub and it was used for everything. Bathing was a weekly thing... in the summer time. :D

Lissa
11-09-2004, 10:09 PM
Combing it would certainly get the physical crud out, and my understanding is that in medieval society, various powders would be combed through the hair, absorbing the oil, but it was a process that took quite some time. But I don't think the oils on hair are any great risk in themselves; so long as the hair was combed and the scalp rubbed to get rid of skin flakes, it doesn't matter much if your hair is oily.

There is an old woman who volunteers in the museum in which I work. She used to be a rural school teacher, so she's very familiar with "old time" customs which haven't quite died out to this day in some parts.

She told me just the other day about ladies she knew who "washed" their hair with corn meal. They would rub it vigorously into their scalp and hair, and then carefully comb it out, removing the skin flakes and oil.* This was a way of washing the hair in the winter when hauling in water for a bath, and then shivering in a lukewarm tub of water in a cold room seemed unappealing. She didn't say, but I'd imagine they would use "lice combs" to comb out the cornmeal residue since a regular comb wouldn't be fine enough.

I imagine that the "sand baths" WhyNot mentioned would be much the same way. I doubt highly that you would vigorously scrub the skin, but sort of rub the sand gently over the surface to absorb oils. (On the plus side it would do a hell of an exfoiliating job!) I also doubt that the sand would be rubbed into, ahem . . . sensitive areas.



* You can also use this method on oily spots on clothing which can't be washed. Many of the clothing items in earlier times couldn't be laundered. (What would be washed is the linens you wore next to the skin.) You would rub the spots with cornmeal or powdered bran.

jester21
11-10-2004, 01:36 AM
but peeps keep implying otherwise

Not bathing does NOT cause Lice. Bathing does NOT cure lice.

The only requirement for lice is hair. Bathed or not.

jester21
11-10-2004, 01:38 AM
and bathing will not prevent infestation of either.

ZombiesAteMyBrain
11-10-2004, 08:29 PM
What would happen to me if I stopped bathing? (This one is purely hypothetical-- I value cleanliness very highly, I'm just curious!) Within a week, I suppose I would reek pretty badly.

Back in the olden days [well, the 60s anyway] when I was at boarding school, we were only allowed one lukewarm bath a week - and the girls were only allowed to wash their hair once a fortnight. Although it was a church school, they obviously hadn't heard the saying that 'cleanliness is next to godliness'.