How did people wipe on chamber pots?

So I was watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice and wondered - okay, I get that in the outhouse when my dad was a kid there were some Sears Roebuck catalogs and a bin of corn cobs. But when you kept a pot under your bed, how did you, you know, go about your business? In the Indian fashion, with a pitcher of water? Surely you didn’t use toilet paper, right?

Maybe one used the contents of the accompanying jug in some fashion (assuming said contents were not pee).

I thought chamberpots were only used for number 1. To do number 2 one had to got out to the privy or bushs.

In sub-zero weather in the middle of the night I have a feeling chamber pots may have been used for #2 at times even if only intended for #1

After which, what? One was forced to remain stank-ass until such time as decent people saw fit to bathe?

I was on a historical tour of Antwerp, the guide said ‘back in the day’ there they used mussel shells :eek: .

Think about it, when’s the last time you got up in the middle of the night to take a dump? Not saying it never happened, but chamber pots were primarily for urination, and if an emergency required then you’d use TP, or whatever else was customary.
I was 12 years old before we moved into a house w/ indoor plumbing. Going to the outhouse may seem strange today, but if that’s what you live w/ it just seems natural.

No kidding - if it’s snowing outside and I’m six floors up, I’m pooping in the pot. Sorry, bedmates. (This is a situation where the classic genre of SDMB rants, the “How dare you make noises and smells in the public restroom”, would really come into play.) And even with just urine, was there no expectation of women wiping at all? I would think the acidic qualities of urine might be a problem.

Just to clarify, chamber pots had lids.

Not while you were on 'em, they didn’t! God, can you imagine? Bad enough when Himself gets up in the middle of the night to pee and causes all this noise and moves the covers and all - imagine if he were doing it in a pot that he dragged out from under the bed! Although I guess in some ways it would be quieter.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe residents of the chamber pot years had a slightly higher tolerance for urine and feces than modern-day people do. Considering the open sewers and larger number of draft animals and that pisspots were sometimes put into the corners of dining rooms and parlors for the convenience of men, I’d assume that even delicate members of society would be exposed to waste products more often than we are today.

As the saying goes, shit happens, and I can’t imagine members of society constantly throwing the tizzies some people have today over the slightest trace of urine. Either you get over it or you invent some way of carrying it away.

People were also advised to bathe the dirty areas of the body morning and night, meaning the face, hands, feet, underarms, and groin. It wasn’t the full immersion bath or shower we’re accustomed to today, but they didn’t walk around for an entire week miring in their own juices.

That all said, if we don’t know exactly what women did for their periods, it might prove difficult to nail down a concrete answer as to what they wiped with for midnight calls of nature. Unless they happened to have, you know, a goose lying around.

How are you supposed to use a chamber pot, anyway? Hover over it, Indian style, or fully sit on it?

The following picture is probably SFW, but just in case:

Go to this page and scroll down to #95, click on “Enlarge Picture” and observe the scene. Is this poetic license on the part of the artist, or is this how it was done?

I don’t know, but that’s a ridiculously charming picture, I think. Does that make me sick in the head? I think it’s really sweet.

Why are people assuming that there was no toilet paper?

Why would anyone poop in a chamber pot? Sure people may have been used to hardier living back then, but nobody wants to sleep in a room that has shit sitting around in it. That would be unbearable. Imagine going to a hotel and grabbing the ice bucket off of the counter and beaming down a shatner into that, and then what? Sticking it under the bed? Sure, it has a lid and all that extra stuff but I’d be willing to bet that you wouldn’t dig the smell and neither would people back in the day. Chamber pots would have been for urine only, nobody is sleeping with a turd.

I don’t know why the answer to this question isn’t just that they used a cloth. If you have to wash out a chamber pot why would it be such a horror to wash out a cloth while you’re at it?

Of course theres always the obvious, if your gonna get up and drop a load in the chamber pot at 4 a.m. it wouldn’t be real difficult to walk to the nearest window and just dump it out, i suppose though if you were on the highest level of a multi story building you could end up with some VERY disgruntled neighbors. But like Grampa used to say “Shit only rolls down hill and such is life.”


As I said - sub-zero weather, dark night, have to crap NOW!!! Never intended to imply that it was routine, just that it happened. Also, the elderly or an invalid might have used one in such a manner for the same reason hospitals still have bedpans

Right - in an era when horse, dog, and various other forms of dung built up daily in the streets? Cities used to STINK on a level I don’t think the average person today can really understand.

Yes, it has a lid. In the era prior to central heating it probably chilled down rapidly in winter which would mitigate some of the smell. Anyhow, why do you think things like potpourri were invented? To help cover objectionable smells.

The description of the smell of the city in the beginning of Süskind’s Perfume might help:

Emphasis added.