Medieval Life

Bathing during the Middle Ages

Medieval society may have liked to bathe more than one might expect, however, this was not always an easy process. Medieval castle residents used wooden tubs with water heated from the fire in the great hall. In good weather, the tub might be placed out in the garden. Lords often employed a person whose sole responsibility was preparing baths for the family. This person would often travel with the family.

Hot baths were very popular and most towns, as late as the mid-1200s had public bathhouses. Wood fires heated the water, but this posed two problems. First, out of control fires could consume several blocks of buildings. And as the forests were depleted, firewood became expensive and the rising costs of heating the water forced most of the bathhouses to close. Some tried burning coal to heat water, but the fumes proved to be unhealthy.

By the mid-1300s, only the very wealthy could afford firewood for hot water in the winter. The rest of the population was forced to be dirty most of the time. Barrels were often used as baths, with entire families sharing the same water.

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