Soap Through the Dark Ages

Contrary to popular belief, people during the Medieval Times did promote the idea of having strong personal hygiene and soap was a vital component to achieve it. This article will chart the ups and downs of soap’s role in the daily life at the time.

It’s not only the modern man with his professional cleaning services that had a fascination with the extermination of germs. Bathing was far from a foreign concept for the medieval man. There is a lot of evidence that the public bath as an institution flourished during the early Dark Ages. They were called stews and had wooden tubs, where patrons washed with bars of soap. Of course, upper class members of society enjoyed bathing from their private baths.

While the fall of the Roman Empire stinted soap’s development as well the development of a major number of the cultures on the old continent, soap making underwent a gradual revival starting from the eight century, where Italy and Spain formed the first soap making guilds. Six centuries later sees both France and England as soap manufacturers. At the time, soap is split in two categories. One is the Southern soap, made from olive oils, which achieved a fantastic clean every time. The second is Northern soap, which was made out of necessity from animal and fish fats. Northern soap had only limited usefulness as a cleaning material, but not suitable for bathing or washing. This difference in quality resulted in the lively trade in soap.

Sadly, during the years of the Plague, a common theory dictated that bathing aided the spread of the disease, which caused a drop in bathing’s popularity. Public baths closed doors and people chose to mask their body odour with heavy scents. This, while limiting soap’s use, didn’t impair its use as it remained a valuable tool for laundry and cleaning as evidenced by the settlers’ of the New World efforts to secure it.

To summarize, although at the end of the Dark Ages, bathing had fallen out of fashion and soap ceased to be a popular cosmetic choice, there is plenty of proof that the average person at the time valued maintaining one’s home clean.


November 2, 2011 | Author: | Posted in Cleaning

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