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History of Hygiene
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Home Hygiene


Early pest control. The Ebers Papyrus (1600 BC) recommended that Egyptians sprinkle their house with “natron water” – a solution of a naturally occurring sodium salts – to get rid of fleas.

Other early practices included:

  • Killing fleas by sprinkling oil dregs on surfaces and killing moths using a sheep's stomach! (5th C)
  • Killing fleas and lice by spreading horsemint around the house and rue juice on the body. Flying insects were driven away by burning “fleabane” (15th C)

1200 BC: Early “dishwashing”. Everyday cooking utensils in Ancient Israel were cleaned by rubbing with sand, and finer cooking utensils were cleaned with oil, plant juices and active clays. Plates were stored face-down to protect from dust and dirt.

Early housecleaning. Houses were swept with improvised brooms, such as bundles of twigs or a handy bush. Rugs were taken outside and pounded with a “rug beater". Everything was done by hand.

Lightbulb  Technological Developments

1850: The first dishwasher! It was wooden with a hand-turned wheel to splash water on dishes. 1886: The first useful dishwasher was invented by Josephine Cochrane, with wire compartments designed to fit crockery and a motorised wheel to squirt hot soapy water on the dishes. 1920s: Dishwashers with permanent plumbing were installed. 1937: The first dishwasher small enough for the home was invented.

1811: The first carpet sweeper was invented by James Hume (England), but it didn’t work very well. In 1876 the first efficient carpet sweeper was patented by Melville Bissell (USA).

1860: The first “vacuum cleaner”. A vacuum sweeper with a rotating brush coupled to a suction device was patented in the USA by Daniel Hess. However it is unclear if this design was ever made. 1869: The first commercially produced vacuum cleaner, the Whirlwind, was operated by a hand-crank. 1901: The electric vacuum was invented in England and transported from place to place in a horse-drawn cart! Vacuuming was an event! 1908: A more portable version of the vacuum was patented in the USA. Subsequent innovations included disposable bags (1920), the upright vacuum (1950), the cordless vacuum (1979) and ‘Roomba’ the robot vacuum cleaner! (2002)


useful stuff...

How Australian pandemics have changed! The 1919 Spanish Flu pandemic caused over 10,000 deaths in Australia,14 whereas the 2009-10 H1N1 pandemic ("Swine Flu") caused 191 deaths.15 English knights were required to bathe at least once in their lives - during the ritual of their knighthood ceremony. Because of this tradition, during the reign of King Henry IV there originated an order called "Knights of the Bath".16 The term "shampoo" came from Indian language and originally meant "massage".17 English society ladies held vacuuming parties after invention of the horse-drawn electric vacuum in 1901.18
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