Personal hygiene

Persoonlijke verzorging in de collectie van het Nederlands Openluchtmuseum


Personal hygiene

From the seventeenth century onwards houses had latrines or toilets in their inner courtyard or back yard so the occupants did not have to put up with any bad smells. At night time and in winter you had the option of reaching for a chamber pot.


From the middle of the nineteenth century posters, brochures and handbooks made everyone aware of the link between good health and personal hygiene. At that time bathing and washing were by no means part and parcel of everyday life. You also would not have had your own towel, flannel or toothbrush. Only the very wealthiest enjoyed the convenience of a bath, running water and a water heater or boiler. Ordinary people would wash at the pump or use a pitcher and wash bowl set.


In around 1950 good personal hygiene meant washing your face and hands daily and the rest of your body at least once a week. Deodorants were starting to become available, but they were not yet strongly scented. It was not until the twentieth century that showering became more common. From 1965 all new homes had to be equipped with a bathroom or shower, while shower cubicles were added to older houses during renovation work. It was 1970 before the vast majority of homes were connected to the sewerage system.


With the emergence of the clothing industry, which really took off after the Second World War, underwear became affordable for all. Old objects in the Holland Open Air Museum’s collection reveal what people had at their disposal to attend to their personal hygiene.