Why Victorian Bathrooms Were So Dangerous


Aside from the dangerous plumbing and heating, bathrooms in Victorian England were often stocked with products laced with arsenic. For various reasons, 19th-century people in general just loved putting arsenic in everything — including soap. Arsenic produced a pleasing shade of green that was very fashionable at the time, and arsenic-based beauty products were used to whiten the skin. Although people had realized something was up with the dangerous powder by the 1860s, arsenic wasn’t regulated in Britain until 1903.

Some products even came with doctor-approved safety guarantees. According to the Wellcome Collection, Dr. McKenzie’s arsenic soap was advertised as containing an “absolutely harmless” dose of arsenic to foster healthy skin, a claim that is particularly amusing/terrifying given that arsenic poisoning can cause grotesque skin lesions, as well as death. Unfortunately, the dangers of Victorian bathrooms didn’t end there.

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