I am currently watching Ikoku Meiro No Croissant episode 4. In this episode, Yune tried to take a bath, but it didn't work out nicely. So in the next morning, Claudel-san said that:

Only rich people can afford that to do in Paris

Scene 1-1

Scene 1-2

Is this based on actual real life circumstances in the period? If so, how often did the French people bathe in a week during the 1800's?

  • I have no idea (and for all I know, it might have also differed by region and things like class), but I remember seeing Freud make note of the fact that his contemporaries were horrified by "the stench that emanated from the Sun King", so it couldn't have been that infrequent.
    – Maroon
    Sep 26, 2017 at 9:33
  • 2
    The Atlantic quotes a weekly statistic for Americans from around the same period, which seems reasonable, but I'm not sure if it was true of the French.
    – Maroon
    Sep 26, 2017 at 9:52
  • 1
    The huge difference is that in Japan people bath for pleasure, not for washing themselves. I can't quote on this, but I'm fairly sure in 19th century France, anyone who would bath would be to clean himself and not for pleasure. Hot water springs only exists in areas far from Paris such as the Pyrenees or the Alps, so there was no hot bath culture in Paris probably. Only rich people could afford to heat cold water I guess.
    – Bregalad
    Sep 26, 2017 at 15:54
  • 2
    In the United States, even in cities it was common not to bathe more than weekly in the early part of the 20th century, many apartments did not have their own bathrooms. Daily bathing (taking a bath or shower) was probably late 20th century in USA. No idea about France but don't know why in 19th century it would be more frequent.
    – Jeff
    Sep 26, 2017 at 17:33

3 Answers 3


This does seem to be the case. Since the story is set in Paris, we can look at some relevant info.

A reference relates fear of bathing to the plague, spoken of here:

The habit of bathing took another big hit during the 14th century when medical experts at the Sorbonne in Paris declared washing a health concern. Warm water opened pores, and so could increase a person’s risk of contracting the bubonic plague, they claimed (incorrectly). A fear of hot water and bathing persisted for the next 500 years...

Starting a little later, in the 18th century:

In the 18th century only the nobility and wealthy had bathtubs in their homes, at the Marais and Faubourg Saint-Germain, the fashionable districts of the time. Other Parisians either did not bathe at all, bathed with a bucket, or went to one of the public bath houses, which provided hot tubs of water for a fee. They were heavily taxed by the government, and only a dozen survived until the end of the century.

This article seems to infer that this attitude continued, at least into the beginnings of the 19th century:

Only at the beginning of the 19th century did the idea of taking a regular bath as a part of personal hygiene begin to take shape. It made a slow progress in the upper classes, but the common people remained blissfully dirty.

(all emphasis mine)

So we can see that bathing in general was uncommon, and more prevalent among the wealthy than the poor, agreeing the the questioners premise. It is worth noting that the association of wealth or privilege with access to bathing is not unique to this time, but dates back even to the Roman period, and was previously discussed here:

  • Re the medieval period, I have heard that bathing carried a taint because it was associated with Islam -- Muslims bathe before praying. But I don't know if this is just a folk tale.
    – user2848
    Sep 29, 2017 at 18:13

That's 100% correct. Only the very rich could afford it, and few actually did. Warm water was a real luxury back then. Common folks went to the bathhouse - once a week, and only if they could afford it.

I grew up in the 60's, we did have showers, but normally took one once a week. Except for my dad, who had a hard manual job. He took a shower every day as soon as he got back from work. I learned to swim in a (previously) bathhouse/swimming pool. I never actually bathed there, but it was possible to do so in 1970 (in The Hague, The Netherlands).

  • The problem as I understand it in New York City of the 1920s (and presumably elsewhere) was few apartments had plumbing. You might buy a tub but the water had to be heated on the stove (and so people bathed in the kitchen) and when everyone was done, gallons of water had to be disposed of. They might have had a sink with a drain in the kitchen (and I bet that same sink was where people washed their faces in the morning) but it took probably half an hour just to get rid of all the dirty water. Of course, everyone used the same water with the youngest kid bathing last.
    – Jeff
    Sep 28, 2017 at 5:04

Bathing every day is a relatively recent custom. Since showers and running hot water became available. Even in the early 20th century bathing once a week was more normal (I mean developed countries). THis is clearly seen from the literature of that time. I remember the diary of an early 20th century visitor (from Austria to US) who was very surprised that his hotel room had a private bathroom. Apparently this was very uncommon in Europe in the early 1900s.

Even in the 1970s, in countries like Soviet Union, bathing once a week was normal.

  • I think one might have found mid-20th century, pre-ww2, shared baths in USA hotels to be fairly common. I would guess that ww2 was a dividing line with a newly affluent America experiencing a building boom and many people who wanted more luxury. Even in late 20th century England not every hotel had a private bath that I stayed at. Semi-private meant shared with one stranger which I see not so superior to a completely shared bath.
    – Jeff
    Sep 26, 2017 at 21:20
  • 1
    Bathing daily is an ancient custom — Romans would bathe frequently, daily if possible: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Roman_bathing
    – Gaurav
    Sep 27, 2017 at 3:09
  • 1
    It may be ancient, but it was completely forgotten in Europe after the ancient times.
    – Alex
    Sep 27, 2017 at 13:31
  • 1
    Note in hot climates where you will transpirate more and cold water is not an issue bathing daily can be the norm from ancient times even in third world countries
    – jean
    Mar 28, 2018 at 18:34
  • No. In the USSR visiting sauna or a lying in a bathtub was normally taken MINIMALLY 1/week. And washing under a shower, or in a cold sauna with a bucket of hot water happened much more often, simply according to the need. At least in Russian and Ukrainian parts of the USSR. And, according to my own sense of smell, the Middle Asia people were clean, too. Yes, people, returning from the work in the evening, stunk often until they arrived home. Smaller organizations mostly did not have the shower.
    – Gangnus
    Mar 12, 2019 at 14:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.