20. Books appeared discussing hygiene during the late 18th century
Americans of the Revolutionary Era had available to them several books discussing the need to prevent the spread of vermin. One, aptly titled The Complete Vermin Killer, received periodic updates, with the new editions presenting improved methods of extermination and infestation prevention. Bedbugs presented a problem, and in the down filled mattresses favored by the well-to-do nearly impossible to eradicate. The Complete Vermin Killer recommended the use of straw mattresses, easily and cheaply discarded should they become infested. For those who insisted on the more expensive and luxurious down mattresses, it offered methods of extermination and prevention.
Gunpowder, spread over the bedstead and ignited, with the smoke retained through sealing the room, killed bedbugs and other vermin, according to the unknown writer. A solution of boiled vinegar and glue offered a less incendiary preventative. For head lice, a concoction of butter and pepper, boiled together and allowed to cool before applying and retaining overnight, covered with a nightcap, offered a cure. Boiled mustard seed liberally sprinkled around the rooms of a house deterred fleas from settling in, “deemed an infallible remedy, in ancient times”. Crushed pepper, pounded into the clothes, was said to be a deterrent to moths, saving the clothes from damage. Undoubtedly it added yet another aroma to the prevailing scent of the wearer.