Keeping Clean

How clean were the Egyptians?

The Egyptians were the cleanest of all the ancient peoples. They liked to wash several times a day. After a long day's work in the fields, they would go to the river or the nearby canal and wash. Of course there was always the danger of crocodiles!

 Priests had their own special pool to bathe in to purify themselves for the gods (see below).

a lady receiving a bath from her servants

What did they wash with?

If they did not wash in the river, a basin and a spouted jug would be used. In this case, the Egyptians used a substance called natron to purify the water. Natron is a mix of sodium carbonate (limestone) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) which is found naturally. A bag of it is shown above. It could be mixed with oils to make a kind of soap. Natron was also used for drying out mummies, and sometimes as toothpaste and mouthwash.

the sacred pool at Karnak temple


After washing Egyptians would rub scented oils on their skin and hair. This helped to stop their skin drying and cracking in the fierce Egyptian sun.


Egyptians liked to smell nice; so as well as perfumes they used various oils and substances to prevent body odour. These were used in the armpit and groin, much like today. Herbs and the like could be used for bad breath. The best known were 'kyphi' pastilles, made of crushed fenugreek seeds mixed with incense, myrrh, juniper berries, resin, raisins, and honey.