Mind & Body

Do Baths Actually Get You Clean?

What's a better way to relax than a soothing bubble bath at the end of a long day? It doesn't matter whether you're six or 60 — bathtime is one of the most relaxing times out there. But baths aren't just for relaxation. If you take baths to clean yourself, are you really, well, getting clean?

Let's Get Down and Dirty

The short answer: it depends on how clean your tub is. The average bathtub may contain 100 times more bacteria than a trash can, according to a study from the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons College in Boston. Of course, this isn't even including the bacteria and germs your body brings into the tub. If you aren't cleaning out your bathtub or rinsing yourself in the shower after you bathe, your bath is basically covering yourself in your own filth (yuck!). This is why experts recommend disinfecting showers and bathtubs twice a week to get rid of the germs and dead skin cells left over from the last time you bathed.

Luckily, you can take a relaxing bath without getting dirtier in the process. Here are some quick fixes that will make sure your bathing experience is both relaxing and clean.

  1. Before you hop in that tub, wash it out first so that you don't end up stewing in leftover grime. Wipe down bathtubs, shower doors, tile, and floors with a product approved to kill mold.
  2. Shower off before and after. (They say to rinse yourself before jumping into the pool, after all, and the bathtub is no different.) The pre-rinse will prevent dirt from getting in the water; the post-rinse will remove any residual soap or contaminants left on your skin.
  3. Rinse your hair with cups of clean water or the shower head when shampooing and conditioning instead of dipping your hair into the dirty water your body is soaking in.
  4. Keep the shower curtain from dangling into your bath — it could contaminate the water with bacteria.

A dirty bathtub can also lead to skin irritation and yeast infections. Keeping the bath clean is especially important for children, as they have more sensitive skin than adults.

Bathtime Benefits

Bathing may not be the best way to clean yourself off, but the other health benefits it has should not be underestimated. Immersing yourself in a tub of warm or hot water is, obviously, extremely relaxing. Research shows that a warm bath can reduce mental and emotional stress and even make you feel less lonely. A warm bath can also reduce muscle tension and increase circulation after a workout, and has even been shown to improve sports performance.

Soaking your body can also benefit your skin, as long as you keep the water temperature moderate and avoid shampoos and bubble baths that can dry it out. "You can add ingredients into the bathwater to help treat the skin, which doesn't work in the shower," dermatologist Doris Day, M.D. told Refinery29. "If you have aches and pains, you can add epsom salt. If you have eczema, dry, irritated skin, or a sunburn, you can add oatmeal, whole milk, and honey."

There are many positive benefits to taking a bath, even if getting clean isn't always one of them. Take a bath to relax, reduce muscle tension, and condition your skin instead of to clean your body. If you do want to get clean, just take a shower after. Your skin will thank you later.

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If you're now suddenly interested in the science of keeping your clean skin, check out "The Beauty of Dirty Skin: The Surprising Science of Looking and Feeling Radiant from the Inside Out" by Whitney Bowe. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Annie Hartman June 20, 2018

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