Wait, Are Baths Kind of...Gross? (2023)

If your mind sometimes gets wrapped up in a shower vs. bath debate, I can't blame you. There’s no denying that taking a bath is relaxing. Soaking in warm water, reading a book, maybe even sipping a glass of wine—it’s so simple yet feels so luxurious. Except there’s one thing that always keeps me from fully relaxing in the tub: I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I’m just sitting in a soup of my own sweat.

I’ve always wondered if I should be showering before I climb in to make sure all the grime of the day washes down the drain first. Is taking a bath even getting me clean? Or is sitting in the tub just kind of gross?


If these questions also plague your otherwise soothing bath time, read on to learn what the experts have to say.


Whatever's on your skin when you bathe can, naturally, wind up in the water.

That doesn't automatically mean anything bad, though.

This may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the cold hard truth: There are tons of microorganisms that live on our skin. Just like the gut has a microbiome, so does the skin. “There are bacteria on every surface of your body, and you’ll never eradicate them by taking a shower or bath,” Philip Tierno, Ph.D., a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. “When you slough off dead skin in a bath or shower, the cells contain many microorganisms that are on your skin.” Beyond bacteria, these microorganisms can also include things like fungi.

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So, yes, that means you’re essentially sitting in water filled with the normal flora that lives on your body already when you take a bath. The idea of it might make you squirm, but the reality is that it isn’t going to cause any health problems like a skin infection. “I wouldn't be worried, from a microbiological standpoint, about getting infected,” Dr. Tierno says.

The exception? If you have any open wounds or cuts, then there’s a chance some bugs that live on the outside of your body can get inside your body and cause infection. But unless you have breaks in the skin, it’s not likely you'll pick up something from your own body, Dr. Tierno says. Your skin generally does a damn good job of keeping microbes out, where they belong.

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Baths can be irritating for people with sensitive skin.

Sitting in a bathtub may cause some issues for people with sensitive skin and conditions like eczema, says Teo Soleymani, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at UCLA Health. Sitting in stagnant water doesn’t allow oils and microorganisms on the skin to be rinsed off as well as a shower with running water, and for some people, this can perpetuate itchy rashes or acne, he says. Even the salts that end up on our skin’s surface after a good sweaty workout can be irritating for some people.

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Are baths dirtier than showers? ›

First, let's address the obvious: Showers are cleaner than baths. If your priority is finding a way to thoroughly cleanse your entire body, a shower is the way to go. Showers evenly distribute water over your body and whisk contaminated water out of sight.

Is bath water Gross? ›

No matter how soothing a soak can be, you're actually just gross and unhygienic, the naysayers argue. Well, they're not entirely wrong. "Baths are full of bacteria," says Debra Jaliman, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Is not showering everyday Gross? ›

While there is no ideal frequency, experts suggest that showering several times per week is plenty for most people (unless you are grimy, sweaty, or have other reasons to shower more often).

How often should a woman take a bath? ›

If you stick with daily showers, limit them to five minutes with warm water, not hot. This is likely fine for most people. However, bathing 2-3 times per week is also likely just as healthy and good for the environment too.

Does a bath really clean you? ›

"Remember that bathing is good for cleanliness but could be bad for skin integrity," says Tetro. "We need a balance of oils and bacteria and long baths could potentially remove these leaving our skin dry and potentially at risk for colonization with potential pathogens."

Is it better for a woman to shower or bathe? ›

All in all, a shower is actually better for your skin due to the fact that showers expose the body to less water than a bath. Whether it's a bath or a long shower, exposing your skin to too much water can strip it of its natural oils.

Is a bath sitting in your own filth? ›

6. "But you're sitting in your own filth." Actually, you're not. Dirt tends to settle away from skin and people aren't actually *that* dirty so the amount of dirt in your bath is very minuscule. And by soaking, you're actually getting all of your dead skin cells off of you.

What cultures don t shower? ›

The Himba people live in one of the most extreme environments on earth with the harsh desert climate and the unavailability of potable water. However, their lack of bathing has not resulted into lack of personal hygiene.

How often should the elderly bathe? ›

At a minimum, bathing once or twice a week helps most seniors avoid skin breakdown and infections. Using warm washcloths to wipe armpits, groin, genitals, feet, and any skin folds also helps minimize body odor in between full baths.

What happens if you don't bathe for a year? ›

After a year, he said, you'd have a build-up of skin stratum corneum, or dead skin on top of your skin. It includes a build-up of a protein our skin produces that has a funky odor to it. Bacteria also would accumulate on the skin, giving off a nasty smell when it mixes with our sweat.

What happens if you don t bathe? ›

Poor hygiene or infrequent showers can cause a buildup of dead skin cells, dirt, and sweat on your skin. This can trigger acne, and possibly exacerbate conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema. Showering too little can also trigger an imbalance of good and bad bacteria on your skin.

What is the best thing to wash your body with? ›

If you don't have any specific skin concerns, then you really just need water and your favorite soap or body wash. “Water is excellent at washing off sweat and dust and the normal lint that we pick up around us every day, [while] soap is really good at pulling oils out of the skin,” Dr. Greiling says.

How do you properly bathe a woman? ›

Do a quick rinse to wet your skin before applying any soap. Using a loofah, washcloth, or just your hands, apply bar soap or bodywash to your body. Start at your neck and shoulders, and work your way down the length of your body. Don't forget to wash your legs and get between your toes with soap and water.

Are you 100% clean after a shower? ›

Aren't our bodies clean after showering? It turns out, people aren't as clean as they feel after showering. Sure, soap and hot water go a long way. They scrub the body of a lot of dirt and germs.

How long should you stay in a bath? ›

On the whole, a bath should last no longer than 30 minutes on the high end. The normal average is anywhere between 15-30 minutes, with prolonged exposure causing severe dry skin which leads to agitation, irritation and promotes bacteria growth, which carries a multitude of health risks.

How wasteful is taking a bath? ›

Generally, taking a shower uses less water than a full bath. A standard showerhead flows at a rate of 2.5 gallons per minute . This means that a ten-minute shower only uses 25 gallons of water. A full bath can use up to 50 gallons of water .

How often should my wife shower? ›

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Many doctors say a daily shower is fine for most people. (More than that could start to cause skin problems.) But for many people, two to three times a week is enough and may be even better to maintain good health.

What does a vinegar bath do for females? ›

It has powerful antimicrobial properties that may help ease skin infections and soothe irritation. As a mild acid, ACV may also help restore the natural pH balance of your skin. This helps your skin keep moisture in and irritants out.

Should you shower after a bath? ›

If you're adding oils into the bathwater, you may want to shower afterwards to rinse the skin. Likewise if you've been exercising and are hot and sweaty or wear a lot of make-up a shower is likely to be more hygienic because you will be rinsing the sweat, dirt and makeup away rather than sitting in it," he says.

Is water from the bath drinkable? ›

Bathroom tap water supply

While this water is acceptable to use and generally safe to drink, it can lead to some issues such as bacteria build-up. Other contaminants can sometimes also be found in this tank.

Is there bacteria in bath water? ›

Bathing waters may contain microorganisms (blue-green algae and other bacteria, viruses, parasites) or other pollutants. People can also contaminate bathing waters with their secretions, urine, feces or products such as sunscreen.


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