An Experimental Sponge Bath

Quite a while ago I wrote and posted How Do I Adult: Showering. Some people responded with comments about difficulty in the actual sensation of water hitting them through the shower head. There can be possible solutions to this just by changing the way the water flows through the shower head, but recently I thought it might be worth looking into how sponge baths work.

There seems to be a general assumption out there that sponge baths are either for people who are bedridden or for people who do not have running water, and all of the instructions I could find out there are specifically directed for those groups. I took the information and modified it a bit, since I can move around and do have running water, and did an experiment. Here’s how it went!

The initial set-up wound up being more about what worked best in my bathroom rather than about any limitations my body had. I took a large aluminum mixing bowl, plopped a spoonful of baking soda in it, filled it with hot water, and placed it in the bathroom sink. I put a towel on the floor to stand on in order to catch most of my drips. Then I grabbed a washcloth, dunked it in the bowl to get it wet, and got to scrubbing.

Basically, I would get the washcloth wet, scrub a part of my body, and then re-dunk the wash cloth. This actually was a very quick process and only took a few minutes to scrub my whole body. After that I put the washcloth aside and leaned forward to dunk my head in the water in order to wash my hair. I got my hair nice and wet and combed it to get the baking soda through it.

Next up I dumped the used water down the shower drain and set the bowl aside. I got the water running in the sink again and stuck my head under it to rinse my hair. I also decided that I wanted to soap up the parts of my body that are most prone to being sweaty or smelly – namely, my armpits and my genitals. So I grabbed some soap and quickly soaped up those spots. Then I used my wet washcloth to wipe the soap bath off, wiping and rinsing the washcloth in running water in the sink.

I have read that it is not necessary to rinse after a baking soda bath, but I decided to rinse myself anyway. Keeping the water running in the sink I rinsed out the washcloth I had used, and then lightly rubbed myself down with it much the same way I did to wash myself. I got it nice and wet with the water, wiped down a part of my body, and repeated until I was done.

Now all the was left was final clean up! I dried off with a towel the same way I would after a regular shower. I used the towel on the floor to wipe up any water splatter on the floor, and I rinsed out the bowl I had used for the baking soda bath. Finally, I hung up the towels used and put everything away.


I did things the way that I did mostly because my tub/shower gets cranky when the water is switched from the shower head to the faucet. Another way to do this would be to get into your tub like usual and sit down – either right in the tub or on a shower stool. You could also skip the baking soda entirely and just scrub with water, though you’d probably still want to use soap on armpits and genitals. Yet another option would be to go ahead and soap up entirely. Since you would still have access to running water, you could use a cup to catch water from the faucet and pour it over yourself to rinse. Hopefully that would still allow for a thorough cleaning while avoiding potential sensory difficulties from the shower head.

I imagine there are any number of variations that are possible that I haven’t thought of at all, that could accommodate different people’s needs or bathroom arrangements.

Final Thoughts

Overall I am happy with this experiment. Both my skin and hair feel lovely and soft, and I still felt refreshed and clean once I was done. I am not always very good at showering quickly and especially have difficulty getting water a temperature that I am happy stepping into. This was much faster and water temperature had a lot more flexibility to it since I did not have to stick my whole body into it. Also, it is currently hot and sticky out, and my bathroom is not temperature controlled. Being able to just stand there wet, without anything hot (or even warm) beating against me was quite nice.

The bad part: I still got itchy! So itchy! There are a number of possible explanations I can see for this:

  1. I am prone to itchiness when it is hot and sticky anyway, particularly after a shower. It’s possible that my itchies were just typical post-bathing, hot-weather itches.
  2. I used a harsher washcloth than I usually do. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I did that. Probably something to do with thinking I should “scrub.” That probably made my skin unhappy. In the future, I will stick with my nice, soft, friendly washcloths.
  3. It’s possible I should have rinsed the baking soda better than I did. I am least convinced of those one as the part I rinsed the least (my back) is also a part that is not itchy. However, I may see if I can get my recalcitrant plumbing to cooperate with me and attempt another sponge bath experiment in my tub, so I can rinse with a cup instead of a washcloth.

I currently intend to continue my experiments given how well I think this one went. If it continues to go well, I may even write up a How Do I Adult post about it all. As it is, I do believe it is an experiment I can recommend to other people as worthwhile if showers are difficult for whatever reason.

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