The Art of The Bath

Quote from Sylvia Plath about taking a good bathI am a champion bather.

The only things that I do better than drawing and enjoying a relaxing tub of water are selecting delicious recipes and weeding the yard. If these things were Olympic sports, I’d have gold medals and dominate the world. Sadly, those games don’t yet exist, so my talents remain hidden in obscurity.

I believe that a bath is both preventative and restorative (and there’s science to back me up). Our kids have rolled their eyes a million times at my motherly instructions to “take a warm bath with Epsom salts” when they are under the weather. Hard workouts? That would be a post-event ice bath. There have been many times when my hubby has peeked into the bathroom to make sure I haven’t fallen asleep in my watery cocoon.

On vacation? I always look to see if there is a suitable tub. I’ve even been known to pack essentials — Epsom salts, bath oils, soaking liquids. The hotel ice bucket will serve just fine for transporting cubes for a post-race recovery soak.

One of my fondest hotel bathing memories actually started out as a nightmare. I’d gone to Nacogdoches to visit my daughter who was in school (Ax ’em Jacks!) and developed what I thought was a sinus infection. Though it was evening, I was so miserable that I found the closest Doc-In-A-Box (you can read more about that adventure in “Miracle of Modern Medicine”).Bottle of Johnson's Baby Soothing Vapor Bath

When I went by the drugstore to pick up my medicine, I grabbed some soothingly scented bath oil — the kind for fussy babies with colds. Back at the Fredonia, I filled the tub and soaked with a warm washcloth over my face. Aaaaah. Afterward, the sheets had never felt softer and I’d never slept sounder. The next morning, I was a new woman.

In fact, I feel like a new woman most times after taking a bath. I heartily recommend a bath for whatever ails you (or doesn’t) and here are some of my best tips for a championship soak.

Preparing a World-Class Bath

Can of cleaning wipes from JR Watkins
These cleaning wipes with aloe and green tea require no rinsing and are biodegradable.

Cleanliness is next to godliness. Make sure the bathtub is acceptable before immersing your body in its standing water. A quick fix is to simply pass over the tub with wipes and rinse before climbing in.

Clear out clutter. The room should be free of hanging laundry, dirty towels, and any other out-of-place items. Tidy up a bit. You can’t find Zen when a bunch of crap is crowding into your line of vision.

Think “spa.” Light some candles. If you can dim the lights, do it. Have clean, fluffy towels at hand. Make sure there’s a washcloth or two for inside the tub as well as an extra towel for behind your head or back, if you want cushioning. If you like music, go for it. Close the door for several reasons: privacy, quiet, and to trap any scents and warmth in the room.

Bottle of Kneipp Pure Bliss Instant Plaisir in Red PoppyDon’t neglect the other senses. The water should feel and smell lovely. This isn’t an exercise in hygiene, it’s about relaxation, restoration, and rejuvenation; oils and salts go into warm baths, not harsh soaps. Another nice sensory bit is running a loofah over the skin, combining invigoration with exfoliation. I recently purchased these colored bath oils, and I’m interested to see how that added visual element effects my next bathing experience. And during an ice bath, I bring a tasty mug of toasty tea in with me to warm my insides (aaaah).

Line up supplies (and any help) in advance. Epsom salts are cheap and are carried in most groceries and drug stores. For a little bit extra, you can find Epsom salt with eucalyptus or add some rosemary sprigs from the yard. Oils come in all varieties of essences and scents. If you’re taking an ice bath, you’ll need just enough ice to cover your legs — a surprising amount more than you might think. A good trick is to run a small amount of cold water in, get in the tub (I wear running shorts and a top), and have a good friend or family member dump the ice on top of your legs. Have wee ones at home who need care? Make sure you’ve arranged for uninterrupted soaking time.

Floating bathtub thermometer and alarm
This floating bath thermometer from Lifemax Ltd. also has an alarm.

Be safe. Clear anything electrical (hairdryers, radios) away from the tub. Don’t leave running water unattended, and fill the tub before getting in. Make sure the water isn’t too hot by testing with your elbow, not your hand. Enjoy warm — not scalding — baths for about 15 minutes, and take care you don’t fall asleep. Ice baths, where water may be a frigid 54 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, should last less approximately 6–8 minutes, 10 at most.


If you’ve enjoyed these bathing tips, you’ll love reading about this entertaining experience at a Korean spa from The Outside Lane: “When I Was A Happy Manatee”


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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

One thought on “The Art of The Bath

  1. This is right up my alley! I love to put 3/4s cup of sea salt, 3/4s cup of baking powder, and an obscene amount of whichever essential oil I feel like using in the tub and hunkering down with a good book.

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