What is a sitz bath?
A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath that cleanses the perineum, which is the space between
the rectum and the vulva or scrotum. A sitz bath can be used for everyday
personal hygiene. It can also provide relief from pain or itching in the
You can give yourself a sitz bath in your bathtub or with a
plastic kit that fits over your toilet. This kit is a round, shallow basin that
often comes with a plastic bag that has long tubing on the end. This bag can be
filled with warm water and used to safely fill the bath via the tubing. The basin
is slightly larger in size than a standard toilet bowl so it can be easily and
securely placed underneath the toilet seat to allow you to remain seated while
taking a sitz bath. The kit is available in most big-box stores and pharmacies.
When is a sitz bath used?
A sitz bath doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription. Some people
use sitz baths regularly as a way to cleanse the perineum. In addition to its
use in cleansing, the sitz bath’s warm water increases blood flow to the
perineal area. This can promote faster healing. A sitz bath also relieves
itching, irritation, and minor pain.
Common reasons why you might want to consider using a sitz bath
- You recently had surgery on the vulva or vagina.
- You’ve recently given birth.
- You recently had hemorrhoids surgically removed.
- You have discomfort from hemorrhoids.
- You have discomfort with bowel movements.
Both children and adults can use sitz baths. Parents should
always supervise their children during a sitz bath.
Doctors sometimes prescribe medications or other additives to put
in a sitz bath. An example is povidone-iodine, which has antibacterial
properties. Adding table salt, vinegar, or baking soda to the water can create
a soothing solution. You also may take a sitz bath using only warm water.
How to take a sitz bath in the bathtub
If you’re taking a sitz bath in the bathtub, the first step is to
clean the tub. Mix 2 tablespoons of bleach with one-half gallon of water. Scrub
the bathtub and rinse thoroughly.
Next, fill the tub with 3 to 4 inches of water. The water should
be warm, but not hot enough to cause burns or discomfort. You can test the
temperature of the water by placing a drop or two on your wrist. When you have
found a comfortable temperature, add any substances your doctor recommended for
Now, step into the tub and soak your perineum for 15 to 20
minutes. Bend your knees or, if possible, dangle your legs over the sides of
the tub to keep them out of the water altogether.
When you get out of the bathtub, gently pat yourself dry with a
clean cotton towel. Don’t rub or scrub the perineum, as this may cause pain and
Finish by rinsing the bathtub thoroughly.
How to take a sitz bath using a kit
A plastic sitz bath kit fits over the toilet. Rinse the bath with
clean water before using it. Then, add very warm (but not hot) water along with
any medications or solutions recommended by your doctor.
Place the sitz bath into the open toilet. Test it by trying to
move it side-to-side to ensure it will stay in place and won’t shift. You can
pour warm water in before you sit down, or you can use the plastic bag and
tubing to fill the tub with water after you’ve sat down. The water should be
deep enough so that it covers your perineum. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
If you used the plastic bag, you can add warm water as the
original water cools. Most sitz baths have a vent that prevents water from
overflowing. The water conveniently overflows into the toilet and can be flushed.
When you’re finished, stand up and pat the area dry with a clean
cotton towel. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing the area when you do this.
Get the sitz bath ready for its next use by cleaning it
thoroughly. Many kits come with cleaning instructions and solutions. If your
kit doesn’t come with cleaning instructions and a solution, you can clean your
sitz bath by scrubbing it with 2 tablespoons of bleach mixed with one-half gallon
of hot water. Once you have scrubbed your bath, rinse it thoroughly. Although
there are no guidelines for when to replace your sitz bath, always check it for
signs of cracking or weakened areas before and after use.
Risk factors and aftercare
A sitz bath carries very little risk of harm because it’s a noninvasive
treatment. The most common adverse event associated with sitz baths is
infection of the perineum, but this rarely occurs. This may happen if you are
caring for a surgical wound and don’t clean the tub or plastic bath thoroughly.
Stop taking sitz baths and contact your doctor if pain or itching
worsens or if your perineum becomes red and puffy.
If sitz baths bring you relief, your doctor will probably recommend
taking three or four per day until the source of the itching, irritation, or
pain is healed.
After you’ve had a sitz bath, you may immediately return to
normal activities unless your doctor has told you otherwise.