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The Bath-in-Bed Method

bath-in bed

A Comforting Bath-in-Bed Method

There may be times when it is more comfortable or even necessary to bathe someone who is in bed. This does not have to be a messy experience and one more thing for the caregiver to clean up after, nor does it have to be an unpleasant inconvenience for the bed-bound patient.

Here is a method called the “Towel bath-in-bed Method.”

First, adjust the temperature in the patient’s room so that it is comfortable. Adjust the bed height, if possible, so that you the caregiver can reach the patient without bending or reaching too far.

Then, gather the following items:

  • Plastic gloves to fit the caregiver.
  • Plastic cover for the bed.
  • Two or more large blankets or towels that can fit under the person.
  • One large plastic bag, like a standard kitchen trash bag.

Inside this bag place: one large towel; one standard-size bath towel, and three or more washcloths. An additional large towel, warmed in the clothes dryer, which will be used for drying at the end.

To wash the patient you will need:

2-to-3-quart plastic pitcher filled with water (approximately 105 degrees F to 110 degreesF), to which you add 1 to 1.5 ounces of no-rinse soap, such as Septi-Soft, manufactured by Calgon-Vestal (use manufacturer’s instructions for dilution)
Pour the soapy water into the plastic bag and work the solution into the towels and washcloths until they are damp but not soggy or dripping. If necessary, wring out excess solution through the open end of the bag into the sink. Twist the top of the bag closed to retain heat. Take the plastic bag containing the warm towels and washcloths to the bedside.


1. First, cover bed with protective plastic and place one large bath towel under the person to provide some warmth.
2. Assist the person in undressing, and cover up her or him with the sheet or with a large bath blanket. Start the bath at a part of the body which will cause the least alarm and discomfort.
3. Uncover the person’s feet and lower legs, and immediately cover the area with the large warm, moist towel. Then gradually uncover the person while simultaneously unfolding the wet towel to cover the person. Place the bed linens at the end of the bed. Massage gently through the damp towel. You may wish to place a bath blanket over the towel to hold in the warmth. Wash the backs of the legs by bending the person’s knee and going underneath.
4. Change washcloths and bathe the face, neck, and ears with one of the wash-cloths. You may also hand a washcloth to the person and encourage her to wash her own face.
5. Gently and slowly turn the person to one side and place the smaller warm towel from the plastic bag on the back, washing in a similar manner, while warming the front of the body with the bath blanket or warm moist towel. No rinsing or drying is required.
6. Change washcloths and wash the genital and rectal areas. Gloves should be worn when washing these areas.
7, Remove the damp towel before you wash the back or when done with towel bath, depending on the person’s wishes and tolerance.
8. A towel warmed by a clothes dryer, and placed over the patient will help dry off their back and buttocks, or their front in any damp areas. Be sure that the towel is warm, not hot.
8. Remove the bath towel under the person and the one on top. . After the bath, assist the person in dressing again.
9. Remove any bed linens that may be damp. Place used wet towels and washcloths back into the plastic bag; tie the bag, and place it in a hamper.

This bath-in bed method is used by nurses in hospitals and care facilities. You may find that your home health care bather is familiar with it too.

If you’re concerned about water and making a mess in the bedroom, you might consider using the Ez-Bathe. It it an inflatable tub (with sprayer and drain hose) that you arrange in the bed. This allows you to give a “wetter” bath without flooding the bed. You can learn all about it here.

It is simple for a caregiver to perform. It is comfortable, relaxing and effective for a patient who may resist bathing in a tub, who cannot reach a bathroom easily, or cannot get out of bed.

Try it out.

Here’s to happy bath times!

1 thought on “The Bath-in-Bed Method

  1. Great break down on how to do this. Giving a bath in bed is intimidating- at least for the first time. I have the softest washcloths but needed this guide and the breakdown of steps to help me remember.

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