How to Take a Sitz Bath

A sitz bath is a wonderful, non-drug treatment that promotes healing in your perineum. Just sitting in warm water for a short period of time can promote blood flow and ease discomfort. Sitz baths are typically recommended for the following health conditions:

  • Hemorrhoids
  • Anal fissures 
  • Chronic constipation (due to a relaxing effect on the anal sphincter)
  • When recovering from childbirth
  • Following surgery to the vagina, vulva or anus

Sitz baths are safe for children as long as they are under adult supervision.

Decide Which Sitz Bath Option Is Right for You.

Barbara Bradley Bolen, Ph.D.

The most common type of sitz bath is to use a special plastic sitz bath bowl that sits on top of your toilet seat. It has a cutout so that overflowing water will return to your toilet bowl. You can find such a sitz bath bowl at your local drugstore or medical supply store or online. 

There are costlier systems that provide the option of hooking up to your faucet or a solution bag, but the old school sitz bath should get the job done for you.

An alternative option is to use your bathtub. Just fill the tub up with three to four inches of warm water and slowly lower yourself in, making sure that the water is not so hot that it will cause a burn. You will want to bend your knees to take the pressure off of your perineal area, so that the tissue down there can benefit from the warm water.

If you decide to go with the more common sitz bath option, you will appreciate the following tips.

Gather Things to Entertain You

magazines, tablet, coffee cup
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You will be sitting for a period of time and the whole point is that you want to relax. You may want to have access to something to occupy your mind - a magazine, a good book or a crossword puzzle.

It might be tempting to bring in your smartphone or tablet, but it could be a costly mistake if you get it wet! If you do choose to bring your mobile device in with you, be very, very careful!

Consider the Options for Things to Add to Your Sitz Bath

Salt from the sea
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You will get great benefit just from plain old warm water. But you may want to add some other ingredients that are thought to be effective i soothing the sensitive area and to further promote healing. Here are some options:

  • Epsom salt
  • Sea salt
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda (possible antibacterial qualities)

How much to add is a personal preference.  You may want to start with a quarter of a cup of the add-in and adjust accordingly. If you are using your bathtub as opposed to a sitz bath, you will want to increase the amount of the added substance due to the fact that you will be using more water.

Prepare Your Bathroom

toilet seat up
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Before filling the sitz bath, there are a few things you can to do to prep your bathroom:

  1. Make sure your entertainment is within arm's reach of the toilet.
  2. Put the toilet seat up.
  3. Have a clean towel nearby for drying. 

Fill the Sitz Bath with Warm Water

woman running hands under faucet
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Before filling the sitz bath, run the water until it is quite warm. You want it to feel warmly soothing, but not so hot that it burns. As you are filling it, you can add in salt, vinegar or baking soda if you would like.

Once the bath is filled, carefully transfer it to the top of your toilet. Remember that your toilet seat needs to be up.

Sit Comfortably

woman sitting on toilet
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Sit yourself down on the sitz bath. You will see that the water that is displaced by your body will drain out the top of the bath into your toilet.

Assess the water temperature: If the water is too hot, add a little cold water. If the water is too cold, add a little hot water. Like Goldilocks, you want it to be just right.

Once the water temperature is to your liking, settle in and relax. Enjoy the restorative powers of a few moments spent sitting quietly. Plan to sit on the sitz bath for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. 

If necessary, you can add some more hot water to keep the bath at just the right temperature.

Get up Slowly

woman in bathroom
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Once your 15 to 20 minutes is up, don't go rushing off to do the next thing on your to-do list. Get up slowly. This is important because dilated blood vessels caused by the warm water may result in dizziness. Make sure that your head and body feel fine before moving on to the next step.

Carefully Dry the Area

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Ideally, you will let the area air dry.

If that is not possible, then gently pat the wet areas of your body dry with a clean cotton towel.

If you are using a cream or ointment to soothe a hemorrhoid or anal fissure, this is a good time to apply it.

Before you leave the bathroom,  be sure to wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water.

Repeat as Necessary

water running out of a faucet
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How often to take a sitz bath depends on how severe your symptoms are. The general recommendation is to take sitz baths one to three times a day.

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