A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath that cleanses the perineum (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 genital area.
You can give yourself a sitz bath in your bathtub or with a plastic kit that fits over your toilet. The kit is available in most big-box stores and pharmacies.
A sitz bath does not require a physician’s prescription. Some people use sitz baths regularly as a way to cleanse the perineum.
Others find sitz baths useful for relieving itching, irritation, and minor pain. Doctors often suggest sitz baths to manage pain following the surgical removal of hemorrhoids, surgery involving the vulva or vagina, and childbirth.
Doctors sometimes prescribe medications to add to the sitz bath. 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.
If you’re taking a sitz bath in the bathtub, the first step is to clean the tub. Mix two tablespoons of bleach with a half-gallon of water. Scrub the bathtub and rinse thoroughly.
Next, fill the tub with three to four 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 the bath.
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 irritation.
Finish by rinsing the bathtub thoroughly.
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 and ease yourself into it until water covers your perineum. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Many plastic sitz baths come with tubes to add hot water as the original water cools. The water conveniently overflows into the toilet and can be flushed.
When you’re finished, stand up and pat—never rub—the area dry with a clean cotton towel.
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, you can clean your sitz bath by scrubbing it with two tablespoons of bleach mixed with a half-gallon of hot water. Once you have scrubbed your bath, rinse it thoroughly.
Because the sitz bath is a non-invasive treatment, it carries very little risk of harm. The most common (though rare) adverse event is infection of the perineum. This may occur if you are caring for a surgical wound and don’t clean the tub or plastic bath thoroughly.
Stop the 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 a day until the source of the itching, irritation, or pain is healed.
After you have had a sitz bath, you may immediately return to normal activities unless your doctor has told you otherwise.