Skip navigation

Bathing a patient in bed

Some patients cannot safely leave their beds to bathe. For these people, daily bed baths can help keep their skin healthy, control odor, and increase comfort. If moving the patient causes pain, plan to give the patient a bed bath after the person has received pain medicine and it has taken affect.

A bed bath is a good time to inspect a patient's skin for redness and sores. Pay special attention to skin folds and bony areas when checking.

Supplies for a Bed Bath

  • Large bowl of warm water
  • Soap (regular or non-rinse soap)
  • Two washcloths or sponges
  • Dry towel
  • Lotion
  • Shaving supplies, if you are planning to shave the patient
  • Comb or other hair care products

If you wash the patient's hair, use either a dry shampoo that combs out or a basin that is designed for washing hair in bed. This kind of basin has a tube in the bottom that allows you to keep the bed dry before you later drain the water.

How to Give a Bed Bath

  1. Bring all the supplies you will need to the patient's bedside. Raise the bed to a comfortable height to prevent straining your back.
  2. Explain to patients that you are about to give them a bed bath.
  3. Make sure you uncover only the area of the body you are washing. This will keep the person from getting too cold. It also provides privacy.
  4. While patients are lying on their backs, begin by washing their heads and move toward their feet. Then, roll your patients to one side and wash their backs.
  5. To wash a patient's skin, first wet the skin, then gently apply a small amount of soap. Check with the patient to make sure you are not rubbing too hard.
  6. Make sure you rinse all the soap off, then pat the area dry. Apply lotion before covering the area up.
  7. Bring fresh, warm water to the patient's bedside with a clean washcloth to wash private areas. First wash the genitals, then move toward the buttocks, always washing from front to back.

Alternate Names

Bed bath; Sponge bath

References

Timby BK. Assisting with basic needs. In: Fundamentals of nursing skills and concepts. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkens. 2013: unit 5.

Update Date: 2/7/2014

Updated by: Dennis Ogiela, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, Danbury Hospital, Danbury, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

MedlinePlus Topics

A.D.A.M Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.

A.D.A.M Logo