bathsa guide
Mike
February 2021

I’m speaking into my phone right now from the bath. Live! From the bath. What you’re reading is a dictated explainer on my experience with taking a bath as someone who likes taking a bath. This is also a personal experiment in writing something via dictation and you are the willing accomplice who will likely abandon the piece early, because I promise that it will sometimes feel like you are reading a poorly edited AI transcript, and I will probably leave in some lines that were transcribed incorrectly but I just really liked in a daddy sense? (ED: dada sense)

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, but when we were first making this site and discussing the sort of volatile whimsy and erratic bric-a-brac of it all I’d be like, “you know, timeless, no promo cycle, just life stuff, like one day there might be a review of eggs, and then the next day some process stuff from a great designer, and then there’s a thing about why baths are so great.” So today’s the day I have to actually write (speak) this theoretical article about how to discover the merits of a bath. Still gotta do the egg review.

First thing to know about being a bath-taker is that it is not a personality. I’m self-conscious enough writing this stupid piece because I’m already “bath guy” to a few people, in that I’ve brazenly soapboxed about their virtues one too many times. I know, I’m so random. Trust me: once it clicks, just keep it to yourself. I’m publishing this non-monetizable wikiHow so you don’t have to.

Words my phone transcribed instead of "bath":

bats

math

dads

masks

path

top

bad

Words my phone transcribed instead of "bath":

bats

math

dads

masks

path

top

bad

Baths aren’t more widely popular because their benefits are misunderstood. And I believe that for most, the misconceptions started from an early age. There’s a good chance that when you were young, at some point you wanted to switch to showers very badly because baths were FOR BABIES. And when you finally graduated to the shower, there was no turning back. You’re not a little baby anymore. Hell yeah you’re an adult, and you clean yourself like one. Standing up.

But! Baths aren’t really about personal hygiene. I mean, sort of, they can be, but that’s not why you take baths. Taking a bath before work every morning would be insane.

On the other side of bath awareness: the mythology, the candles, rose petals, tears, a good book, your hair in a towel, a glass of wine or something, closing your eyes and exhaling with a smile while you slowly submerge your head beneath the bubbles—it’s a lot. How could something this extra be relaxing? You have just 30 minutes to yourself each day and you do this little personally performative exhibition of self-care and Margot Tenenbaum cosplay in order to what, treat yourself?

With so many cringey touchstones in popular culture and no relatable entry point, I’m here to guide you towards an experience that you can hopefully build into your routine and keep with you for the rest of your life. And the reason I’ve front-loaded this article with personal pronouns and anecdotes like it’s a pineapple margarita recipe fishing for programmatic ad impressions is because I’m not a scientist and I’m not a historian. I don’t technically know what salt or hot water does to your body, and while there are bathing rituals and culture that go back more than a thousand years, I’m not a student of them. Just being honest here, and I’d understand if you bail now before I begin bathsplaining all over the place. But I know what I know from a ton of trial and error, and the more I’ve discovered, the more essential baths have become for my mind and body.

So I’m gonna stop meandering and get to the point by laying out a pithy list of things to consider if you want to make your bath count—

The tub

If you're lucky enough to have a tub situation, the size of the tub does matter because you're also thinking about both space and hot water. If you don’t have a tub, here’s one that’s less than $100 and you can fold it up to store it. Please let us know if you do this. I’m a tall person, and have lived with smaller tubs, which definitely makes the experience more difficult to enjoy. But don’t let it stop you. The best thing to remember is your breathing: if your lungs are full of air, you’ll float to the top, exposing your skin, making the tub feel small. Instead, start with a few deep breaths, then on a deep exhale, you’ll feel your back magnetize against the base of the tub. Keep it there by taking small slow breaths. And I have three positions when sitting in a small tub: one, just sitting up, staring at the cold drip of the faucet while upright and cross-legged, sort of inhaling whatever fumes are happening. That ends up being kind of like the break mode within a hot bath. Second style is lying parallel with the sides of the tub, perpendicular to the faucet and resting your head on the edge. You might want a towel for your neck in this situation, but just know that you're going to get it pretty wet. Your knees might pop out if you’re too tall, which makes them feel cold, but you can do kind of a cross-legged move to get them submerged a bit more. Your hips will likely raise upwards and above the surface depending on how much room there is in the tub. The third position is when you kind of lay diagonal and you bend your knees together over to one side against the bottom, and sort of twist your torso in the other direction than the one where your knees are pointing. And you push your heels back towards your rear and you kind of nestle and you get as far down as possible. It helps to pretend you’re melting. This one is especially good if the tub is too small for your body.

Temperature

Make it spicy. This is the most important thing. Figure out the hottest temperature you can handle, then make it a few degrees hotter, brave through it, and your body will bring it down to at least 10º after 15-20 minutes. I usually go in at 115º, some maniacs go all the way to 140º. High water temperatures are the primary component in relaxing your muscles, eliminating toxins, and increasing circulation throughout your body. Important in these sedentary times! It’s also said that ongoing hot baths can accelerate metabolism, and it definitely helps a lot of people to sleep more soundly. A good and cute way to monitor the temperature is with one of these little rubber ducky thermometers.

Additions

The alchemy of a bath is part of the fun, but don’t overthink it. I’m not aware of any actual magic potions, and certainly the most important part is straight-up hot water. But adding salts and oils can enhance the multitudes of benefits, and it’s good to cut through the bullshit. Salt is kind of a generic word because you’re really looking for sulfates, alongside magnesium and various minerals. My go-to is this onsen powder, taken directly from mineral deposits in the northern Japanese alps. It feels like flour and creates an opaque milky color in the tub. If you’re using these, you don’t want to add oils or anything else. Epsom salt is the popular move, and I usually have a gallon on hand that I buy from Jeff Bezos for a song. It’s much more economical to go this route and pair with your own essential oils than buying something overpriced/branded, and all packaged together. You also have more control over what’s in there. That said, of course I recommend our custom soaks from Asrai Garden, in which we add a little coconut oil to leave your skin feeling silky. In terms of oils, it’s essential to make sure they’re 100% natural and organic. Young living is my trusted source. This is where you experiment with the scents you like. These days I’m into frankincense, palo santo, bergamot and myrrh. Can’t go wrong with just having eucalyptus and lavender on hand. And make sure to add the oils to the salt before putting them in the bath, versus adding the oils directly to the bath. This activates the oils in a way that is easier on your skin and disperses them more uniformly in the water. Oh, and before you get in, don’t miss the opportunity to exfoliate with a dry brush. Work your way from your feet and hands towards your heart.

Smells

Aromatherapy is extra credit. Baseline goal should be to make sure your tub room doesn’t smell foul. Neutral is fine. But a whiff of eucalyptus can pull the moist air wafting off the water into your lungs and drag your insides out until your body feels like it disappeared. Essential oils are the way to go here, and where scented candles are an atmospheric touch, real ones know that incense is the path to transforming your air. If I could recommend one direction here, it would be the classic incense bundle from the masters at Tokyo’s Kuumba.

Light

Sometimes I like to feel rejuvenated, so I turn my lights real bright and look at my phone and listen to loud music and shout back and forth with my partner in the other room and just act like it’s a normal part of my day. That’s eucalyptus, peppermint, and grapefruit. Sometimes I’m trying to feel creative, so the lights go lower, maybe there’s a candle, but there’s no phone glow. And other times are when I need a bath i.e. I’m depressed or overwhelmed and feel the need for full escape—so that’s lights off, a candle lit at most. Whatever your mood happens to be, a consciousness of the light that surrounds you is absolutely crucial to the outcome of your bathtime.

Sounds

This is a very personal thing and I don’t know you, but it’s important that you listen to music or that you do not listen to music. Gotta choose one. Don’t forget, silence is precious these days and the plucky drops and slaps of bath water can be a really pleasant aural atmosphere in which to exist for awhile. Personally? I’ll switch it up, but usually find myself putting on the drones of Kali Malone, the balearia of Gigi Masin, the soft skronks of Alabaster DePlume or Joseph Shabason, Alice Coltrane, Hiroshi Yoshimura, Moondog, Mohave 3, 福居良, Neil Young’s Deadman soundtrack, etc etc. The biggest secret in this whole piece is the Spotify playlist I keep just to remind me of what to listen to when it’s time. You can follow it here, and each moment follow one track towards its album for endless hours of immersion.

What to do with yourself

Glad you asked. Seems awkward, maybe boring. Hard for you to meditate? If you’re left without any devices, this can kind of force you into building comfort with presence and the present, and focus hopefully feels easy. You’ll probably look at your phone, which is fine, because you’d be missing the point if you were being judgy and hard on yourself. Go for it, just keep a dry towel in arm’s reach and don’t drop it in the tub, which I am currently trying not to do. But I would encourage you to use this time to not be in front of a screen. Have some discipline, Jack! (I just said that in a Biden voice for some reason). But yes, the verdict is out on this voice experiment because this little digital box is too close for my comfort. I like to use the time to think thoughts, because more than any other occasion, I am able to escape the trappings that give me a certain type of block or paralyzation over things like creative projects or hatching plans. There have been so many times that I just couldn’t finish something I was trying to work on all day, and then I go in the bath and it’s like I can just think the whole thing through in 5 minutes like it’s the easiest thing in the world. A bath can do that for you. What a gift! And in those times, again, without a phone, I do need to make sure I’m recording those details and optimism. Because if I don’t, I might forget, or worse, not believe in the truth of what came to me. So for this, I keep a waterproof notebook and pen in the bathroom.

Drugs

Doing drugs while taking a bath is… recommended! A hot bath will enhance any current condition you happen to be in, but I'd personally stick to the altered states on the side of chill. Smoke a joint, eat some mushrooms. Don’t be drunk, but it's always nice to have a crispy lager by your side.

Post-bath

And all of that said—once you start to get comfy with how to do your bath right, you might find that a successful bath will make you feel high on its own. For real! You are detoxing the hell out of your body, and if you cook yourself like a damn lobster, your skin will feel tough, and you’ll sweat for another ten minutes. Lie on a towel on the bathroom floor. I have a swinging rattan chair where I like to sway. Let yourself air dry, the sulfates and minerals will continue to work their magic for a while, so try and wait on showering for at least an hour.

Welp, that’s all I got. If you missed our bath recommendations, check those out for a few more hot takes. Calgon, take me away! 🛀