Pimp my bath.
May 23, 2011 7:10 PM   Subscribe

I want to take more long hot baths in the bathtub. How can I make this activity even more relaxing and indulgent?

Bubbles low-priority. Interesting subtle scents might be nice, but nothing candy-like or super-perfumey please. As a shower-and-go gal all my life, I don't even know my way around bath salts / bath oils and the such, so rudimentary suggestions welcome!

NB: The tub is sized for one, and I'm selfish with baths, so naughtiness isn't part of the question -- though if you've strong feelings about this or that toy, by all means recommend....
posted by taramosalata to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: spasm, she made it clear that a partner is not an option.

Bath pillow.
posted by amro at 7:16 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks amro. And wow on the bath pillow! Had no idea that was even out there.
posted by taramosalata at 7:19 PM on May 23, 2011

You need some Lush bath bombs or bath melts. Love them!
posted by SisterHavana at 7:19 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Candles, candles, candles! For me, there's nothing like bathing by candlelight for peaceful relaxation.

If I'm planning to be there a long time, cut fruit is a nice treat, too.
posted by rosa at 7:21 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sure you've thought of the obvious... but I'll mention them... lighting, air temperature, soft breezes, music (or ambiant sound, nothing like crickets or frogs in the background), good wine....
posted by tomswift at 7:22 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like essential oils (personally, I prefer scents like rosemary, pine, lavender; aura casia makes s really nice one called "medieval mix" which is really nice). And a little mineral/baby oil if you want moisturizing.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:22 PM on May 23, 2011

Totally hate candy flavors and too-sweet floral scents too. I have a grapefruit bergamot bubble bath from Deep Steep, it's lovely and gently citrusy without being too zingy to let you relax.

Also recently discovered that having a small bowl of cool juicy berries or grapes nearby will blow your mind. Sensory insanity, so good.
posted by sestaaak at 7:23 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Run a bath hot enough to be steamy, and then add oil--almond, coconut, baby oil, whatever, to moisturize your skin. Add mineral salts as well for relaxation, avoiding any kind with synthetic fragrances. I also like lavender, eucalyptis, and rosemary soap and shampoo products because they make me feel relaxed and clear-headed at the same time. Purchase an exfoliating cloth, and slowly exfoliate your entire body, using circular motions, from the feet up, and use your fingers to massage your scalp at the end. I exfoliate pretty deeply, until I'm pinkish. Lastly, use a washcloth with hot water and a bit of lavender or rosemary castile soap or oil worked into it to drape over your face for a few minutes while you lie there and meditate--this will open your pores and further relax you. And all of this should be done with the bath curtains drawn and the lights dimmed.
posted by mudlark at 7:29 PM on May 23, 2011 [10 favorites]

I should add that I take a bath this way every night and I think it's the only thing keeping me sane sometimes.
posted by mudlark at 7:31 PM on May 23, 2011

Best answer: Get a nice book caddy so you can read in the tub without getting your book all damp.

Make homemade bath salts and use them with abandon. I use equal parts sea salt, epsom salts, and baking soda. The current batch is scented with essential oils of fir, pine, rosemary, and frankincense -- enlivening and lovely.

Try toning (singing long drawn-out notes) while semi-immersed in the bath. The reverbrations are really amazing.

Have a pitcher of cold water handy, and pour it over your head/down your back/over your chest once you've been stewing in a hot bath for a while. Whoo!

And if you have never scooted down in the tub, put your feet up on the wall, and let warm water from the faucet play over your ladybits, you are in for quite a treat.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:34 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love a milk or oatmeal bath to soak in - softens skin wonderfully.

Powdered milk is heavenly, just get it at the grocery store. You can add your essential oils to this bath no problem. Also pretty with rose petals - next time you get a bouquet, sacrifice one of the roses for the bathwater.

For the oatmeal bath, I've gotten powdered oatmeal from the bath section of Walmart which completely dissolves, but you can also just fill a cloth bag full of regular oatmeal and throw that in while your bath runs. The mess is contained to the reusable bag.
posted by lizbunny at 7:34 PM on May 23, 2011

I got a little side table that is about the same height as the rim of my bathtub, and not having to reach down to grab my glass of wine/cup of tea/book/glass of water/bowl of strawberries made my baths feel a lot more indulgent. (My bathtub rim is too curvy to balance anything on, so ymmv.)

I agree with mudlark about the exfoliating cloth and oil. My baths are currently tricked out with coconut oil and my skin is sure happy about it.

Having something nice to slip into after the bath is another factor—in the winter I like shearling slippers and a fluffy bathrobe that's been hanging on a hook above the furnace vent so it's nice and warm when I'm ready for it, and in the summer I like a lightweight, loose silk robe.

On the naughtiness side, I love my Lelo Alia. It is actually waterproof (not just water-resistant) and has an indentation in the middle so it doesn't slip out of your hand even when slippery and wet. a++++
posted by bewilderbeast at 7:35 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Turn off the overhead light. If you have a window in your bathroom, bathe by natural daylight (or ambient streetlights or whatever, I suppose?). If not, get some candles. The best is to position the candles in proximity to a mirror so as to amplify the light. I guess you could also rig up some sort of lamp, as long as doesn't make the room garishly over-lit. Fairy lights?

Get good toiletries. With smells you love. I'm personally not too excited about bath bombs and other scenty things you put into the bathwater, because it seems like it would be hard to get clean - you don't want to leave the tub feeling slimier than you went in. Epsom salts, though? Heck yeah, brah.

Take your time. Some people try to read books in the tub. I like music (but ugh, not sultry cliche bathtime music!) or a really engrossing podcast. Maybe one of those hour long ones I never have time to devote my full attention to, like This American Life or the All Songs Considered roundtable episodes where Carrie Brownstein mocks everyone else's taste in music. It needs to be an entertaining one, not something that feels like a chore. Putting on an album is another idea, if the hectic world of modern digital media has robbed you of that.

You could also just be alone with your thoughts, if that's your thing.

I sort of dig having a bourbon with two ice cubes, but I'm not sure if that gets us into the world of sultry cliche bathtime or not. I feel like as long as it's not Chardonnay I'm probably fine on that score. This is another reason that overly scented is bad.

Water temperature is also key, but I leave that to you.

Oh, and use like a ton of towels.
posted by Sara C. at 7:35 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll chime in with a different tack - I love baths, but hate emerging slimy with oil. You don't have to go with oils. I find salts deeply relaxing, and something like Aveeno, which is easy to find and comes in therapeutic aromas like lavender, is always a good choice for me. You can also make your own bath salts - just google - with whatever scents you like, very cheaply. Dead sea salts are amazing.

I like to take a glass of wine into the bath. Also, if you like to read, it's a great place for a magazine or book. The magazine is actually a little better because it doesn't seem as big a deal if it gets wet. Keep a towel folded nearby to dry your fingertips on to turn the page.

Candles are also a great idea.

Have nice bath accessories, like cushy bath mats, a soft robe, good slippers. It feels great to get out of a warm bath and only touch very soft textiles afterward.
posted by Miko at 7:36 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also, it's a great time to get in some heavy duty exfoliating after you've soaked a bit. Get a good quality sugar, salt or other scrub and a cloth for that and go over your whole body...feels great. Also, because your hands and feet are soaking it's a good time for a self-delivered manicure or pedicure when you get out.
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Amazing replies so far. Food, drink, radio, reading....

mudlark - I got woozy (in a good way) just reading that, esp. the hot towel over face part. The bath as cleansing ritual rather than sensory treat didn't even really occur to me. But of course it'd be the best place to exfoliate.

lizbunny - is oatmeal skin-softening on its own, just resting there in the water, or are you using it to exfoliate? About how much do you use?

ottereroticist - TONING! What a glorious alternative to shower-singing. Love the cold water suggestion, too, and the yogic aquatics....
posted by taramosalata at 7:45 PM on May 23, 2011

Herbal bath tea bags make it smell nice without being perfumey.
posted by aniola at 7:47 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have the world's driest skin. Putting a splash of sweet almond oil in a bath makes my skin vaguely resemble everyone else's. A drop of essential oil can smell lovely.

Other than that, a boozy beverage is essential. I like a glass of wine or a cocktail.

Sometimes a book. Sometimes just breathing into the heat and the almost-pain of water that hot. I tend to run baths that are hotter than I can stand. I have, on occasion, scalded myself getting into the bath. I always emerge very pink in color.

If you use oatmeal, wrapping it in a bit of fabric is essential. You can use the tied up fabric to scrub your skin, and you won't clog your drain with oats.

If your day is the sort that leaves your actually dirty at the end, shower before you bathe. You don't want to lounge around in your filth, do you?
posted by mollymayhem at 7:50 PM on May 23, 2011

Bourbon. Or perhaps a martini. I'm shocked only mollymayhem suggested a drink!
posted by kestrel251 at 7:53 PM on May 23, 2011

Favorite podcasts for some reason make baths awesome--this is my favorite way to listen to RadioLab. Nthing wine, temperature contrasts (hi icy grapes mm), and though it sounds like it might not be your thing Lush bombs, the less girly ones (butterball smells better than any dessert I have ever eaten). And waterproof vibes if you're into that sorta thing.

It's also fun to tinker with finding which albums are bath-suited. Obviously this varies by person but I'm always charmed at what works (Tom Waits! Schubert!).
posted by ifjuly at 7:58 PM on May 23, 2011

And I wouldn't do it these days, it was more a sign of my wild perhaps misguided youth, but years ago I used to eat ice cream cones (Grasshopper chip! Basil sorbet! Mango gelato!), read plays (Stoppard's Arcadia! Auburn's Proof!), and yes, smoke Dunhills in the bath (yowza, obviously I don't really recommend that last one...but it was nice, if thoughtless).
posted by ifjuly at 8:02 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Music playing softly in the background adds the perfect touch for me. That and something to rest my book on, when I had a decent bath I could spend an hour or two in there reading. The main skill to learn is lifting the plug with your toes to let some water out and then using them to turn the taps and add more hot water so you don't have to move from your reclining position.

Also I agree that bath pillows can make or break a nice bath. You can in a scrape roll up a spare towel to sit under your neck, and I like to use a shower cap or lots of clips to keep my hair out of the oily water. Though using a nice conditioning treatment in your hair and letting it soak in all that steam can work wonders. Just pop in the shower afterward to rinse it off.
posted by wwax at 8:07 PM on May 23, 2011

I am another 'nightly, extravagant bath keeps me sane' person. It's a great habit to get into.

I have grocery store stuff at the ready along with the posh potions. Apple cider vinegar (not the greatest smell, but if you have any issues with getting itchy from a long soak? It sorts that, also leaves skin soft, hair clean). Epsom salts. Powdered milk. Baking soda.

Sephora's own brand of bubble bath is very good if you do decide you want bubbles.

Distinguish between bath oils and oils -- generic Alpha Keri is nice and won't leave you quite so greasy like baby or olive oil will (though sometimes I like to get out oily, but clean-up is a bit of a PITA).

I like a bath rack so I can have somewhere to put my food; I eat small luxurious meals in the tub.

Having lots of cold water to drink at the ready is nice (necessary after a certain age, I have found).

You can find all sorts of interesting handmade bath whatnot on Etsy; some of it is reputedly quite nice. Like. (Look carefully at feedback comments.)

I have a huge selection of posh shampoos, soaps, conditioners, face washes; it is nice to fancy that one's skin is every so slightly drier than usual and thus requires cream cleanser XYZ but one's hair is a touch greasy and so on and thus needs special clarifying shampoo, etc. This helps with the 'the bathtub is special' message...
posted by kmennie at 8:16 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

This thread reminds me that this product has been on my Amazon wish list for a while, because it was sold out. It's called the Deep Water Bath, and it covers the overflow drain to do just what it sounds like.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:50 PM on May 23, 2011

I second the drain cover. That is a must unless you have a really deep bathtub. Also, streching is nice, particularly stretching parts that are often overlooked, like fingers and toes and flexing your feet. Use your fingers to stretch your toes apart and bend back your fingers. It feels really good.
posted by mudlark at 9:22 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I prefer salts to oils because oils are too slippery getting out....also something to read.

My place has a soaking tub, but it wasn't installed properly and leaks...it also takes 1/2 hour to fill. :-(
posted by brujita at 9:34 PM on May 23, 2011

When I get it remodeled, I'll put in a handheld shower head ;-).
posted by brujita at 9:36 PM on May 23, 2011

I don't like getting books wet, so bathtubs are magazine time.
posted by bq at 10:11 PM on May 23, 2011

Another vote for essential oils. The best way to incorporate them into the bath, I find, is to drop them into half a cup of milk and pour that into the bath. This is less than the recommended 'milk bath' quantity, but I find my skin feels pretty good after this anyway.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 10:14 PM on May 23, 2011

If you have a kindle or other ebook reader, a large ziplock bag will make it waterproof and solves the wet-book issue. I find it much easier to relax in the bath with a good book if I'm not worried about getting it wet.
posted by cgg at 11:00 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have an iPad? One of my favorite things in the world is taking a bath with the iPad propped up on the toilet seat (a couple of feet away so moisture isn't an issue) and watching TV shows on Netflix, glass of bourbon by my side.
posted by jbickers at 2:36 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Find out what kind of scent you like and get a gift basket of everything, that way you can try oils, salts, soaps, etc.

Bring a book! I love reading in the bath.

Radio is great, and so are story type podcasts.

Something to drink that's alcoholic or just cool.

For books: make sure you don't care about them getting wet or have a way around it.

For oils: wash your hair first and clip it up, or resign yourself to needing to wash it again later.

Radio: Invariably, it's not loud enough while the water is running, and then it's too loud when the water stops. I usually draw a bath using only the hot water, and let it fill before I get in. Then when I come to the bath, I can set volumes etc.

After bath: get a comfy robe to wrap up in and enjoy feeling relaxed.

last thing: do you live where storms or power outages happen? keep a sturdy waterproof flashlight close by. It's bad to be suddenly naked, holding your kindle, in a bath, in the dark.
posted by nile_red at 2:39 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you use Epsom salts, don't just use a cup or so. THREE POUNDS. Do it, it's really cheap. Even if you use the lavender one for a pound of it.

My massage therapist said it's a muscle relaxant that can only be absorbed by skin. (I haven't asked Dr Internet to confirm that, because I want to believe.)
posted by mimi at 4:12 AM on May 24, 2011

Best answer: Since people are mentioning exfoliating towels... You don't want just any exfoliating towel. Look up Korean "Italy towels". Any Korean supermarket should have them. Use them after soaking in the tub. You'll be surprised (slightly grossed out, but intrigued) at what comes off.
posted by pimli at 6:40 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you use a bath oil, look for one labelled "dispersing" or "hydrogenated". Normal oils will simply float on the surface, but dispersing oils "dissolve" into the water, taking whatever essential oils you'd like to add with them. I find they're absorbed by the skin much more easily. Turkey Red Oil is a well known brand, but I have no experience with it.

Milk is another nice addition. I use full fat dried milk powder to make the water more silky.

I have a couple of bath lights that flat in the water. They're kinda silly, but they do make the time spent in there slightly more interesting, giving any bubbles an otherworldy glow.

I've been tempted by the idea of a spa bath mat* that shoots out jets of bubbles, turning the bath into a jacuzzi. I've never tried one, but they do look interesting.

I like to have some bubbles, and I find that this chocolate scented bath foam smells divine and foams really well. Also, it has actual chocolate in it.

I have an opaque shower curtain, which I like to draw across to help keep the heat in and shield me from the view of the toilet.

I like really hot baths, so I have a freezer mug to keep whatever I'm drinking really cold.

Keep a jug in there for pouring hot water over your head and shoulders. Very relaxing. This works better if you sit up in the bath and then do it, so the water feels warmer.

Also, a thermometer. Find your ideal water temperature (which is a good excuse for several baths) and then you'll know if you're close next time you get in. If you have a mixer tap, it's even easier - just get the water flowing at the right temperature, and you're guaranteed a nice bath.

Try some peppermint shampoo, maybe? It will make your scalp tingle slightly, which might be nice in the heat.

Make sure to give the bathroom a good scrubbing before you get in the bath. Mildew and such might grab your attention, and ruin the experience.

*Not a recommendation, just the first one that appeared on Amazon.
posted by Solomon at 12:44 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

is oatmeal skin-softening on its own, just resting there in the water, or are you using it to exfoliate? About how much do you use?

Apparently the trick with an oatmeal bath is to grind it finely to make colloidal oatmeal, which works very well to moisturize the skin. If you're making your own, I'd still put it in a muslin bag to keep the bigger bits trapped, put in at least a cup-full. I go to town though, and add a few cups' worth - I like decadence. Very good for dry skin in the winter.

If you do a coarse grind and leave a bunch of the oatmeal in the bag, then you could rub the bag over your skin for a bit of exfoliation (the oatmeal isn't going to be rough by this time), or just wring out a bit of the water and let it rest damp on your face as a moisturizing soother while you soak.
posted by lizbunny at 1:06 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Drawing on steam!? My bath's glass doors are so getting doodled on.

Will definitely head to Koreatown for those scrub cloths, too. Psyched also for the growing shopping list of oatmeal, milk powder, epsom salts, essential oils, maybe even bath lights and bourbon. (Why is bourbon such a bath-y drink?)

Loving and thanking all replies here. Will mark bests soon but will let this question run on a bit longer.
posted by taramosalata at 5:40 PM on May 24, 2011

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