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How to Take a Detox Bath: from Charcoal to Magnesium Chloride discusses how exactly to take a detox bath, including — what to add, how much, how often and why.
What is a detox bath?
A detox bath is a natural way to remove toxins by adding ingredients such as activated charcoal to bathwater — or minerals like magnesium that help our bodies to perform detox functions better.
Detoxification through the skin makes sense. After all, the skin is the body’s largest organ. When we want to get well or promote optimum wellness, a multifaceted approach is best: an anti-inflammatory diet, yes, but also other healing modalities, including detox baths.
Let’s learn exactly how to take a detox bath with only one to two easy ingredients (or more) and why.
Newly updated article: why to avoid epsom salt baths
This article was recently updated. I used to believe, from my reading of many leading doctors, that epsom salt baths were helpful. I’ve now seen that Magnesium baths (and other ingredients) are the much better way to go. And I explain the reasoning behind this as well as how to take magnesium baths (or other helpful baths, like those including charcoal and potassium) in this post.
Not only is magnesium chloride a better agent for helping the body to detox, this article talks about why epsom salt baths aren’t as healthy as we’ve been led to believe.
Note: If you feel good taking epsom salt baths, there’s a reason for that …
HOW TO TAKE A DETOX BATH
How detox baths work
Detox baths work because they help to draw out toxins from the body, or nourish the body with nutrients, through the skin.
As a side benefit, detox baths often also help to reduce stress. And there’s a lot to be said for the fact that reduced stress helps our bodies to overcome health challenges.
When certain nutrients are drawn in, namely magnesium and potassium, detox baths (and foot baths!) can even help promote our body’s most important detox pathway — and that’s bowel movements! While you might be surprised to learn that pooping is one main benefit of certain detox baths, don’t shy away from this. For those of you missing out on two good poops a day, you’re missing out on your body’s main way of expelling toxins.
So yes, detox through your skin with detox baths, but also through your alimentary canal!
If you already poop well, there are still, of course, more direct benefits from detox and magnesium baths.
When you use a dry brush before bathing (here’s how), which I discuss more below, dead skin cells are also sloughed off, which further reduces one’s toxic load.
(Learn how to clean your dry brush here.)
Best ingredients for detox baths
Several different ingredients can be used in detox baths to help draw out toxins or, alternately, to nourish the body:
1. Magnesium chloride
Magnesium chloride in one’s bathwater helps the body detox in two ways: One, it adds Mg to the body, a mineral almost everyone is deficient in, which helps overall detox mechanisms in the body.
Two, as mentioned above, it can aid in bowel movements. Having healthy bowel movements is one of the body’s most important ways to detox, through the digestive tract. Toxins need to be moved out in this way (from our food and bile, the liver and our fat cells).
Some people find that foot baths specifically, with magnesium chloride (and sometimes potassium), help them the most with promoting bowel movements. Try it, and see!
A bath rich in magnesium is good for detoxification, bone, tissue and joint health. Bathing opens pores and increases circulation; this combination encourages minerals to be absorbed and toxins to be expelled.
In terms of gut health, magnesium is required for glutathione to be synthesized; so magnesium is a good choice for most people trying to improve their GI tract. (source)
While the body has a hard time absorbing magnesium from food, it does quite well absorbing magnesium through the skin. Magnesium chloride powder is a concentrated source and a compounding that’s effective (find the powder here).
Magnesium baths for kids
Mg chloride can be a great option for children before bed, to calm and help them sleep better (as well as adults).
Magnesium bath dosage
- Children under 60 pounds: use 1/2 a cup for a standard size bath. Those weighing between 60 and 100 pounds: use a full cup.
- Adults, and those weighing over 100 lbs: add 1-1/4 to 2 cups to bathwater, stirring to dissolve.
- For flakes: Use 1 cup magnesium in warm, not hot, water for kids.
- Pour in up to 3 cups magnesium flakes in warm, not overly hot, water for adults.
- Use half the dose for foot baths.
2. Potassium Chloride
Potassium, like magnesium, can help with promoting two bowel movements daily.
Many people are deficient in potassium, as various toxicities (including copper) block potassium channels.
Increasing potassium through bathwater may also be helpful for insomnia, headaches and other symptoms as well.
Find Potassium Chloride here. I use 1 tablespoon stirred into bathwater. Use 1-1/2 teaspoons for a foot bath.
3. Hardwood charcoal
Activated charcoal clings to toxins and also helps to soothe infections. It’s a great addition to one’s bathwater as it helps to pull out toxins and remove them from the body.
Use 1/4 cup to start (or less, if you prefer), specifically hardwood charcoal, in bathwater (this is the best product), not sourced from coconut or bamboo.
Unlike some detox baths, shower off after a charcoal bath.
Note: Because charcoal can get messy, it may be best for most people to take charcoal baths in bath-showers, so it’s easier to rinse down/wash off afterwards.
As it’s a bit hard to wash off, it may be helpful to have a back scrubber to help clean yourself afterwards.
For foot baths, start with 1/8 cup.
4. Baking soda
Also called sodium bicarbonate, use baking soda for itching, combined with magnesium and a few other ingredients. Please see the recipe below, entitled, Detox Bath for Itchy Skin.
Baking soda also helps to neutralize toxins in your tap water, such as chlorine.
Baking soda is an anti-fungal with cleansing properties. It helps skin to have the proper pH (and leaves the skin feeling silky smooth) as well as helping the whole body to detoxify.
Baking soda is an inexpensive detox bath ingredient for regular use.
Buy baking soda in bulk, from Costco or here.
Use 1 to 3 cups of the helpful powder in every bath: 1 cup for children and 2 to 3 cups for adults.
5. Apple cider vinegar
Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, apple cider vinegar neutralizes chlorine in tap water.
It can help with a variety of skin conditions, not affecting the actual cause usually (which should still be sought out in most cases), but allowing relief and soothing.
If you use ACV: Put 1 cup in your bathwater, for standard size tubs, 2 cups for large bathtubs; or use 1/2 cup for children.
The apple cider vinegar smell isn’t always pleasant, although I find I enjoy it now, even though I didn’t used to.
After swimming in a chlorinated pool
Helpful tip: Use a rag doused in water and apple cider vinegar to wipe the body down after a swim in chlorinated water. We use this method daily each summer, after swim lessons or recreational swimming in swimming pools.
Or, take an ACV bath, and then rinse off well.
I’ve used bentonite clay internally and externally over the years.
In bathwater, clay clings to toxins, including heavy metals and chlorine.
Unlike some detox baths, shower off after a clay bath.
Ingredients NOT to use in detox baths
Below, are the detox bath ingredients I formerly included in the list of ingredients from which to choose. I no longer use these and briefly share why:
mineral sea salt— I no longer use mineral sea salts because they are a shotgun approach to minerals, meaning: They contain a variety of minerals, some of which most bodies don’t need more of, like copper, boron and manganese, while also providing very little of what we do need: magnesium and potassium. epsom salt (active ingredient: magnesium sulfate = magnesium + sulfur)— Find more on why this is now crossed out below. seaweed— Unfortunately, all seaweeds are high in carotenoids, which are avoided in mindful skincare products. Our polluted waters now also add the toxic load of heavy metals to seaweed, including arsenic. (Iodine problems can be fixed in other ways.) clove or lavender essential oil — Clove EO kills bacteria, fungus and pathogens.I no longer put essential oils in my bathwater. Other ingredients offer the same benefits, and are assuredly gentler, without the risks. When topical use of EOs is necessary, it’s wise to always use a carrier oil.
How long to take a detox bath
A twenty to forty minute soak is usually suggested for detox baths, or as long as an hour.
Letting the water get cool
Very optional: While most don’t relish the idea, the contrast of a very cold bath after a hot bath (hydrotherapy) is great for overall organ function, including mental health, and reducing pain. (source) Simply allowing your bath water to get cooler is a gentle and good approach for detoxification.
Thirst after your bath
After a detox bath, drink water according to thirst, to help with flushing out toxins. If you’re tired, rest. The body works hard to detoxify, and you may feel it.
Renewal after your bath
What temperature of water to use for detox baths
Regarding temperature, it’s okay to use very warm or hot water (just not so hot it tires you out) or cooler water, according to preference.
Many sources will tell you to use the hottest water you can tolerate for your detox bath, and it’s what I used to do. But afterwards, I’d always felt enervated (exhausted and depleted, so tired I could sleep).
Since then, I’ve learned that we don’t want to completely exhaust our bodies, and super hot water is not necessary for detox bath ingredients to work.
The reasoning behind very hot water is to try and open one’s pores as much as possible, and to sweat.
But the wellness ingredients we use in detox bathwater can do their good work without the hottest water depleting us at the same time.
Should you rinse off after a detox bath
With both charcoal and clay, which are grittier, colored and grab onto toxins, you should indeed rinse off afterwards.
With magnesium, potassium, apple cider vinegar and baking soda, I think it’s still a good idea. But opinions vary on that, so do what feels right to you.
The reason epsom salts aren’t healthy
Some people feel they need sulfate, so this topic is controversial. I would say, there is definitely new and significant doubt about the helpfulness of using epsom salts, so it’s safer to choose a bath ingredient that’s verifiably helpful.
What we don’t want is temporary relief because detox has been detained (suppression of symptoms is a delay in addressing their actual cause). We want steady progress.
We also know that sulfur-rich foods and supplements deplete Vitamin B1. This can likely cause or contribute to histamine intolerance and oxalate sensitivity.
Combining ingredients for How to Take a Detox Bath: Recipes
1. Easiest detox bath recipe: 1 cup Mg chloride + 1 tablespoon potassium chloride
- For more diverse benefits, add: 1 cup baking soda and/or 1/3 cup hardwood charcoal.
2. For a plain baking soda bath, that’s anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, use 1 to 2 cups baking soda. Or, combine baking soda with magnesium:
- Combine 2 cups baking soda with 1 cup magnesium chloride in bath water.
Detox Bath for Itchy Skin
Baking soda helps with itchy skin partially because of it’s anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Being very alkaline, it can also bring relief to conditions that thrive from acidity.
3. The recipe for itchy skin is the same one as mentioned directly above, but can also be diluted by half for a gentler approach:
- 1 to 2 cups baking soda
- 1/2 to 1 cup magnesium chloride
TIPS on How to Take a Detox Bath
- Carve out 40 to 45 minutes for yourself 3 to 4 times per week. I like to do this in the evening. Detox bath time is good alone, restful time that many of us wouldn’t otherwise get — great for rejuvenating one’s spirit, as well as improving the health of one’s body. And, if you use salts in your bath, the magnesium helps many to sleep more soundly. I find it relaxes even my mind, which helps me get to sleep.
- Conversely, not everyone benefits from magnesium baths before bed. So observe how you’re affected, and repeat or change your routine as needed.
- For example, some people may prefer baking soda baths before bed.
- On a mama note for those of you with little ones, I love to let my littlest child (nursing age) crawl in with me when the water cools down a bit. My two youngest relished the alone time with me, and this allowed them to get the detox bath too. (You can always wear a bathing suit if this feels more appropriate as your kids get older.)
Keep doing the protocol that works well for you, but if that changes (weeks or months in), your body may have gained what it needed, so be ready to adjust accordingly.
For those on The GAPS Diet or other wellness diets
Wellness diets usually include additional alternative therapies to assist in the wellness process. Many years ago, after two years on the GAPS diet, I realized that I was missing an important piece: detox baths.
Most people benefit from detox baths. In this modern age, with toxins bombarding our bodies, detoxing is recommended for most. I mention GAPS as part of my personal story and also to help many of you who are on the GAPS diet, so you don’t miss this piece like I did.
When I realized what I’d missed, I began dutifully soaking, and that’s when I learned the original content of this post.
I’ve been taking detox baths for the last 13 years, off and on, and I love them to this day. The ritual is still a part of my detox protocols … and one that I enjoy. If you have a big or demanding family, or feel a lot of stress, detox baths can be a good excuse for alone time, that also provide rejuvenation psychologically.
Final thoughts on detox baths
Detoxification baths can be a daily ritual or can be done as seldom as once a week, or as needed, for optimum benefits to be derived.
For some people, how they feel is noticeably affected by the addition of magnesium, potassium, charcoal, apple cider vinegar, clay or baking soda.
Foot baths are a great alternative if you have less time, a physical disability that makes bathing difficult or the weather is hot. Foot baths can also be used for constipation.
Looking for other methods of detoxification?
- Find the best sun lamp here. I use the Fiji model every to every other day all fall and winter.
- How to Do a Daily Detox with Apple Cider Vinegar and Activated Charcoal (drink recipe)
- The Vitamin A Detox Diet for the Liver (how-to with printable PDF)
- How to use DIM to Detox Estrogen (for insomnia and other benefits)
- Use nano-particle zeolite spray to detox the brain of heavy metals and the body of estrogen. I use this twice daily. You’ll need to click the Shop Now button and choose the product called TRS. Ask me in the Comments section below if you have further questions about it. I love this product.
- Learn here about How and Why to Drink Bentonite Clay. This post also shares how to use clay in your bath.
- Foods and Activities to Increase Serotonin and Dopamine Naturally (helps to keep the body regular)
- Learn here about Why and How to Take Diatomaceous Earth.
- Here‘s How to Use Red Root to Detox.
- Dandelion and Nettles Detox Tea
- And here‘s my favorite infrared sauna company, which is a practice I do about 3 days a week. We have one in our bedroom. 🙂
- Read 7 Health Benefits of Sea and Sun for Autoimmune Diseases