The Anatomy of the Perfect Bath, According to Experts

published Aug 9, 2023
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Woman perches on the side of an elegant red roll top bathtub, and waits for it to fill up. She wears a silky robe. Light floods through the window, backlighting the relaxing scene and giving it a dreamy vibe.
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Level up your next chill day at home with our guide to having your best low-key home sesh ever. This content is presented in partnership with La-Z-Boy; it was created independently by our editorial team.

There are many effective ways to unwind from a long, stressful day (or week, or season) — from sweating it out at the gym to a TV marathon. But one of the most relaxing remedies is a long, hot bath. “Baths are a great way to ground yourself and decompress,” says Antonia Schreiber, licensed massage therapist and owner and founder of The Windham Spa in Windham, New York.

Baths aren’t self-care silver bullets, of course, but soaking in the tub allows you to get a break from anything weighing on you. “Taking a bath is a great opportunity to give yourself permission to disconnect,” says Rachel Emberling, a licensed mental health counselor. 

But if Chandler Bing has taught people one thing, it’s that baths can quickly go from relaxing to stressful. *Cue bath salts effervescing.* Thankfully, there are some tried-and-true ways to facilitate your chill in the tub. If you want to relax, here’s what experts believe are the essentials for a perfect bath.

Set the scene.

Schreiber says a quiet, clean setup is so important. It can be nearly impossible to attain true relaxation if your bathroom is a hot mess. And it only requires a little effort to make your surroundings more blissful. 

Take a few minutes to straighten up any messes that’ll be in your eye line, or, as Schreiber suggests, simply “Light a candle and turn the lights off.” You don’t want to create too much work for yourself, but a quick tidy can be “an instant game-changer, even if your bathroom isn’t pristine,” she says.

Credit: Maria Korneeva / Getty Images

Select soothing scents.

It may seem obvious, but a meaningful selection of scented candles, bubble baths, or oil diffusers can really make a difference. 

“Studies show that of the five senses, smell is the most closely associated with memory,” Emberling explains. “You can use this to your advantage by investing in scented candles, oils, or salts associated with specific calming or pleasant times in your life,” she adds. They can help “elicit the feelings associated with these experiences.” For example, a beachy scent may remind you of family vacations. 

Ideally, your go-to scent will evoke nostalgic feelings to put you in a happy mindset, but don’t stress if you’re stuck on which memory to tap into. When in doubt, pick soothing scents like lavender or eucalyptus, as both have been shown to reduce anxiety. 

Get salty.

Epsom salt’s benefits haven’t been scientifically proven, but many integrative medicine specialists tout its presumed healing qualities. “[It] helps relieve aches and pains,” says Schreiber. “Epsom salt is my favorite because it’s high in magnesium, which can help with healthy muscle and nerve function,” she explains. 

While you can pour the salt in your bath on its own, Schreiber recommends adding essential oils for a full aromatic experience. According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, you can use 1.25 cups of 100% magnesium sulfate Epsom salt in a clean bathtub. Don’t use salts or oils in a jetted tub or whirlpool unless it’s approved by the manufacturer.

Silence your phone.

Disconnecting can be difficult if you’re haunted by the ping of your email or your constant notifications. When it’s bath time, leave your gadgets outside the bathroom, or put everything on silent. 

“While technology has undoubtedly improved our everyday lives immensely, it has also led many of us to feel a constant pressure and expectation to remain accessible at all times,” says Emberling. “That stress builds over time to the point of feeling anxious and guilty at the prospect of taking time to just be with yourself without even realizing it.” 

She recommends completely disconnecting and forgetting about your responsibilities while you’re in the tub. Schreiber says a bath should last at least 15 minutes to get the stress relief you want.

Consider adding CBD.

“CBD, short for cannabidiol, is known to have potential for amazing anti-inflammatory, calming, and mood enhancing benefits, both topically or ingested,” Schreiber explains. “It comes in so many forms.” She swears by Sleepy Bear’s Day Bear gummies: “They’re vegan and strain specific, so results and experiences are always consistent,” she says.

If you’re new to CBD, consult with your healthcare provider beforehand.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Download a guided meditation.

Listening to a meditation allows you to reflect, focus on your senses, and let go of any “bad vibes” from your day, according to Emberling. (Just remember to still keep your notifications silent.)

“As you use this time to disconnect, allow yourself to focus on your senses and your body,” she says. “Give it the attention that it deserves, and reflect on the feelings and sensations you are experiencing without judgment or evaluation.” 

She suggests allowing your feelings to metaphorically wash over you: “Experience them, and then let them pass to move on to the next.”

Keep the relaxing vibes going.

“Me time” doesn’t have to end once your bath is over. Schreiber recommends focusing on hydration.

“Don’t be fooled — you might be floating in your bath, but you need to hydrate. Tea, water — whatever floats your boat. You can sweat quite a bit in a hot bath — especially if you like it lobster-hot like I do,” she explains. (Schreiber notes there’s no “right” temperature for a bath. The general guidance for a bath’s temperature is a few degrees higher than your body temp, somewhere between 90 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Kohler.)

After you hydrate, Schreiber suggests stretching “to really give your lymphatic system an added boost.”

On your bed or on the floor, “Kick your feet up on the wall, [and] lie on your back,” she says. “Scooch your butt up against the wall with your legs at 90 degrees straight up.” Schreiber says you can stay like this with your arms out to your sides anywhere from five to 30 minutes. “You’ll also sleep like a baby,” she adds.