Here's How Often You Should Bathe Your Kids, According To Science

How Often Should Kids be Bathed - Header Image

Key Points

  • A daily bathing routine is far too frequent for most young children, 2-3 times per weeks is far more acceptable
  • Washing too frequently could lead to skin irritation
  • Make sure you wash children that are smelly or dirty
  • When children reach puberty, daily cleaning will become more appropriate.
  • Ideal water temperature should match body temperature (98.6F or 37C)

Let's be honest: There's nothing more relaxing than a warm bath after a long day. That's why most kids hop into the tub with a smile on their face when bath time rolls around. FYI, for most parents, that's pretty much every day.

But, even though this soothing routine grants your little one long stretches of sleep time at night, regular scrub-downs aren't always as innocent as they seem.

Most pediatricians, dermatologists, and parenting mags argue that daily baths are a big no-no for infants and toddlers. Meanwhile, your mother and fellow moms say it's A-OK to give your mini-me a sponge bath almost every night.

So, how often should you really bathe your kids? Here's what science has to say.

How Often Should Kids Be Bathed?

Infants (0-12 mos.)

Ask any parent out there, and chances are they'll tell you that they bathe their newborn babies almost every day. But, from a logical point of view, this routine is kind of pointless as most infants don't exert themselves enough to work up a sweat, or even get dirty often enough.

In practical terms, babies don't need to be washed every day.

Infant having a bath with a rubber ducky

Experts at the Academy of Pediatrics recommend bathing your little one with soap just 2-3 times a week . Of course, if they have dry, sensitive skin, lower that number down to once per week. It's more than enough!

Tip 1: Between baths, you can wipe your kiddo with a wet cloth to keep them fresh. Pay special attention to the areas around the neck, armpits, and genitals.

Tip 2: In case of a major diaper blowout, don't shy away from bringing on the suds, even if they're just had a bath.

Toddlers (1-3 yrs.)

At this point, kids are learning how to crawl, walk, and even run on their own. Their fine motor skills are also improving, and as a result, they can now feed themselves (well, sometimes).

Toddler having a bath in a sink

Overall, Toddler physical activity is more intense than before, meaning they are much more likely to get dirty, sweat, and accumulate bacteria all over their body.

However, that doesn't mean you should give them a scrub-down daily.

Try to ensure you bathe your Toddler anywhere from 2 to 3 times a week, depending, of course, on how dirty or stinky they are .

Tip 1: Note that each kid is different. So, don't feel bad if you have to bathe your little one just twice a week. It's totally normal!

Tip 2: According to a recent press release by Public Health England (PHE), accidental drowning deaths in toddlers are more common than we think. Bath seats are usually the ones to blame, as kids often climb out of them and fall. So, even if you're feeling tempted to use one or go grab something real quick for a sec, don't! Their fragile bodies are nowhere near developed enough to maneuver a slip-up.

Pre-Schoolers (3-5 yrs.)

Unlike infants and toddlers, pre-schoolers have developed some resistance to their environment and its germs, so their skin is now less sensitive than before.

Pre-schoolers can get away with frequent washing - and yes, that includes daily scrub-downs. However, that doesn't mean you should hit the tub daily as they may not necessarily need it.

In fact, depending on how active your Pre-Schooler is, they usually only need to take a full bath about 2-3 times a week .

Tip 1: This is the perfect age to teach your little one how to take a bath properly. That being said, show them how they can rinse off all suds at the end, instruct them not use tons of soap during each bubble bath, and teach them how to strike the perfect balance between hot and cold water.

Tip 2: If your little munchkin gets dirty quite often, you may need to wash them more often than recommended. If you do, though, make sure you don't dry out their skin by using alcohol-free products

Grade-Schoolers (6-9 yrs.)

According to the American Academy of Dermatology , kids between the ages of 6 to 11 can have a daily scrub, but might only need a wash about once or twice a week.

Grade Schooler having a Bubble Bath

If the situation calls for it, go for a third run if their kiddos have been crawling around in the mud and are visibly dirty.

They also recommend a full scrub-down after a child has swum in a pond, lake, pool, or the ocean, and when they start smelling funky.

Tip 1: If your mini-me is diagnosed with a specific skin condition, make sure you follow the dermatologist's directions to the tee and not over-bathe or over-scrub your little one.

Tip 2: Since puberty is right around the corner, it'd be a good idea to work your way up to daily baths, especially during that last year. This could make the transition to regular showering much easier for your child.

Tweens & Teenagers (10-17 yrs.)

At this point, your little one has hit puberty (or is on the verge of doing so), and that means their body is going through some major changes.

Two of the most distinct ones are that their skin is now producing more sebum oil than before and gets dirtier/sweatier more often.

Kids getting dirty jumping in puddles

That's why experts recommend pre-teens and teens to bathe or shower daily, especially if they're playing sports, sweat heavily, or swim in a pool or the sea.

This way, they prevent dirt, microbes, and oil from building up on their skin, and potentially causing acne.

Tip: Even though sebum oil can be dissolved by using just water, it'd be better to lather up every time your teenager takes a bath. This way, you can be 110% sure all residues are rinsed off.

6 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Bathe Your Kid Daily

Take a look through the centuries, and you'll see that we, as a society, have developed a strong sense of germophobia.

That's why we often go to extremes to eliminate any kind of bacteria that could pose a risk to our health, whether it's by using antibiotics on the reg or hopping into the shower multiple times a day.

Recent studies have shown that the human body (and that includes our skin) needs bacteria to thrive and survive, and kids' bodies are no different.

So, here are six reasons why you shouldn't bathe your kid every day.

Reducing Their Immunity

During a 2012 study, a team of scientists examined the role that bacteria play in our immunity .

As part of the study, they exposed two groups of mice (one that was free of germs and one with several vibrant bacterial communities on their skin) to an array of microbes, including Staph, and then checked how their body reacted to the parasites.

Needless to say, the germ-free mice showcased a decreased immune response to the parasites while normal mice fought off the microbes as their bodies were used to tackling such "threats.".

What does this mean for your kid? Well, getting rid of skin germs by bathing them daily weakens their immunity and makes them susceptible to infections down the line.

Prompting Skin Conditions

Bathing your kid every day can also irritate their skin as hot water and soap dissolve sebum oil, a.k.a. the lipid mixture that is produced by the sebaceous glands .

Child with irritation on skin

When on the skin, this naturally occurring "oil" makes sure the uppermost layer of skin (skin barrier) stays hydrated and, thus, flexible.

Locking in the moisture makes their skin resistant to dryness, irritation, and a bunch of other related skin conditions such as eczema and xerosis (dry skin).

But, that's not all!

After every bath, most parents usually pat their kids dry with a towel. Unfortunately, this unconscious mistake could irritate your kid's skin even further, and trigger several other issues, from rashes to patchiness.

Increasing the Risk of Allergies

Even though there's still not enough research to back this theory up, scientists from the University of Michigan believe that the regular use of antibacterial products such as soap could increase allergies in kids.

The reason? As their immune system shifts away from fighting infections and viruses, it starts focusing on the inside, opening the way for allergies and auto-immune diseases.

Weakening Their Growing Hair

Shampoo may be one of the easiest ways to remove excess sebum oil from your scalp, but it's bad news for kids whose hair is still growing.

Many brands (even some that are targeted to babies and toddlers) use a bunch of harsh chemicals and detergents (see: Sodium Laurel Sulfate, Triclosan, Parabens, and Phthalates) in their formulas that are known for stumping hair growth.

If your kid is exposed to the product daily, there's a high chance their hair and scalp will dry out and become prone to friction .

Cleaning What's Already Clean

Another reason why you shouldn't bathe your kid every day is that they're not as dirty as you may think.

After all,young children barely move, so the chances of them gathering all sorts of bacteria on their skin in just one day are pretty much negligible.

That being said, they can easily go two or three days without hitting the tub.

Saving Water and a Money

This may not be an actual health benefit, but limiting your kid's bathing frequency to 2 or 3 times a week could save you a pretty penny.

How come? Well, for one, you'll get to spend less on bathing products like shampoo and body lotion.

Also, note that baths are the third largest water guzzler in an average home .

Cutting back a couple baths during the week, could make a decent dent in your water bill. And let's not forget the environmental benefits.

You could save gallons upon gallons of water if you're bathing your kid as often as dermatologists recommend.

What is the Ideal Temperature for a Kid-Friendly Bath?

Even though there are no studies to determine the exact temperature of a kid-friendly bath, most dermatologists and pediatricians agree that the ideal bath temperature should roughly match body temperature .

Kid in Freezing Cold Water

Infants can be quite susceptible to damage caused by bath temperature, so make sure the temperature is in a range of 96F (36C) and 100F (38C).

As kids grow older, the temperature range widens and could be anywhere from 90F (32C) and 120F (48C), more than that, and there's a chance of irritating and or even scolding.

That being said, there is no good justification exists for temperatures higher than 104F (40C).

How Long Should Each Bath Last?

Clinical Associate Professor at Tulane University Patricia Farris, M.D., recently told Huff Post that people shouldn't spend more than 10 minutes in the shower or bathtub – and yes, that includes our kiddos.

Longer baths tend to strip the moisture off their skin, making it dry and itchy . So, even if your mini-me wants to spend more time in the tub, make sure you take them out just in time.

During the Winter

In the winter, the constant swift from cold to warm and vice versa could leave your kid's skin dry.

To avoid doing further damage to their fragile skin, you could keep their baths brief (10 minutes max), replace soap with gentle cleansers, and close the door to increase the humidity inside the room.

During the Summer

In the summer, the weather is much hotter and more humid, so it's not as likely for your little one to suffer from dry skin.

That means you could stick to experts' original recommendations (2-3 times a week).

Also, if they happen to spend a lot of time outside, don't be afraid to up the weekly count to 4 or 5, especially if there's dirt or mud involved. Due to the season's humidity, taking a bath every other day won't affect their skin negatively.

The Takeaway

If you're anything like me, it's hard to imagine a life without this whole "nightly bath" routine. After all, it's a ritual that helps kids fall right asleep without throwing a tantrum. But, after seeing that science is mostly against daily scrub-downs (at least until they hit puberty), I believe it's a habit worth breaking.