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A Sponge Bath For Mom

Updated on October 16, 2014

Giving my 95 year old Mom a sponge bath - Some products to make our lives a bit easier

My 95 year old Mom, Gertie, is confined to bed rest these days so it's become necessary for me to hone my sponge bath skills. I didn't, thankfully, have to learn how to give Mom a bath in bed by myself - I had some wonderful hospice workers guiding me. In fact, the hospice workers do most of the work - I only help them at the moment.

There are a lot of new skills though to be learned and tackled when giving a sponge bath for mom. And, at every minute, Mom's dignity must be preserved. It's a difficult task to say the least.

That's Mom in the picture right after her sponge bath and shampoo (in bed!). Not only does she smell better, but she feels much better after her sponge bath also.

Note: This article was first written in November 2011. Mom died in February 2012. I have not updated the tense shift as she was still very much alive when I penned this article.

Come Visit My New Website

During the years I cared for Mom, I learned a lot about caregiving and the items that make the job much easier.

Please come see some excellent gifts for senior citizens on my own website:

You'll want thin washclothes instead of fluffy ones

Before I really knew what I was doing in regards to sponge baths, I went out and bought the best wash cloths I could find. Hospice workers quickly educated me in the fact tht the thicker washcloths were much harder to handle when sponge bathing Mom. They also take more energy to wash and dry which you'll be doing a lot of.

So, I suggest that you pick up a set of 10 washcloths like those below for sponge baths. These type of washcloths work very well. And, you'll need at least two for each sponge bath so make sure you have plenty on hand - I ended up using 3 or 4 for each bed bath.

#1: Bathing basins must be available for sponge baths

Buy two plastic basins. You'll use on for warm clean water (for rinsing) and one for soapy water with which to wash. Don't get hung up if the type you buy is a dishpan type - it doesn't matter. You're just looking for plastic wash basins that will hold at least a gallon or so of water.

That plastic bin on the right is for dishes but I didn't care. You can always use any plastic container but I preferred to keep dedicated plastic bins so I didn't cross contaminate the plastic with food items. I even labeled the tub so the other caregivers knew exactly which tubs to use for Mom's sponge bath.

#2: Rinse free shampoo and conditioner makes sponge baths much easier

Get rinse free shampoo and conditioner. I like to use special shampoo for Mom's white hair but it is a bright purple color so it's too hard to rinse out. Instead, hospice suggested we use rinse free shampoo to freshen Mom up between actual shampooings which she gets once a week.

For the actual shampooing, we just use regular shampoo. Mom and I both favor Moroccan Hair Oil products and that's what we use. Read more about this product in my article: Moroccan Hail Oil products.

I also bought some rinse free shower caps which you just microwave, place on the head, and massage for 5 minutes. Hair comes out fresh and clean and wet so you'll have to blow it dry.

Any of the rinse free shampoos, conditioners or the rinse free shower caps have many great uses if you ask me. I wish I'd had some of these products after swimming in the Chesapeake bay this past summer or while camping during days of my youth.

Portable Hair Wash Basins Are Perfect For Bed Baths

On those days when Mom was bed bound and I wanted to really wash Mom's hair thoroughly, I brought out the portable hair wash basins.

Mom and I had pretty good luck with the inflatable hairwash basin shown below. But, beware: always put a rubber sheet down before putting water on a bed! Otherwise, you'll end up having to change your patient's sheets after giving them that relaxing bed bath.

I always just bought a pail of warm water to the bed but I like the idea of the portable shower even better.

For more information, please come visit my accompanying article Portable Hair Wash Basins And Supplies.

Have you ever given a sponge bath?

sponge bath for the elderly
sponge bath for the elderly

Have you ever given a bed bath?

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My Mom and I make a pretty good team

My Mom and I make a pretty good team
My Mom and I make a pretty good team

#4: Buy the best body wash available

We use rinse free body wash for my Mom but you don't have to. Select any body wash with a neutral odor as you really don't want a strong scent after the bath (you'll use body lotion later for that). I prefer Bed, Bath and Beyond scents which are light and clean, but, that's just me. I also like to bathe Mom in aromatherapy body washes which have a relaxing them, such as lavender and vanilla.

I like to change the sheets and bed pad each day after Mom's sponge bath

I used the Hospice bed chucks (bed liners) but didn't like them. For one thing, they're hot and with Mom lying in bed all day, hot is the last thing we need. So, I bought 6 reusable bed pads from Amazon which we love. I just throw the used ones right into the washer each day and replace it with a new, fresh bed pad. I also use one of these reusable bed pads to put under the wash basins while we're giving Mom a sponge bath - it keeps my wood tables from getting wet.

I also bought Mom the best sheets I could find. Cheap sheets can contribute to the development of bed sores so get cotton sheets that will not pill. For more about the prevention of bed sores, read my article: Preventing bedsores in the elderly.

#5: Moisturizing body lotions will keep your bed bound senior citizen friend fresh

As mentioned above, Mom and I both like very lightly scented body lotions - we both hate strong scents. So, we've searched pretty high and low and have found the below great scents. I promise you that these are very light and non-objectionable to even those who hate perfumes.

Bvlgari Omnia Crystalline By Bvlgari For Women Body Lotion, 6.7-Ounces
Bvlgari Omnia Crystalline By Bvlgari For Women Body Lotion, 6.7-Ounces

This is our current favorite. The scent lingers for 2 days and is just very light and beautiful.

Cool Water By Davidoff For Women. Body Lotion 5 oz
Cool Water By Davidoff For Women. Body Lotion 5 oz

This body lotion is a bit spicier than the Bulgari or the Shiseido so I use it when others are coming over to visit mom.


I don't really know what I would have done the past 5 years without my Mom living with me. We've had a wonderful run and I'll be forever grateful for this time with her.

I like to read her the comments I get from my online writing so please drop me a line below and let me know you stopped by.

Are you a caregiver or a lover of a senior citizen?

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    • mariacarbonara profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens... very personal and thanks for sharing

    • malena10 profile image


      6 years ago

      My mother is disabled from birth (cerebral palsy) and with the years she will increasingly need my help. Of course I'll be helping here in my power. We'll probably also need help some day!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      6 years ago from Canada

      My sister was the caregiver in our family and I can never thank her enough for all the kindness she showed my parents, my siblings, and myself. She truly is an angel.

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 

      6 years ago

      It's true that being clean feels really good. Thanks for this.

    • patriciapeppy profile image


      6 years ago

      thanks for this lens. I love elders and have great respect for them.

      don't mean to use this as a plug for my lens but here's one I made that you might enjoying looking at.

    • Winter52 LM profile image

      Winter52 LM 

      6 years ago

      I learned a lot today... thanks for a great lens!! Your mom is one lucky lady to have you!!

    • hotbrain profile image


      6 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      Wow, I didn't know they had rinse free shampoo. Now, that's useful!!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I think your lens is great for helping those who have to give bedbaths. I had to do this for my Dad before he passed, and could have benefited greatly if I'd had this information then. You're truly a God-send to your Mom and I'm sure she appreciates all you do. Blessed.


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