How soon after surgery can I take a bath

You’ve just had surgery and there’s nothing like a nice, relaxing bath. But your surgical team told you not to bathe and swim. Why is taking a shower right after surgery a bad idea? When can you safely take a shower again?

Depending on the type of surgery, plan to wait between 12 and 48 hours after the surgery before taking a shower, and then about two weeks later. You may have to wait longer after some procedures. Your surgeon will tell you if this applies to you.

This article explains why you should limit bathing after surgery, how to clean your body after surgery, and how long you should wait to shower or bathe.

Why limit bathing after surgery

There are many reasons to limit bathing after surgery.

They include:

  • Prevents bacteria from entering the body and causing postoperative infections
  • Prevents incision lines from getting wet, soft and flaring
  • Prevents premature removal of glue, adhesives, or Steri-Strips that keep the incision closed

Bathing refers to any soaking activity, including swimming or using a hot tub. It also includes any other activities that can get your cut soaked in water that isn’t from a clean faucet (such as wading in a stream).

mud or oil

In addition to not immersing your body in water, you need to avoid:

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  • Spa treatments that involve soaking or rubbing with mud or clay
  • Any handling, including washing or soaking in water with added scents or oils
  • Massage oil treatment rubbed on your new incision

Fitness competitions known as “mud runs” often include obstacle course-type events, which may include crawling or wading in mud. Do not participate in such activities until your incision is fully closed and fully healed.


Swimming carries more risk of infection than bathing. That’s because your bath water is made with clean tap water, and other kinds of water are not.

Bacteria in swimming pools, hot tubs, rivers, streams, ponds, and other bodies of water can cause serious infections in wounds that don’t fully heal.

How to clean your body after surgery

Even if you’re not ready to bathe or swim, you’ll need to cleanse your body regularly during your recovery from surgery.

Your doctor may recommend that you:

  • take a shower
  • take a sponge bath

This will reduce the risk of incision complications until you can safely soak in water.

Carefully handle the incision site by gently washing each incision site as instructed by the surgical team. Use mild soap and rinse.

Surgical incisions: types and care after surgery

how long to take a shower

How many weeks you should wait after surgery depends on the type of surgery you had.

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In all cases, please refer to the discharge materials you obtained after surgery. They should include your surgeon’s specific instructions for bathing.

If there are no instructions for bathing, call your surgeon’s office. Staff should be able to tell you exactly when it is safe to shower.

This is the general feeling you can expect.

Laparoscopic surgery

Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive. This means that the surgeon uses small incisions (cuts) to perform the procedure.

Once the tape holding the incision together comes off and the incision is fully closed, you are ready to bathe and swim. Before starting the bath, make sure the skin is completely healed and there is no redness or bleeding.

open surgery

Some surgeries are open surgeries. The surgeon must make a larger incision to perform the operation.

If you’ve had open surgery, you’ll need to wait until your surgeon removes the staples that keep the incision closed before taking a shower. This usually happens about two weeks after surgery.

If there are any gaps in your incisions, you must wait until they are fully closed and healed before swimming or bathing.

Some procedures require extended periods of time away from the bathtub.

  • If you have a cast on your leg, you shouldn’t soak it in a tub or immerse it in any type of water.
  • After a hysterectomy, you should avoid bathing or swimming for at least four weeks.
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After surgery, your surgeon will tell you how long to wait before taking a bath or swimming. You should not bathe or swim until the wound is fully healed.

Avoiding bathing and swimming after surgery can help prevent infection. It also prevents the incision from getting wet and soft, and prevents the glue or adhesive that holds the incision from coming off prematurely, helping you heal faster.

If you have questions about when it is safe to bathe or swim after surgery, talk to your surgeon’s office.

VigorTip words

After surgery, it is important to protect the incision. This means changing dressings as directed, keeping them clean, and not immersing the wound in water or other materials while it’s still healing. Prolonged soaking can weaken newly healed tissue, so make sure it’s fully healed before starting activities like bathing, swimming, or mud cleaning. Avoid using potentially contaminated water, such as ponds, lakes, or even community hot tubs, until you have fully recovered from surgery and resumed all normal activities.