How Long After Surgery Before You Can Take a Bath

If you've just had surgery, you may think nothing sounds better than a nice, relaxing bath. However, your surgical team likely told you not to take a bath or go swimming right after your procedure.

You'll probably have to wait at least 12 to 48 hours after your procedure before taking a shower, and you may not be able to get back into the bathtub for two weeks or longer.

This article explains why you aren't allowed to take a bath after surgery and how long you can expect to wait. You'll also learn some tips for keeping clean until you can bathe again.

a woman running a bath

Alistair Berg / Getty Images 

Why You Have to Wait to Bathe After Surgery

There are many reasons for bathing restrictions after surgery, including:

  • It keeps bacteria from getting inside your body through your incision and causing an infection
  • It helps prevent the incision from getting wet and soft, which could allow it to open
  • It prevents the glue, adhesives, or Steri-Strips that are holding the incision closed from falling off too soon

What Counts as Bathing?

Any activity that involves soaking your body in water, like swimming and using a hot tub, is included in bathing.

You also need to avoid activities that would expose your wound to water that has not come from a clean tap—for example, wading in a stream.

How to Clean Your Body After Surgery

Even though you can't take a bath, you still need to keep your body—and your incision—clean while you're recovering from surgery. This will help lower your risk of complications like an infection.

Follow the instructions given to you by your surgical team. Usually, they will have you wash each incision gently with mild soap and rinse it well.

Instead of a bath, you can clean your body by:

How Long to Wait to Bathe

To find out how long you need to wait to take a bath, look at the paperwork you were sent home with after your surgery (discharge instructions).

The discharge instructions should have your surgeon’s specific guidance for bathing. If you don't see any directions about baths, call your surgeon’s office to ask.

In general, how long you will need to wait after your surgery to bathe will depend on the type of surgery you had.

Laparoscopic Surgery

Laparoscopic surgery is done using small cuts (incisions). It's considered a "minimally-invasive" procedure.

How long you'll have to wait to take a bath after laparoscopic surgery depends on a few factors.

First, your surgeon will need to take off the tape strips or stitches (sutures) that are holding your incision together or they need to have fallen off.

Usually, this happens after a week or two, but it can take longer—especially if they are dissolvable sutures.

Once the tape comes off or the stitches have dissolved, you will need to wait until your incision has completely closed. The skin needs to be fully healed, with no redness or bleeding, before you start bathing again.

Open Surgery

During some surgeries, the surgeon has to make a larger cut. These procedures are called "open surgery" and they are more involved than laparoscopic procedures.

If you have had open surgery, you will need to wait until your surgeon takes out the staples keeping the incision closed before you take a bath. This typically happens about two weeks after surgery.

If you have any gaps in your incision, you will have to wait until they are fully closed and healed before you can take a bath or go for a swim.

Longer Wait Times

There are some cases where you will need to wait longer to bathe. For example:

  • If you have a cast on your leg, you cannot soak it in a bathtub or immerse it in any type of water.
  • After having surgery to remove your uterus (hysterectomy), you will have to avoid taking baths or swimming for at least four weeks.

What About Other Water Activities?

In addition to not soaking your body in bathwater, you also need to avoid other activities that involve water or moisture, such as:

  • Spa treatments that involve soaking in or being rubbed with mud or clay
  • Any treatment that includes being washed or soaked in water that has had scents or oils added
  • Massage oil treatment that's rubbed on your incision
  • Swimming in a pool or soaking in a hot tub or jacuzzi tub
  • Fitness races with "mud runs" (an obstacle course where you crawl or wade through mud)

Going swimming poses more of an infection risk than bathing because your bathwater is clean tap water, while other sources of water are not.

Bacteria in pools, hot tubs, rivers, streams, ponds, and other bodies of water could cause an infection in a wound that isn't fully healed.


After you have surgery, you need to wait until your incision is completely healed before bathing. Your surgeon will tell you how long you need to wait before taking a bath or going swimming.

Avoiding baths and swimming after surgery helps prevent infection. It also helps you heal faster by keeping the incision from getting wet and soft, which prevents the glue or adhesives holding the incision closed from falling off too soon.

If you have questions about when it's safe for you to take a bath or go swimming after surgery, check the instructions you were given after surgery or call your surgeon's office.

A Word From Verywell

After surgery, you need to take good care of your incision. This means changing dressings as you have been told, keeping the wounds clean, and not getting the incisions in the water while it's still healing.

Soaking the wound can weaken newly healed tissue. Make sure it's fully healed before you start activities like baths, swimming, or mud cleanses.

It's also important that you avoid potentially contaminated water, such as ponds, lakes, or hot tubs until you have completely healed from surgery and are back to all of your normal activities.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Toon CD, Sinha S, Davidson BR, Gurusamy KS. Early versus delayed post-operative bathing or showering to prevent wound complications. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;2015(7). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010075.pub3

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Hysterectomy: Recovery and outlook.

  3. American College of Surgeons. Wound home skills kit: Surgical wounds.

By Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FN
Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FNP-C, is a board-certified family nurse practitioner. She has experience in primary care and hospital medicine.