Why Won’t My Teen Shower?

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Teen showering is a common concern for parents. A teen who refuses to take a shower can create a challenging problem. On one hand, you can't force them to shower if they don’t want to. On the other, a teen who doesn't shower regularly can face some serious social and physical consequences.

Before you decide how to intervene, consider the reason behind your teen’s disinterest in bathing.

This article probes some of the reasons teens may give for not showering and how to address the issue of poor hygiene with your teen.

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Reasons They're Not Showering

Your teen has their reasons for not showering. Fundamentally, it could stem from:


Your teen may feel that showering is a chore, so they may avoid it out of laziness, just as they probably try to avoid doing other chores.

Teens can also be superb procrastinators. Your teen may promise to take a shower after school. Then, after school, they might say they prefer to shower after dinner. And then as bedtime approaches, they may say they’ll shower in the morning.

If your teen’s refusal to shower seems to stem from laziness, you may need to treat the issue just like any other responsibility. Set limits and provide consequences.

They Think it’s Boring

Many teens would rather spend their spare time playing video games or chatting with friends rather than worrying about hygiene issues. Taking a shower may seem too boring compared to the other things they could be doing.

Difficulty Adjusting to Puberty

Some teens simply don’t recognize the importance of taking a shower. Your teen might not know that after puberty, they'll get sweaty and smelly if they don’t shower. Even teens who do shower sometimes don’t recognize the need to use soap or wash their hair.

It can be hard for some teens to make the transition to treating their bodies more like adults rather than children. It wasn’t a problem to skip a bath at age 7, so at age 13 they may not understand that after puberty, they'll have body odor if they don’t wash regularly.

If you suspect your teen’s reluctance to shower stems from difficulty adjusting to puberty, it’s a sign you need to talk. Discuss how physical changes like increased perspiration and the emergence of body hair mean that taking a daily shower is important. Explain to your teen that skin bacteria feed on sweat, which leads to body odor.

Mental Health Issues

Occasionally, the refusal to shower could be linked to certain mental health problems. For example, teens with serious depression may lack the interest and energy to shower. But taking a shower won’t be the only problem they’ll struggle with; depression could also lead to academic and social problems.

In some cases, traumatic experiences can trigger hygiene issues. A teen who has been sexually abused, for instance, may refuse to shower because they fear their abuser might approach.

Teens with developmental disabilities or cognitive delays may also struggle with hygiene issues. A teen may not understand the importance of showering or may struggle to remember the steps involved in caring for their health.

Seek Help, If Necessary

If you think your teen’s refusal to shower may stem from a mental health issue, seek professional help. Talk to your teen’s healthcare provider or contact a mental health professional.

Lack of Knowledge

The importance of good hygiene goes beyond appearances. Your teen may simply not understand the relationship between hygiene, health, and social interaction.

Poor hygiene can lead to a variety of health problems and social problems. Teens who don’t shower may be at risk for certain types of skin infections. A smelly teen may have trouble making and keeping friends. They may be teased or bullied for looking unkempt. And this could take a serious toll on their self-esteem.

Ablutophobia is a fear of showering or bathing. It's common in toddlers, but can also affect teens and adults. Someone with ablutophobia has an irrational fear of bathing that can lead to anxiety that interferes with daily life, and may even cause panic attacks.

Addressing Shower Resistance

Take these steps to enlighten your teen about poor hygiene:

Have a Basic Hygiene Discussion

Talking to teens about hygiene issues can be tricky. If you're not careful about the way you broach the subject, your teen may grow defensive. It's also unwise to drop subtle hints that your teen smells bad or has oily hair. Leaving deodorant in their room or making jokes about their body odor won’t be helpful.

Instead, state your observations directly. Say something like, “Your hair looks oily today. You need to wash it" or “You have body odor. That tells me you need to take a shower.” You can also share the potential problems that can result from poor hygiene. Say something like, “You haven’t showered in three days. That’s not healthy.”

Your teen may think no one notices. Saying something like “I'm afraid other kids will notice you aren’t showering” or “I don’t want you to get picked on because you smell bad" could help them make the connection between showering and social interaction.

Teens who refuse to shower often experience other hygiene issues as well. For example, talk to your teen about the importance of wearing clean clothes and changing after exercising. Similarly, encourage your teen to wear deodorant.

Smelly feet can also be a problem with teens, especially teen athletes. Encourage your teen to wash their feet in the shower and then wait until their feet are dry before putting on socks and shoes. Wearing cotton socks and alternating shoes can keep smells to a minimum.

It's possible that your teen may grow defensive when you have these conversations. They may become embarrassed and react by lashing out and saying something cruel like, "Look who's talking. You smell bad all the time.”

Establish Hygiene Rules

Tell your teen that you expect them to shower every day, just as they do chores, finish their homework, and eat dinner every day. Showering should be part of their routine.

To encourage this positive behavior, let your teen enjoy privileges like watching TV or entertaining themselves with electronics. If your teen refuses to take a shower, or claims they are too busy, take the privileges away. After a few days, your teen may realize that it's in their best interest to comply with your wishes.

Resist the temptation to nag your teen. Repeatedly telling them they need to shower could cause them to dig in and fight your best efforts. Ironically, nagging could also make your teen more dependent on you. The goal is for them to be able to take care of their hygiene when you’re not there to remind them about it. Make sure they know it’s their responsibility to shower and that there will be consequences if they don’t.

At the same time, give your teen the flexibility to choose when they shower. Just like adults, some teens may prefer an early-morning shower to jar them awake. Others may appreciate the calming influence of water before they go to bed. Unless there is a compelling reason for them to take a shower when you say so, their ability to set their own shower schedule should increase the likelihood of them getting into a regular routine.

A Word About Rules

Experts say that rules work best when there is consistency, follow-through, and predictability.

Outsource the Conversation

Sometimes teens are more responsive to advice when it comes from someone other than a parent. Try enlisting the help of a trusted adult such as an aunt or uncle, older sibling, or family friend.

If your teen still seems reluctant to shower, an appointment with a therapist or pediatrician might help. If you go this route, it's a good idea to talk to the healthcare provider ahead of time about your concerns, so your teen won't be embarrassed when you raise the question during the appointment.

Humor May Help

"Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years."

—Comic "Henny" Youngman

Additional Tips

Here are a few additional tips that might help your teen get into a regular showering routine:

Purchase Personal Care Items

Look for personal care products designed for teens. These might be more appealing to your teenager. You can also encourage your teen to pick out their own deodorant, soap, and/or face wash. A teen who decides which products to buy may be more likely to use those products.

Teen Hygiene Basics

Showering isn't the only important hygiene habit. At minimum, teens should also:

  • Wash their hair daily or every other day
  • Keep their nails trimmed and cleaned
  • Wash their hands regularly with soap and water
  • Brush their teeth twice a day
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Change underwear daily and wear clean clothes
  • Use deodorant

Brainstorm Together

If your teen is still reluctant to shower, it may be helpful to sit down with them for a brainstorming session. Ask them why they don't like to shower. Then see if you can come up with a plan and/or a schedule together. A system of positive reinforcement, with input from your teen, may help motivate them to develop a regular schedule for showering.


You may be mystified by why your teen refuses to take a shower. In fact, your teen may not understand it themselves. It's possible your teen doesn't take hygiene seriously, they have too many things vying for their attention, or they're dealing with an emotional struggle.

To communicate the importance of good hygiene, be direct, point out the potential problems of poor hygiene, and establish consequences. It may also help to outsource the conversation to another trusted adult, like a family friend or therapist.

A Word From Verywell

It's common for many parents to look at their disgruntled teen and swear they don't recognize the person standing in front of them anymore. At the same time, no one knows your teen better than you do.

If you're grappling with a stubborn teen who refuses to shower, remember that you may have to try several persuasive tactics before you find the one that motivates your teen to hit the shower.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often should a teen wash their hair?

    Teens may need to wash their hair more frequently than adults. This is because during puberty, glands in the scalp produce extra oil. This can make the hair look oily or greasy. Washing the hair every day or every other day can help prevent this.

  • How often should my 17-year-old shower?

    Daily showering is important for teenagers because the body changes that happen during puberty can lead to acne or body odor. Daily showering can also help your teen develop lifelong hygiene habits. In addition to daily showers, you should also encourage your teen to shower after playing sports or engaging in other activities that leave them dirty or sweaty. 

  • Why is personal hygiene important for teens?

    Personal hygiene is important for teens—just as it is for anyone else—because staying clean helps ward off illness and prevent skin problems like acne. Good hygiene can also help your teen in social situations. Importantly, good hygiene habits today can lead to good hygiene habits in adulthood.

5 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.
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  2. Ranasinghe S, Ramesh S, Jacobsen KH. Hygiene and mental health among middle school students in India and 11 other countries. J Infect Public Health. 2016;9(4):429-35. doi:10.1016/j.jiph.2015.11.007

  3. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Parenting a child or youth who has been sexually abused: a guide for foster and adoptive parents. Washington, DC: U.S.Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Burea.

  4. Regan T. Hygiene in adolescents with ASD. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, CSESA Development Team; 2015:1-4.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Creating rules.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, author of the bestselling book "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and a highly sought-after speaker.