How To Take A Bath With Epsom Salt

Emily's Bath Essentials

When I think of baths, I generally think of children, the elderly, couples, and the English. Who takes baths?! I mean, seriously—none of my friends take baths. My brain puts baths in the same category as yoga: it’d be ‘nice’ to relax for an hour...but I just want a 10-minute, high-impact workout; get in, get out. Showers are my cardio.

This is not to shit on baths—they sound amazing, and totally tap in to the “take time for yourself” idea. But it just seems like such a production. And it all starts with the tub. I've seen a lot of claw foot tubs in my day...that don't belong to me. Beautiful tubs made from porcelain and marble and the tears and dreams of unicorns. I’m pretty sure the tub in my apartment is...plastic? It’s old, not in a good way, and let’s say...not altogether ‘aspirational.’

I’d never wanted to sit in my tub, no matter how clean it was, until the actress Phoebe Tonkin told me about Epsom salt baths. This was not the first time I’d heard of Epsom salt baths—Liv Tyler speaks pretty passionately about them—but there was something about Phoebe’s particular recipe that enticed me. It was:

-half a box (2 lb) of Epsom salts (Liv uses a full 4 lb box)

-a big scoop—half a cup, let’s say—of coconut oil

-a few drops of essential oil (your choice)

The salt, found not in the food aisle but upstairs, in the wellness section, of Whole Foods, is an inorganic compound comprised of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. It is said to soothe sore muscles, alleviate aches and pains, and generally detoxify the skin. All for $7.99! Coconut oil is a thing of wonder for moisturizing your skin (we’ve covered this), and essential oil is nature’s Chanel n°5.

In the past three weeks, I’ve been through 6 boxes of Epsom salts, two jars of coconut oil, and a bottle of Aura Cacia “Sensual” essential oil. Here’s why:

Baths rule.

When it’s cold out, which it is now in New York, baths are just about the only things that warm you up. In fact, you get hot, too hot, and then you get out and have a giant glass of water and pass out in your bed for the best night’s sleep of your life. But let’s back up: first, you need to fake it till you make it, bathroom style—turn it into a “spa.” Install a dimmer so the lights can come down. De-clutter your countertops. Pick up some flowers from the corner store—even one or two stems of something will do. Light a candle. Clean your tub. These are things that will keep your bathroom spa-like all the time, not just during baths. Then, when it’s time for the bath, bring a Jawbone Jambox mini (mine’s blue) into the bathroom and sync up Big Youth radio on Pandora—reggae is soothing. Mix up a steamy hot Phoebe Tonkin-style bath and soak until you don’t want to soak anymore; I usually last about 20 minutes. You emerge, like Venus from the sea, serene and dewy.

It makes me feel like a sexy English baby with an old soul, every time.

—Emily Weiss

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Sarah

    Emily is by far the finest writer on ITG. I'm not sure she knows this because these first person posts are rare.

    • Ml


    • ikillplants

      I completely agree. But the posts are rare because she's at the helm of ITG...unless she's tricking us and writing posts without bylines!

    • adamalpha

      Agreed. A striking talent.

  • clo

    Damn I really gotta get me some Epsom salts - love from an english bather.

  • Blou

    Funny! I'm downloading the new vogue and Elle on newstand on my iPad planning to get into the tub for an hour (two) and read away in my spa'd up bath. I popped on ITG to check what's new and saw this post !
    Yep I'm from England! North London to be precise ;)

  • Alyson

    Your posts are still my favorite, Emily. I'll be scrubbing my tub later.

  • Julie Longyear

    My blog is called "From the Bathtub" and my whole first post back many years ago was on how I adore baths. It is the BEST place to do creative thinking - just make time for it and I swear your mind will come up with amazing things! :) Here is my first ever post on my blog about this very topic:
    Happy soaking everyone!

    • melissa

      i agree! i do my best thinking in the tub and take baths EVERY DAY.

    • magpie

      And I did upwards of 50% of the most boring, uncreative thing ever--studying for the bar--in the bath, too. One keyboard ruined, one summer made marginally tolerable, one guilty habit acquired for life. Wet pages are a sign of learning.

      • Julie Longyear

        This is hilarious! I love it. :) Maybe the tub is the place to do accounting work as well....

  • Kerry Lee

    Always love your posts, Emily.

  • Rosie von Waldherr

    I kinda have the same opinion about and elders =P But this post kinda made me want to try it out xD


  • Sarah

    Very nice article, and you are absolutely right. Baths are relaxing, but I have always been a "shower" person. So, no baths for me!

  • Helen

    As someone with a freshly-broken shower, these words have come at the right time. I haven't taken a bath for about two years (and then only because I was so hungover I couldn't stand up). I'm also English, what's up with that?

  • Ashleigh

    Get Lush products for your bath. They make the experience magical. I personally recommend Phoenix Rising bath bomb. Gorgeous

    • Janet Lee

      I'd buy the bath bombs just to see them fizz in the tub for 5 minutes :)

  • Heather P.

    My short-lived experiments with baths usually end with my husband opening the door to "check up on me." He usually brings with it a blast of cold air from the hallway, and a loud creak of the door that makes me jump and tense up. I know he means well, but it's one mood he's amazing at killing.

    This post, however, might make me change my mind...and next time remember to lock the damn door. :-)

  • Talia

    It usually takes longer to bathe than to shower. Having the time to take a bath is in itself a rare treat.

  • Emma Hager

    Loved this post, Emily! You're a great writer.

  • newbrunette

    But doesnt the coconut oil clog your pipes? It goes solid at room temp, let alone winter cold. This bath is a plumbing bill waiting to happen!

    • VanessaV

      i was wondering about this... right after trying this out last night. i'm hoping that it mixes up enough in the tub that even if it solidifies, it will all be broken up into little pieces. hopefully? please be so!

  • Nicky

    I spy &otherstories shower gel!

  • camille

    I have a deep water bath stopper that allows me to fill my tub as full as it will go! It has revolutionized my baths.

    • Janet Lee

      How deep is your tub? I've always wanted gigantic, deep bathtubs. How does your bath stopper work differently from the regular stopper at the bottom?

      • Erin

        The stopper at the bottom blocks the main drain that empties the tub. This stopper blocks the overflow outlet (the silver circle thing in the picture) that most tubs have to prevent it from overflowing should you leave it unattended with the faucet running. Covering this will allow you to fill your tub with more water. Just remember to watch it when it is filling and leave enough leeway at the top of the tub for the water you will displace when you get in.

      • LJIS

        How deep is your tub, how deep is your tub, I really mean to learn.... (Bee Gees reference :)

  • Emma and Emily

    This sounds like the best bath ever. I need to get myself some Epsom salts now!

  • hollygoeslightly22

    I used to think baths were gross because, well, you're sitting in your own not-so-clean bathwater. However, as a person with back pain I have rediscovered the bath. It really does help with relaxing the muscles and sleep. Elemis makes a muscle-ease bath soak that is wonderful.

  • Georgie

    Just added Epsom salts to my Amazon cart, then got overexcited and added hydrogen peroxide, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, macadamia oil and a brown glass bottle and pipette. I wonder how I can get my bath to smell like ginger, because that would just complete me.

    • Badedasforever

      Given my username, it's kind of obvious where I stand on this issue. I actually have an answer for your query. Get some cheese cloth and some ginger root. Peel the ginger and then cut it up in large chunks. Cut a swath of cheese cloth and set it near the tub. Run piping hot water into the bath and drop the ginger chunks into the bath. By the time the bath is cool enough for you to get in, the ginger has seeped into the bath water. When you've finished soaking, as you lift the drain, wrap the cheese cloth around or in the drain. This will keep the ginger from going down the drain. An alternative is tying up the ginger chunks in cheese cloth to make a ginger sachet.

      • Georgie

        Good stuff... actually kind of similar to how I make ginger tea. Thanks!

    • Janet Lee

      You're so funny!

  • bluesky557

    I think coconut oil and and a soothing scent of your choice sound divine in the bath. But there is zero scientific evidence that Epsom salts do anything for you at all in the bath relating to sore muscles or detoxification. (Nothing but your kidneys and respiratory system detoxify you, actually.)

    • MissWix

      haha! this article is brilliant! science ftw.

    • MissWix

      I DO really like the bit about the density of the water making you literally float. that's enough reason for me to still dump half a box of salts in my tub.

      • bluesky557

        Ha. You could make your very own Dead Sea in the bathtub!

    • sshhheid

      Thanks for this! I've been curious about this, though I always do feel so relaxed afterward. I've actually used several cups of epsom salt (close to half a bag) in a bath before and got some slight skin irritation on the tops of my feet. I wonder if there's harm in using a whole box? I now keep it to one to two cups max to be safe.

  • Jenny W

    I'm going to get some epsom salts now.

  • Ella

    Definitely going to try this out! My normal go-to for baths is Dr. Hausckha's Lavender Bath Oil-it smells incredible and is super relaxing.

  • Kiri Yanchenko

    If I am particularly stressed no matter the weather I get in a bath! My husband has to get my bulk ebay epsom salt delivery too because he takes the car to work. 25kgs of it! :-) Buy it on ebay! :-)

  • Ailloumie

    LOVE THIS POST. Keep up the good work emily! Love from tokyo!

  • Joy (FRC)

    Sounds so good. I'm convinced.

  • Nada

    I love baths, and my Fiancé runs the best kind :) Epsom salt is my cold cure but I have never thought to add the coconut oil!!! Amazing!!!!

  • magpie

    Love baths, but always find myself taking a shower as I get out. Am I the only one who seems unable to clean myself in a proper soak?

    Oh well, two for the time of one, I call it. Or two for the time of two--which really is just decadence; I can deal with that.

  • MissWix

    I'm obsessed with baths. When I lived in NY, I had no tub. The first thing I did when staying at anyone else's house (even if I barely knew them) was to soak in their tub. I can't walk past a Lush without dropping $50 on bubble bars, and I accidentally bought 6 varieties of bath salts at TJ Maxx the other day. I already have a vat of coconut oil, and you know I'm off to get some epsom salts tomorrow!!! xo

  • MommyG

    This post remind me that I haven't taken a bath in about a year... I guess it's time to relax. And I do agree with the others that you are the best writer!

  • laura chambray and curls

    My first thought was 'What! Baths are amazing!'. Then I remembered I'm English.

  • Rachel Baynard

    I took one last night and used Epsom salt, coconut oil, and geranium essential oil--amazing! I literally felt like I left the spa when I was done…candles and all.

  • sashi

    The water doesn't stay hot. Solutions??

    • Jenny Shumpert

      (Two years later...) You can just top off the bath with hot water periodically, after draining it a little. Or alternatively, you can do what my mum raised me to do, which is run the hottest bath possible to begin with (I just crank the hot water tap and let it go, all the way up) and then slowly ease yourself in over a span of a few minutes. Don't scald yourself, but I guarantee the water will stay bath temperature for ages this way.

  • Meredith Perdue

    Why have I never thought to bring the jambox into the bathroom when I take a bath? Brilliant!

  • Morgan

    Baths with epsom salts are the BEST.

    Not only does it work wonders for soreness and chills, but it's amaaazing for hangovers. :D

  • Bette11

    I was not a bath person myself until I got married to a British man who takes his bath every single day no matter what. I also heard of Epsom salts a few years ago (via Gwyneth Paltrow) and after a nice standing bathtub renovation in our house I started bathing once or twice a week. My only addition is organic lavender buds (I put them in a sag) which are very inexpensive. And occasionally a nice face mask or additional lavender salts that I get from Whole Foods. I read that Epsom salts slow down the neural system and makes one to relax. Oh so true; it is addictive. However, I don't use oils (too much trouble cleaning). PS: If you are diabetic reconsider epsom salts.

  • JennyWren

    I love baths. We didn't have a shower when I was growing up, so I think I maybe took 3 or 4 showers before the age of 18. I must admit I find the shower experience kind of stressful, being bombarded with water and all.
    In cold winters, I find Oatmeal baths even better than Epsom salts. Make a little sachet with cheesecloth and loll for an hour with a book. Then you get out feeling nourished and comfy and cosy.

    • Blake

      "Being bombarded with water and all"
      I *hated* showers as a child for that reason specifically.

      Also my mother chanted "double double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble" as I was in the bath as a toddler. That made it a lot more fun. :)

  • LJIS

    Baths are the best! I take one almost every night. Just want to point out that you don't have to go to Whole Foods to get Epsom salt. A sack is like $3 at the drugstore. Fancy Dead Sea etc salts etc are not necessary. (Although I have been to the Dead Sea and it is incredible.) I also use essential oils. And candles! Another tip: for those who are squeamish about it being "dirty," while I don't agree, I do always sit on the edge of the tub and wash my feet with soap before I fill the tub and put all of me in it. (I walk around barefoot a lot.)


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