What do sufferers of eczema and have in common with plumbers? They both love oatmeal baths—but for different reasons. People with eczema love the soothing effects that oatmeal on their inflamed and irritated skin. And plumbers love all the extra money that they get from people who have oatmeal clogged pipes.
But is this clogging inevitable, or is there something you can do about it?
While bathing in regular oatmeal can clog pipes, bathing in colloidal oatmeal won’t. Colloidal oatmeal is simply powdered oats. It dissolves in water and will easily run down your drain. Pre-made colloidal oatmeal is available from drugstores and online, or you can grind oats at home in a blender.
Bathing in oatmeal goes back to the time of ancient Romans. But if you’re new to oatmeal bathing, you may wonder what oatmeal will do to your plumbing. After all, you’ve seen a bowl of wet oatmeal left sitting on the counter expands and hardens. In this article, I’ll explain what conditions an oatmeal bath can treat, as well as how to prevent oatmeal from clogging the bathtub drain.
What Can an Oatmeal Bath Treat?
Sensitive and chronically itchy skin is more than annoying. It affects every aspect of your life: where you go (Picnics on grass? No!), what you do (Swimming? No!), what you wear (Shorts? No!), and what you buy (Fragranced products? No!).
You try not to scratch, but sometimes you can’t handle it anymore. The itching and scratching can even wake you up at night.
Then you face the dilemma of treatment and control; when do you use corticosteroid creams, and when do you just grit your teeth? The idea that something so ordinary, readily available, and relaxing as a warm bath can help seems too good to be true.
But it is true!
Doctors and the National Eczema Association recommend bathing in oatmeal as a treatment for many skin conditions.
Oatmeal Baths for Rashes and Radiation Irritation
But oatmeal baths are not only for chronic skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis. They can provide relief for diaper rash in babies (yes, you can bathe children in oatmeal baths!), poison ivy rashes, rashes and hives associated with allergic reactions, chickenpox, sunburns, and even the skin irritation caused by radiation therapy in cancer patients. An oatmeal bath can also soothe skin that’s inflamed from simply using the wrong product for your skin type.
How Does an Oatmeal Bath Work?
Colloidal (or ground) oatmeal has been found to repair and increase the protective barrier of the skin. It moisturizes the skin while you bathe by enhancing the water-holding capacity of the skin. There are also phenols in colloidal oatmeal, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Don’t Let Your Oatmeal Bath Clog the Pipes
Remember that cold, congealed bowl of breakfast oats? You don’t want your drains to look like that bowl. Don’t worry; there are so many things to do to prevent this, and these methods have the benefit of increasing the effectiveness of bathing in oatmeal.
1. Bathe In Colloidal (Powdered) Oatmeal
Colloidal oatmeal is oatmeal that has been finely ground into a powder that dissolves in water. As it dissolves, colloidal oatmeal will not clog your pipes.
You can buy colloidal oatmeal from drugstores and online. A popular brand is Aveeno who sells packets of colloidal oatmeal for less than $7 on Amazon.
An alternative and cheaper, although a less convenient option, is to make your own colloidal oatmeal. To do this, you put the desired amount of regular, plain breakfast brand oatmeal into a kitchen blender and blitz it until it is a fine powder.
To test if it is fine enough, take a small amount of your oatmeal and add it to a bowl of warm water. If it dissolves and turns the water a milky color, and very little settles on the bottom, it is fine enough.
2. Make An Oatmeal Tea Bag
If your blender can’t quite get the oatmeal fine enough to fully dissolve, you can make an oatmeal teabag. Grind the oats as fine as you can get them, then place the desired amount in the center of a piece of muslin or cheesecloth. Pull the sides of the fabric up and tie it securely at the top.
This oatmeal teabag can be placed directly in the tub and allowed to float around; you will see that the water still turns milky. Alternatively, you can secure the oatmeal teabag to your faucet so that it is near the running water and can’t float around freely.
Once you finish the bath, you can remove the oatmeal tea bag and throw it away. If you wish to re-use the muslin or cheesecloth a few times, you can untie the parcel and empty out the soggy oatmeal. Wash the cloth with gentle, fragrance-free soap, and allow it to dry completely.
3. Use Colloidal Oatmeal Products
If you want to avoid sprinkling oatmeal into your tub altogether, you can buy products bath products already made with colloidal oatmeal. You can purchase soap bars made from goat milk, honey and oats, bath oils, and body wash containing colloidal oatmeal.
A Caution About Bathing in Oatmeal
If you suffer from sensitive skin, then you know full well that anything can send you into a flare-up. Things like aloe vera, tea tree oil, and other various essential oils that are supposed to soothe skin can make you itch like crazy and erupt in red or fluid-filled bumps.
Oatmeal baths are unlikely to do this, but if you want to be on the safe side, try a small patch test. Put a little water containing dissolved, colloidal oatmeal onto the inside of your forearm or the back of your hand and leave it there for 10-15 minutes. If you have any reactions to this skin patch test, don’t try a full oatmeal bath.
BONUS: Oatmeal Bath With Milk and Honey Recipe
You’ve heard of the biblical land of milk and honey, right? Well, here’s a taste (but don’t drink it!).
We’ve already spoken about the benefits of an oatmeal bath, but why add milk and honey?
Cleopatra, the renowned beauty of ancient Egypt, is famous for having bathed in milk. Some people might think this was just the indulgence of a wealthy queen, but as it happens, milk is excellent for the skin. The proteins and fats in milk help to rehydrate your skin, and lactic acid is a gentle exfoliant.
Honey is an all-natural, antioxidant-packed, anti-inflammatory wonder substance that is used in many different ways and for many various reasons, one of which is the treatment of skin conditions.
A milk and honey bath can work wonders for your skin. But what about a milk and honey bath with oatmeal? For this ultra-indulgent, skin-blessing bath, you will need to add the following to your lukewarm bath water while it is running:
- 1 cup of plain full-fat milk
- 1-2 cups of colloidal oatmeal.
- 1 tablespoon-1 cup of honey
- Fill your tub with warm but not hot water.
- Add milk and oatmeal and mix into bathwater with your hand.
- Dissolve honey in some hot water. Then pour it into the tub and mix around with your hand.
- Soak 10-15 minutes.
Oatmeal baths should not be hot. They should be warm. Hot water dries out your skin, compromising its barrier, which would defeat the purpose of taking a soothing oatmeal bath.
Staying in the tub for too long can also dry out your skin, so limit your oatmeal baths to 10-15 minutes.
When you get out, pat yourself dry with a clean towel, and apply a fragrance-free oil-based moisturizer to lock in all the moisture your skin just absorbed.
If you frequently have sensitive, irritated skin, consider using a bamboo towel. Bamboo towels are the very best for sensitive skin!
While Cleopatra bathed in fermented donkey milk, I don’t recommend that. However, you can read my indepth post about milk and honey baths to find out much more about the very best types of milks and honeys to use.
Soothe Your Skin Without Paying a Plumber
Oatmeal baths are used in the treatment of various skin conditions and irritations. They improve the protective barrier of the skin, increase the skin’s capacity to hold in vital moisture, and act as anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. These effects help to rehydrate, repair, and soothe irritated skin.
But soothing your skin doesn’t have to increase your plumbing costs. Use the tips provided above and go enjoy your healing bath!