How to Take an Apple Cider Vinegar Bath

Apple cider vinegar bath
Got an itchy bug bite? Dab apple cider vinegar onto the bite to relieve irritation. (Photo: Sea Wave/Shutterstock)

In our house, we use apple cider vinegar for everything from cooling sunburns to taking the itch out of mosquito bites to curing molluscum — a nasty little viral infection that has plagued my kids since we moved to Florida. We keep a bottle in our fridge and a bottle in each of our bathrooms.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been used as a traditional home remedy for years. ACV’s medicinal popularity got a boost in 1958 when D.C. Jarvis, M.D., published his book "Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health." In it, Jarvis recommended apple cider vinegar as an answer to almost every ailment and wrote that mixing the apple cider vinegar with honey enriched the healing power of the vinegar. He also wrote that apple cider vinegar could kill harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. There’s even some proof that ACV can help reduce your cholesterol.

Lately, this handy (and tasty) remedy has been making its way into bathtubs, infusing itself into warm water to work magic on the following five maladies.

Reasons to bathe in it

Add 1 to 2 cups of ACV to a warm bath while the water is filling up. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes and then rinse off any vinegar residue. Voila!

1. Soothes sunburns. Have a bad sunburn? Taking an apple cider vinegar bath can help you relieve the burn and may help it heal faster.

2. Combats body odor. Chemical-laden deodorants just cover up a smell. Taking a bath in ACV can help reduce bacteria buildup in warm, moist places like your armpits, creating a less hospitable home for future odor.

3. Fights fungus. A foot bath with ACV can treat fungal toenail infections that occur when the pH of the surrounding skin and nail becomes more alkaline in nature, allowing the fungus to continue to live. But if the pH of the area turns from basic to more acidic, the fungus cannot survive. ACV is acidic enough to stop the toenail fungus in its tracks but still mild enough to not damage the surrounding skin and nail.

It also helps soothe itching from eczema and can relieve discomfort from vaginal yeast infections and even shingles.

4. Makes hair happy. ACV can improve the quality of your hair by removing shampoo and other product buildup. It doubles as a natural detangler, and leaves your hair soft and smooth.

5. Relieves muscle aches. While some people use ACV in the bath to reduce muscle pain, Florida-based holistic nutritionist Rebecca Lazar recommends using a cup or two of Epsom salts with a few drops of pure essential oils, such as lavender, rosemary, or chamomile, instead. "ACV has a very strong smell, even diluted, which many people (myself included) can't tolerate, so I always make sure my client is aware of that before recommending it for the bath." .

Two caveats

Grocery store shelf of Bragg's organic apple cider vinegar
Organic apple cider vinegar brands may have more health benefits than a vinegar that is more processed. ThamKC/Shutterstock

There is one documented occurrence of a chemical burn from topically applied apple cider vinegar, so it should be diluted and tested on a small area of your skin before you commit to a bath. And an ACV bath is not a good idea if you have open sores or cuts on your body.

Which kind of ACV you use matters. “Omega nutrition and Bragg are two of the best brands of raw organic apple cider vinegar. Anything processed won't have the same benefits,” says Lazar.