Bathing After Knee Replacement (Stay Clean After TKR)

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As you prepare for TKR surgery you might be wondering when can I bathe.  Bathing after knee replacement is important but you’ll need to be mindful of what you can and can’t do. My doctor and my medical team at the hospital told me I was not to shower or submerge my knee in a bathtub for the first 12 days post surgery.

I was also told to avoid swimming pools and hot tubs during this time. I’ll explain how I bathed the first 12 days and I’ll explain how I took my first few showers after my staples were removed.

I’ll share some ideas that will make your bathing experience easier and more pleasant. As I mentioned in prior articles, I often woke up very sweaty at night. The next morning it was nice to clean up even though I could not get in the shower.

Bathing Right After Knee Replacement (How I Washed)

During the first 12 days post surgery, I bathed from my sink (sponge bath). I had my wife put down a large beach towel in front of the sink. Then she brought a folding chair and put it on the towel in front of the sink.

I draped another towel over the chair and sat on that towel. I had soap, a washcloth and a towel nearby. I filled the sink with warm water.

Using the washcloth without soap I washed my head. I don’t have much hair so it wasn’t necessary to use shampoo or soap on my head. Next, I lathered up the washcloth with soap.

I stood using the sink counter for support and washed and rinsed my body. I then sat in the chair and washed my feet and legs. The first few days I could not reach my foot on the surgical knee.

My wife was kind enough to wash my right foot and my back while I was seated in the chair. She also dried the same foot and my back. I was able to dry the rest of my body while sitting and then standing.

It was a chore to bathe and I was breathing hard after I was finished. It felt great to be clean and to put on a clean change of clothing.

Shaving After Knee Replacement

I tried shaving standing up the second day after my TKR. I used the walker for support but the majority of the weight was on my good leg and I wasn’t very comfortable.

After my first shave, I made it a point to shave every other day when I was bathing. I stood for short periods of time with the aid of the walker but spent most of the time shaving while sitting in the chair.

When and How I Showered After Knee Replacement

On the 12th day post-surgery, my home physical therapist removed my staples and said that I could take a shower the next day. She advised me not to let the shower water directly hit my incision.

On her initial visit, she checked my bathrooms and shower to make sure I could maneuver in and out of each.  She mentioned getting a non-slip pad so I wouldn’t slip while getting into the shower or standing up.
Many showers have non-slip grips so you might be prepared already.  If you don’t have one, it’s wise to take extra precautions on wet surfaces.

If you fall it could damage the wound and create more problems for you (like broken bones).  If you’re living on your own I recommend being extra careful when it comes to safety (check Gorilla Grip non-slip shower grip on Amazon).

The therapist liked that I had a built in tile bench in my shower and a showerhead that I can remove and use by hand. These were two big advantages for me.

My shower does not have built in handrails.  Handrails would have helped a lot!

A  handrail can help you get in and out of the shower.  It will also help with standing up.  I didn’t want to damage my tile in the shower so I didn’t install a permanent handle, but I found another option that uses suction on the tile (check the suction handle on Amazon).  They can easily be attached and released and won’t damage the tile.  Plus it looks nice.

If you do not have a built in seat I suggest you buy or rent a shower seat. Shower seats are made to get water on them so they won’t rust and the bottom of the legs have rubber grips so it won’t slip during use.  Shower seats also dry out quickly which is convenient for moving after use.

I like the Vaunn Tool-Free Shower Chair (pictured right) because the height is adjustable and you don’t need tools to assemble it (check chair price on Amazon). It’s listed as a chair for seniors, people with balance issues, or people recovering from surgery.

I was concerned about my first shower so I took some time to get prepared. When I took my first shower I was worried about standing under the showerhead and keeping my balance.

You might consider changing your existing conventional shower head to a portable handheld shower head.  Shower heads that can be handheld are much easier to use while sitting down.

Because I could bring the shower head to my body while sitting it made rinsing much easier.  Our shower head is similar to the one pictured (pictured). This Handheld Shower Head on Amazon is a good option that can be easily connected to your existing faucet.

My wife put a small towel on the shower floor and another small towel on the tile bench where I would sit during part of my shower. I even brought in one of my hiking poles to help with my balance.

I had a clean towel hanging over the shower door to use when I was done. My wife put a towel down in front of the shower and placed a folding chair on it near the shower door. She placed a small towel on the seat.

After warming the water I gingerly entered the shower for the first time with the hiking pole. I soon found out that my balance was fine and that I did not need my hiking pole.

I stood under the shower and rinsed off my entire body being careful not to let the water hit my incision. I took the shower head down and rinsed again while holding the shower head. I turned the water off and sat down.

I was able to reach the on/off handle from the sitting position. I lathered up my washcloth and got to work. I used a long handled brush to clean my feet and my back.

The long handled brush I used had a long stick with a luffa-type sponge at the end.  It helped reduce the need for bending over and changing positions.  I’d recommend using one because they are inexpensive and helpful (here’s an inexpensive Long Handled Luffa on Amazon).

I could reach over and turn the water on and grab the showerhead to rinse off when needed. After making sure all the soap was off my feet, I stood back up and finished washing. I replaced the shower head back overhead and rinsed off for a final time.

I gingerly stepped out of the shower and sat down in the chair where I dried off. That first shower wasn’t easy and I was breathing hard. It was a nice feeling to get under the water after almost two weeks.

The long handled brush was extremely helpful. I didn’t need to ask my wife for help.

When Can I Take A Bath After Knee Replacement

I was able to take that first shower on the 13th day post surgery. Even though I could shower I was told not to take a bath and submerge my leg in water. You don’t want to jeopardize the wound or stitches.

Remember, submerging you leg in water is much different than a sprinkle of water from a shower.

I was given the option to prop my surgical knee up on the edge of the tub while I put the rest of my body in the tub. I had done this several years ago with a broken leg. At that time I found it was easier to bathe using the sink and didn’t get in the tub.

If you choose to take a bath with your knee elevated out of the water, be prepared to have help.  The positioning will take some upper body strength as well because your arms will help lower you into position.


My first few bathing experiences were a chore. I needed help setting things up. I also needed help washing my feet and my back.

I tried to clean up after my sink bathing but my wife had do most of the cleanup. It is important to prepare before bathing whether you bathe by the sink or in the shower.

Soap, washcloths, and towels need to be within easy reach. At first, your walker needs to be nearby and having a chair to sit in was a must for me.

Don’t be in a hurry to get in the shower. Wait until your medical team gives you the okay. Even though my first bathing experiences were not easy I would suggest that you try to bathe daily after TKR.

It breaks up the monotony of the recovery process and you do feel much better when you are clean. It is worth the effort.