How To Use a French Bathtub to Shower and Wash Hair?

This might seem like a weird subject, but many of my students seem baffled by the European style bathtub: a regular bathtub, with a hand shower at the end of a cord, and very often no shower curtain or glass separator. “How the heck am I supposed to wash my hair??” they often ask…

Today, I’ll unravel the mystery ;-)

1 – Taking a Shower in a French Bathtub

Without curtain, there is just no way you can take a standing shower…

I mean, if you are REALLY petite and thin, you might be able to stand up and direct the flow towards the back wall, but it’s going to be almost impossible not to splash around.

Your choice is between:

  • sitting in the empty French bathtub (la baignoire)
  • actually taking a bath (un bain)

2 – Showering in an Empty French Bathtub

So you’re going for solution number one, and decide to sit down in the cold empty French bathtub.

Shower yourself keeping the shower very close to your body,  directing it slightly towards the back wall. It’s possible, not super comfy, but I’ve done it many times when there was not enough water to run several baths in a row, or when I was in a hurry.

If you are washing your hair, and it is long, you are asking for trouble…… As you are shampooing, either:

  • turn off the shower (and freeze),
  • or hold the shower head between your knees (since if you just put it down as it is running, even if you are very careful to place it face down, it will turn face up, act like a fountain, and splash everywhere).

When you are ready to rinse, bend your head back, and holding the shower with one hand very close to your hair, brush the water off your hair with the other hand.

It takes practice, but splashing can be minimal.

3 – Take a Bath in the French Bathtub

Enjoy your bath, then, when it is time to wash your hair:

  1. Just slide down and put your hair in the water (as my daughter Leyla is kindly demonstrating for us in the picture).
  2. Sit back up and shampoo.
  3. Rinse the shampoo off the same way, dunking in the water.
  4. Repeat the operation if you want to shampoo twice, or use conditioner.

To rinse your hair very clean, or if your bath water was full of soap or terribly filthy (I don’t know… maybe you’ve been digging in the dirt all afternoon…) use the hand shower as described above.

In this case, you might actually empty your bath as you are showering, so you actually end up taking a sitting shower after your relaxing bath…

Or you can start with a sitting shower, wash the dirt off, then run a bath and relax…

So many options………

This is how to wash your hair in a French bathtub!
This is how to wash your hair in a French bathtub!

4 – What About Taking a Shower in a French Bathtub With a Shower Curtain?

If you do have a shower curtain (un rideau de bain), you are in luck! These are rare in French homes.

You can indeed take a standing shower, simply holding the shower with one hand.

The cord might not be long enough for you to wash your hair, so you may just need to sit in the empty tub all the same…

But at least, there will be warm steam, so you won’t freeze, and transforming the bathroom into a swimming pool will not be an issue.

Don’t forget to place the curtain INSIDE the bathtub, or else you’ll have Niagara Falls :-)

Voilà – I hope these essential tips will make you feel ready to face the French bathtub during your next trip to France.

For more serious (or not…) tips about traveling to France, check out my Essential French Dialogues + Tips audiobook – recorded at different speeds and enunciations, this audiobook focuses on today’s modern glided pronunciation and gives you plenty of useful vocabulary and tips to prepare your trip to France. My downloadable French audiobooks are exclusively available on French Today.

And now let’s answer another essential French question: How To Ask for the Bathroom in French? Hint, it’s not “la salle de bain”…

Finally, learn the daily bathroom routine vocabulary in French with a short video featuring the famous videogame “The Sims”.

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