My Teenager Won’t Wash

Having trouble convincing your teen to hit the shower? We’re here to help…

Most parents will face numerous arguments over their teenager’s hygiene at some point in their parenting journey. While you might not win the occasional bathing battle, we’ve got some advice to help you win the washing war…

Puberty & Hygiene

When children reach puberty, they begin to sweat more. They’re at a particularly self-conscious stage in their lives and sweating can be a source of embarrassment. This, coupled with the stubbornness and rebellious phase of the teenage years, can lead to many arguments over their personal hygiene. Your teen may construe your repeated pleas for them to shower as ‘nagging’ or feel self-conscious and criticised. You, on the other hand, simply want them to realise the importance of looking after their own body.

Why Won’t My Teen Shower?

Your teenager may be blissfully unaware of their own odours, or they may simply have ‘better things to do’ than spend 20 minutes having a shower, cleaning their teeth, and brushing their hair. Some younger teens simply forget because they’ve been so used to you washing them and prompting daily hygiene tasks.

It can be frustrating to have a daily face-off with your teen over their hygiene habits but there are ways you can tactfully encourage your teen to pick up the soap. Our friend, award-winning journalist, Tanith Carey, shares these helpful hints from her fantastic book, What’s My Teenager Thinking?a must-have guide for parents of teenagers aged 13-18.


  • Talk directly

“Say in a warm, matter-of-fact way, ‘I love you, and it seems as though you’re a bit sweaty. It’s just your body doing its job and a sign that you need a shower.’”

  • Point out how quick showering is

“If your teenager thinks they’re too busy, tell them that five minutes can be all it takes to have a good thorough wash with some soap.”

  • Help them consider what others think

While teens aren’t good at smelling their own sweat, they may have noticed other people’s. Talk to them about how people view body odour and explain that self-care sends out a message that they like and respect themselves.”

  • Keep reminders brief

“If they need another prompt, gently saying one word, ‘shower’, may be enough as they already know the reasons.

  • Make it enjoyable and easy

“Give them a choice of soaps, gels and deodorants. Talk about how a shower can be a relaxing, private way to unwind. Put a laundry basket in their room, too, to remind them they need to wear fresh clothes daily.”

  • Notice when they’re clean

“Always pointing out that they need a shower will make them defensive and resistant. Notice when they’ve showered and say how clean and fresh they smell.”

  • Check for other reasons

“If the problem continues, it could be because they don’t see washing as a priority, they don’t understand how others view them, or it’s an act of defiance. Continue to support them so they don’t face social disapproval. If your teen has recently dropped a hygiene routine and neglects their appearance, they may be suffering with low self-esteem or depression. Check if their social life and schoolwork are also suffering.”

For more helpful parenting advice and tips, get What’s My Teenager Thinking? here.


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