After a long day of school, 14-year-old Kian comes home to his apartment in northern Kentucky and starts running a bath — his preferred method of relaxation. He gauges his mood and chooses a water temperature accordingly. Usually he either goes for lobster-boiling hot or hypothermia-inducing cold, avoiding any middle ground in the process. He fills up the tub about halfway, leaving enough room to ensure the added volume of his body won’t cause the water to spill over. Next, he gets in, sometimes craving a bath so badly that he doesn’t bother taking off his jeans or socks. Melting into the tub, he lets the day’s grime and troubles wash off him.
He then takes the cup stationed on the rim of the tub, plunges it into the water, fills it and takes a sip — relishing in the taste of the day’s bathwater.
He’s not the only guy who drinks his own bathwater either. What started as the kind of joke whose exact origins remain a mystery has, over the course of a few months, evolved into a community of more than 7,500 people, all of whom are dedicated to the consumption of bathwater. For his part, Kian and his friends would sling the phrase “you drink bathwater” around at school before migrating the quasi-insult to Reddit. There, on the for-teenagers-by-teenagers subreddit r/teenagers, one of Kian’s posts went semi-viral and spawned a comment chain of people discussing the concept. Not before long, Kian created r/youdrinkbathwater.
There are multiple approaches to drinking bathwater, and the subreddit often debates the best and worst ingestion methods. Some favor drinking bathwater straight from the tap, while others think this is betraying the whole concept of bathwater drinking and will only drink bathed-in water.
Kian prefers the latter: “It’s not bathwater unless you fucking bathed in it.” Despite his strong opinion, however, he doesn’t try to enforce any single ideology of bathwater drinking onto the subreddit. He sees his openness as a sort of ode to Ancient Greece, hellenizing newcomers by indoctrinating them into the practice while also encouraging them to contribute to the discourse.
If all of this is a joke, no one bothered to tell Belle Delphine, who recently sold jars of her used bathwater for 30 bucks a pop to “thirsty gamers.” After initially selling out, the e-girl upped the ante, selling a whole tub of the stuff for a whopping 10 grand. Obviously, r/youdrinkbathwater had opinions, ranging from delight to denial.
Kian is decidedly not a thirsty gamer, and while he’s not planning on buying any of Delphine’s next batch of bathwater, he does respect her hustle. “I wish her the best in her capitalism,” Kian says. Across r/youdrinkbathwater, there’s a sense of respect for Delphine for managing to pull off such a feat, but mixed feelings on how this affects the practice of bathwater drinking on the whole.
Kian admits that part of the reason he drinks bathwater is for the shock value and “the meme.” Yet when he started drinking the stuff, it wasn’t for laughs, but out of laziness. He’d been taking baths for most of his life, and while he found himself drinking some bathwater here and there, he never actively sought it out as a thirst-quencher — in large part because he always brought with him to the bath a cup of tap water to drink.
But one particular bath outlasted the cup of water, and Kian found himself parched. His body sent him conflicting messages. One side told him to stay in the bath longer and relax; the other demanded he get some water in him. That’s when Kian had his eureka moment: He dipped the empty cup into the bathwater, brought it to his lips and took the swig that would change his life.
The perfect glass has been an evolution. For instance, he’s recently begun to believe that warmer temperatures bring out more of his body’s essence in the broth. He also holds off until he can see the layers of his sweat and dirt dissolve into the water. Only then does he dunk his cup under the water line and bring it back up, guaranteeing that his filth enters the mix. From there, he spends the rest of his bath leisurely taking sips from his cup, savoring the way the slightly warm fluid runs down his throat.
From a health perspective, bathwater, when coming from the faucet at least, is no different than the water from a kitchen sink. So unless the water pipes in a house are made from lead (lead water piping was banned in 1986, but homes built before then may still contain lead pipes), bathwater is as safe as tap water. However, bathed-in water presents an entirely new set of criteria for drinkability, containing a mess of biological and chemical material in it.
That said, Rais Vohra, medical director at California Poison Control System, explains that the relatively large volume of water in a bath means that any potential contaminants are heavily diluted, and therefore, don’t pose a substantial risk. He adds that the main concern in drinking bathwater is the soaps and chemicals a bather uses, which on their own could potentially be dangerous, though he doesn’t recall the control system ever receiving a call about bathwater poisoning.
Kian, meanwhile, has gotten sick twice from the practice, although he continues to refuse to clean his tub. “Why the fuck would I clean it? I’m trying to clean myself in it,” he explains. The first time he was taking a rather long bath, and when it came time to drain the tub, he decided to drink the whole lot instead (or at least so he says). After a few cups, though, he felt like he was drowning. Luckily, the end result was only a stomach ache. The second time, Kian fell asleep in the tub. When he woke up, he immediately got out, but the cold lingered on his skin. After not getting any better, he went to the hospital, where he was told he had pneumonia.
Despite these scares, Kian assures newcomers that the practice is as safe as you make it. “You can go for a high temperature or a low temperature; you can go for a cold bathwater on the rocks if you want to get hypothermia or you can go for some fucking Hot-Pocket temperature,” he recommends.
With such a low barrier of entry, the practice only eludes those who find it disgusting or don’t like bathing (or have a bathtub). Not that the latter would ever stop Kian. In such a pinch, he advises finding something approximately bath-shaped, whether it be a sink or a plastic tub, and filling it with tap water before dive-bombing into it and letting yourself stew.
After that, it’s just a matter of getting your favorite cup, dipping it in your watery nectar and chugging.