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What is a Soap Enema?

By Erica Stratton
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A soap enema is when a mild soap is added to an enema for a more thorough colon cleansing. Though many enema guides recommend using only warm water during an enema, small amounts of other ingredients such as oils or salts are often added to the enema bag. A soap enema is meant to encourage a full emptying of the bowels when simply using warm water has had incomplete results.

Using this type of enema requires carefully choosing the right kind of soap. Only natural soaps should be used, because commercial dyes and fragrances can irritate the colon and cause pain. Good choices for natural soaps include goat's milk and glycerin-based soaps. Castile soap, which is made with olive oil, is the most irritating to the colon and may cause a type of inflammation called chemical colitis.

Preparing a soap enema involves adding about 3 ounces (100 grams) of soap to an enema bag filled with warm water. Both liquid and hard soap can be used. If the soap used is hard, it will have to be grated before adding it to the water. The enema should then be administered through a tube in the anus.

There are two different kinds of soap enemas: the cleansing enema and the retention enema. Retention enemas are meant to be held in for up to 15 minutes in order to allow the salt or other ingredient to be absorbed into the walls of the colon. Cleansing enemas are not meant to be held for very long, since most additives will have an immediate impact on the bowels.

A soap enema is a cleansing enema, and thus will cause cramping when it is administered. The soap will stimulate the walls of the colon, as well as filling the colon to capacity. This will touch off peristalsis, the series of muscle contractions which start a bowel movement. For a soap enema, five minutes is usually the maximum that a patient can retain the enema before having to release it.

Once the liquid has been introduced into the colon and the patient has voided their bowels, a soap enema should be followed up with one using only water. This will wash out any soap residue, which can irritate the colon if left in. More than one warm water enema may need to be used in order to wash out all of the soap.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1007417 — On Jul 03, 2022

I like plain warm water enemas using distilled water. Administered very slowly over a thirty minute time span. They're very relaxing and a great way for a guy to unwind after a stressful work day.

By Peace2014 — On Feb 26, 2014

I have tried a glycerine enema before and all I can say is I did not enjoy it. It will make your rectum want to release faster than normal and sometimes it burns when you release.

By SarahGen — On Oct 18, 2013

@donasmrs-- I use a glycerin enema once a month. I think it works great. I buy the glycerin in bulk, so a container lasts me several years. You don't need a lot to make the enema anyway. I've also heard good things about castile and lavender soap enemas but I haven't tried them yet.

I haven't had any unusual side effects from soap enemas but I've heard that it's not good to do them too frequently. Once or twice a month is fine, but more than that can have negative side effects on your health.

Your first methods to fight constipation should always be a fiber rich diet and regular exercise. Enemas are meant to be an occasional cleanse, not a regular treatment for constipation.

By bluedolphin — On Oct 17, 2013

@donasmrs-- I've tried several different types of soap enemas -- castile soap enemas, glycerin enemas and goat milk soap enemas. I think I like goat milk soap enemas the best. They work very quickly and they're relatively mild. Enemas always cause some cramping and gas, but I've found goat milk soap enemas to be on the gentler side. I hope you give one a try.

Just make sure to get natural goat milk soap with as little ingredients as possible. If it's liquid, great. If it's a bar of soap, you can let the soap sit in warm water for a while and then use the water as the enema.

By donasmrs — On Oct 17, 2013

Has anyone used a glycerin enema before? Does it work well?

Does it have side effects?

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