By Claire

December 18, 2019

There is nothing like a nice, hot bath to soothe sore, tired, or bruised muscles; or, to relieve the stress of a long, challenging day.  Many people add Epsom salt to their bathwater, which is a common remedy for muscle soreness and relieving stress.  But what if you do not have Epsom salt handy?  

Can you use table salt Instead of Epsom salt for a bath?  It is not recommended that you bathe in table salt because most of it is iodized which can result in a skin reaction. 

You may think that since table salt is safe to eat, it is safe to bathe in. That is not accurate.

Table salt is safe to eat because it is refined and specifically prepared for culinary purposes. However, the refining process introduces additives that may cause skin irritation.  You may end up with itchy skin or an even worse reaction.

What is the Difference Between Epsom Salt and Table Salt?

If you taste table salt and Epsom salt, you will notice a significant difference in taste. Epsom salt is very bitter, almost unpalatable. Table salt has a flavor much more pleasant to the palate.

When salt is Iodized, it is stripped of essential minerals that the body needs, and the chemical element iodine is added. The salt is heavily processed and often contains anti-caking agents to keep it from sticking together. 

Iodine is necessary for thyroid function, but it can also cause adverse skin reactions in some people. The addition of iodine and other additives to salt during the iodizing process makes regular table salt less than ideal for bathing.

Products that contain iodine can cause:

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Itchy rash
  • Hives
itchy back

The table below shows the differences between regular table salt and Epsom salt.

Table Salt

Epsom Salt

At least 97.5% sodium chloride

No sodium chloride – pure mineral compound of magnesium sulfate

Unrefined

Used primarily with food - edible

Used primarily for medicinal purposes

Made up of sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl)

Contains magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), and oxygen (O)

Chlorine can be a skin irritant

Magnesium has a hydrating benefit to the skin

Superficial cleanser (antiseptic)

Reduces pain and swelling

Crystals are small and refined

Crystals are larger than refined table salt

The biggest difference between table salt and Epsom salt is the presence of sodium chloride in table salt.  Epsom salt does not contain sodium chloride but is rich in magnesium sulfate which is essential to the human body. 

Are there Other Options Besides Table Salt?

Epsom salt is in a class by itself and cannot be compared to other salts. Although it is a popular choice for bathing to relieve muscle tension and stress, there are alternatives.  

Himalayan and sea salts are excellent options often used for bathing; and, have been found to relieve tension and stress. These salts are also used for cooking and can be found on many kitchen shelves.

Himalayan Salt

himalaya salt bath

Himalayan salt is one of the oldest and purest forms of salt in the world.  It's chemical composition is like table salt in that it contains sodium chloride, but it also contains minerals and elements found in the human body.  They include:

  • Magnesium – helps muscle and nerve function; provides anti-inflammatory benefits.
  • Calcium - prevents water retention, increases circulation, and strengthens bones and nails.
  • Potassium – regulates fluid balance, nerve signals and muscle contractions.
  • Iron – helps muscles store and use oxygen.

Himalayan salt comes in a variety of colors ranging from pure white, pink and orange, to deep red. Sometimes the salt is a mixture of several hues.  The color is determined by the number of trace minerals and iron in the salt.  Another type of Himalayan salt is Kala Namak, also known as black salt. It is often used in Ayurvedic healing practices.

Sea Salt

sea salt bath

Unrefined sea salt is another option that you can use for bathing.  Unrefined salt maintains the mineral electrolytes. Electrolytes help with nerve impulses and muscle contraction.

There are various types of sea salt, but some are better suited for therapeutic use. The following sea salts are good to bathe in.

Dead Sea Salt – has 10 times the salt concentration of the ocean.  It is made up of 12-18% sodium chloride with the rest being rich in magnesium, calcium chlorides, bromides, and potassium.

Black Hawaiian Salt – it is recommended that you add this to your bath water for a detoxifying soak.

Red Hawaiian Salt – known to draw toxins from overworked muscle tissue. It is high in iron oxide and good for body aches, muscle strains, and healing wounds.

sea salt types

The alternative salts mentioned above are often used in proprietary bath blends. Proprietary means a mixture or combination of ingredients. Proprietary blends may seem useful because you will see several ingredients that provide health benefits. 

However, the combination may result in less of these ingredients which may reduce effectiveness.

When you come across these blends, be sure to read the label to see if it discloses exactly how much of each ingredient you are getting. 

Benefits of Bathing in Epsom Salt

Health professionals say that because of the increase in processed foods, most Americans are magnesium deficient. Several studies indicate that magnesium can be absorbed not only orally, but through the skin, which makes bathing in Epsom salt beneficial.

It is said that the magnesium sulfate in Epsom salt helps:

  • reduce symptoms of arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • soothe muscle aches and pains
  • reduce swelling
  • provide itch relief from things like poison ivy and sunburn 
  • release heavy metal and toxins built up in the body
  • decrease chronic fatigue
salt bath benefit

Epsom salt was discovered in the early 1600s and has been used for therapeutic purposes since that time. I have used Epsom salt over the years and have found it to be very helpful for relieving sore muscles and for relaxation during times of stress.

I have found adding just ½ cup to a hot bath and soaking for at least 15 minutes works wonders!

What does the Research Say?

We know that bathing in table salt may be harmful to your skin. But, what about Epsom salt? Numerous claims have been made by consumers and health practitioners about the value of Epsom salt.

Although many people swear by the product, and studies have been conducted to support these claims, researchers and scientists still feel more studies are necessary to show definitive evidence.

One study was conducted in 2006 by Rosemary Waring, a British biochemist at the University of Birmingham. She wanted to know if magnesium sulfate could be absorbed into the skin through bathing.

Dr. Waring started out by measuring the levels of magnesium and sulfate in the blood and urine before people bathed in Epsom salt. She then tested after people bathed in Epsom salt. 

salt bath relax

Her findings were that 16 out of 19 people had higher levels of magnesium and sulfate in their blood after the bath than they had before the bath.

The results of this study are a good indicator that Epsom salt does provide health benefits, but since there are no peer-reviewed studies, researchers feel there are more studies that need to be done. 

Still, you can not negate what a vast majority of people experience when using the product.

Let’s Recap

As you can see, salt comes in many shapes, colors, and forms, but all salt is not created equal.  Adding any type of salt to your bath water can actually be more harmful than helpful. 

pink salt lavender

Remember that anytime a product is refined, some of its natural characteristics are removed or altered which can cause an adverse skin reaction.

When choosing bathing salts, keep in mind that many products on the market contain different ingredients as part of a proprietary blend which may slightly alter the salt. Epsom salt only contains the naturally occurring minerals magnesium and sulfate

Claire

About the author

I created this site to share my knowledge of natural remedies and ingredients because I am a big believer in an organic lifestyle. Our body is strong enough to rid toxins and maintain a balanced ecosystem by itself as long as we treat it smartly. Note that I’m not just talking about food and exercises, I also aim to help you gain a healthy mindset – a mindset that will lead you to a positive and resilient life.

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