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Soap in Mouth

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Jana Mathews: The other day my 5-year-old son came home from preschool talking about feces and the body part that expels them ... in great detail. After several warnings, I banished him to time-out. Ten minutes later, when the subject of rectums was raised again, I threatened to wash his mouth out with soap. Although I had a very clean mouth growing up (having nibbled on several bars of Irish Spring in middle school), I had never before used this punishment on my own children.

a kid with soap in his mouth

My son smirked when I showed him the bottle of pineapple-scented hand soap (it's all I had on hand!). Then he said "butt hole" and "poop face" very slowly, enunciating every syllable.

"Open up," I told him as I sighed with disappointment.

My discipline strategy was very successful. After swallowing a quarter-sized dollop of soap, my son did a quick fist pump and shouted, "YES! I ate soap!"

I didn't think twice about what I did, until I told a group of friends. Something about these mothers' scowls told me that washing your kid's mouth out with soap was not only out of vogue, but downright abusive.

"That's horrible," said one friend.  

"I would never do that," said another.

Twenty years ago, cleansing your children's palates with liquid Dial was par for the course when they said curse words or talked back. For better or worse, times have changed and punishments that once were considered socially acceptable now have the ugly stigma of abuse attached to them.

Is washing your kids' mouths out with soap STILL okay, or has it gone the way of the dinosaurs ... and spanking?

Talk to the Meanest Mom in the MOMLOGIC COMMUNITY!

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49 comments so far | Post a comment now
Meg April 23, 2009, 6:26 AM

As a kid, I had my mouth washed out with Soap ONCE. Just once when I intentionally dropped the F-bomb on my parents. After a minute with the bar of Ivory, I learned and it never happened again.

I hope this won’t come up with my daughter, but as she is clearly payback for the way I behaved as a kid, I can only hope that using something so drastic as a last resort will only happen once.

Marinka April 23, 2009, 9:26 AM

Sorry, but yes, I find it abusive, old fashioned and most probably ineffective.

I’m not even focusing on the unhealthy aspect of it as Rexanne did in the comment above mine, I think it’s humiliating and just the kind of power play that says “do what I say because I am stronger than you are.”

Cindy S April 23, 2009, 9:55 AM

We actually have always used vinegar.
I put vinegar and a tad of water in a small little spray bottle that you can carry in a purse. Just spray it on their tongue when they use those little unacceptable words. It has always been very effective.

Mic April 23, 2009, 2:05 PM

Ha Ha! I threatened my 4 yr old b/c she was going thru a potty mouth stage. I finally put my finger on the dishsoap-I mean barely any & put it in her mouth. She freaked out!! She was so upset & said to me “why would you do that? why didn’t you just spank me??! It was so hard not to LOL! Guess what? it worked!! Oh, & please Rexanne!

Jenny April 23, 2009, 2:55 PM


Do your homework, a lot of soap is toxic which is why it says it should not be ingested right on the label. Sit down at your computer with a bottle of liquid soap, type ingredients into the search engine and see what you come up with.


Pamala April 23, 2009, 5:58 PM

If it was deadly it wouldn’t be sold. YOu aren’t asking your children to drink the bottle, heck I never swallowed when my mouth was washed out. A little soap won’t kill you or anyone else.

As to those who cry abuse, try experiencing it first before you start calling others abusive. If all my dad did was put soap in my mouth that would have been wonderful. April 23, 2009, 9:15 PM


If a child did drink the whole bottle it could have serious health implications. Toxic things are produced everyday. I am not going to argue the fact with you, if you want to remain ignorant that is your choice. I won’t burst your safe little bubble.


Pamala April 24, 2009, 12:58 AM

Jenny your reading comprehension is amazing!

theyearofasking April 24, 2009, 4:09 PM

i don’t think washing a kid’s mouth out with soap is the problem. i certainly had my mouth washed out as a kid. but that’s because i called my mother a name. you threatened to wash your kid’s mouth out with soup just because he was talking graphically about bodily functions (which are perfectly natural). i guess my point is that i only think the soap should come out if a kid is verbally attacking another person.

Jenny April 24, 2009, 8:06 PM

Why thank you Pamela, you are too kind.

Jenny April 27, 2009, 1:38 AM

I would’ve done the same thing, but wanted to correct you on one thing: spanking is not obsolete in my house, nor in any of my friends’ houses. Just had to make that clear.

Anonymous April 29, 2009, 2:06 PM

Ingesting soap can cause diarrhea. It happened to me!

Carly April 29, 2009, 4:02 PM

Ok, I must be some kind of new-age Nancy or hippie throwback because to me, this kind of discipline is just plain wrong!

I feel that young kids try on potty mouth language and talk about private areas of the anatomy for two reasons: they have a natural curiosity common to all children their age, and they are testing the limits of acceptable behaviour. Yes, they need to learn what those limits are, but harsh and outdated disciplinary tactics only serve to abruptly stifle their natural curiosity and self-expression. Repeated drastic action may only serve to emotionally harm them - kids think “I can’t say what I want to say because Mommy’s just going to hurt me again.” The implications of creating a mindset like that are just frightening.

I used to think that a swift tap on the butt for extreme cases of bad language was ok. Until the day I issued one to my precocious 3 1/2 yr old for racing up and down the hallway shouting the “F” word. She certainly got her own back some days later when in conversation with another adult I let the same word slip (not something I make a habit of at all!!) and she lifted up the back of my jacket and hauled off and smacked ME on the butt with a picture book. I was certainly put in my place and it really made me reconsider the effectiveness of my actions.

I respect my daughter a lot - she has excellent reasoning ability for someone almost 4. I spent a long time telling her to “use her words” when a tantrum threatened and she was losing control of her behaviour. I decided maybe it was time I took my own advice.

devon May 12, 2009, 5:48 PM

I think it is pointless and borders on being abusive. You will get compliance at a high price — your children will silently loathe you and not respect you, and question your unconditional love for them. Most importantly —it just teaches kids to hide their misbehavior — it doesn’t teach them not to do it, only not to do it in front of you! Kids figure out not to use potty language by a certain age so using this is pointless — just compare it to spanking for wetting their pants before they are mature enough to use the toilet, you are the one who does not understand child development!

Concerned June 30, 2009, 3:19 PM

This is abusive. Just read David Pelzer’s “A Child Called It.” His abusive mother put liquid soap in his mouth and it caused severe diarrhea. He eventually learned to not swallow it. Would you do something that Catherine Pelzer did to her son? I know I wouldn’t!

Concerned June 30, 2009, 3:30 PM

And another thing….just because you were abused does not give you the right to abuse your children. You obviously have psychological problems that need to be dealt with before things get progressively worse for your poor defenseless child.

Steven October 30, 2009, 5:27 AM

I wish I could find someone to make me swallow Dawn dishsoapfor having a potty mouth

Steph January 30, 2010, 8:04 AM

children need to learn who the alpha dog is and that certain behavior will not be tolerated. It is for their own good in the future. If CFS used inappropriate language in my presence, I would warn them 1 time. If they used it again and was defiant and rebelious, you can better beleive that I would not hesitate to wash their mouth out with soap either. I will even go the second mile and buy you a backbone.

Steph January 30, 2010, 8:09 AM

if soap was so poisonous, why do you wash your hands or wash your dishes with poison? stupid!

Teresa June 18, 2010, 4:35 PM

I still spank and yes I would wash my kids mouth out with soap. Everyone’s to soft on their kids now and that’s the problem with all these little punks think the world owes them something when they haven’t done anything to deserve it… sad sad times we live in. I would’ve probably made a comment on this one to tho cuz liquid soap and the fact that he swallowed/ate it is bad. I wouldn’t use liquid soap unless it was on a hand and just rubbed on his tongue or something where he couldn’t swallow it.

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