Poor Personal Hygiene

Updated on December 22, 2017
B.M. asks from Dallas, OR
7 answers

I refuse to believe this is normal behavior. I have an almost 15 yo daughter that won't shower unless forced. We can get her to if we have something to hold over her head such as no cell phone use if she doesn't, etc. But even then, we have to actually be here and see her getting into the shower or she won't do it. And she has been caught even turning on the shower, getting undressed, wetting her hair down... but not actually getting in the shower. I am sure that when she does take a shower she doesn't use soap or shampoo. She is supposed to be in the shower when hubby gets up for work... today, she was "already out of the shower", but when I noticed that the bathroom rug was still hanging on the side of the tub, hubby questioned her. She tells him "I took a shower, I just didn't wash my hair... I didn't want it wet".
She also wears the same clothes for weeks without washing them. I refuse to do her laundry after she consistantly waited until I had all the laundry done... folded and put away... and then dumped a load or two in the hamper to have done because she didn't like hers washed with everyone else's. I have kept track this stent... she has not washed an article of clothing in over 4 weeks, yet she wears the same 3 outfits every day. I give her one entire day... sometimes more... that I make sure the washer and dryer are completely empty and remind her of this... she still wash anything.
I realize that not caring about hygiene is a normal stage for kids to go through... I remember going through it... at about 10 yr old! But by now, I would expect her to be into boys and wanting to look AND SMELL good!
We did bring it up with her counselor, but she denied it all so obviously the counselor can't do a lot if she refuses to talk about it.

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So What Happened?

She is not my biological... she is my step daughter, her bio and all of that family has been absent since she was 5, and her dad was adopted... so, we really don't know anything about extended family on either side as far as autism, etc. She does have Fetal Drug Syndrome, as do her brother and sister. Other than that, there is nothing in the family that we are aware of.
I have let the laundry go for weeks, hoping that one of her pears would tell her she stinks... but I can't do this with the showering. It's not good for her physically, so I feel like I should draw the line there.... maybe I'm wrong??? Its no secret in our house... or other relatives... that she doesn't shower, stinks, etc. and we are pretty rude to her about it. I have even told her sister not to allow her to borrow her clothes, shoes, etc. because of it.
None of the "showing her" works... she doesn't see herself like "all those people". She is the first to point out if her brother or sister didn't shower for a day, or wears the same shirt that they wore to bed, etc. She also hords things... it's mild at this point, but getting worse... such as packing materials, old school papers (all papers from one subject for an entire year... she still has them from 2 years ago), etc. I showed her a tv show about it and explained that she reminds me of the person on this show and she just laughed and said "ya, right... how can they live like that? I never could!" yet her entire room is like that until her sister gets irritated and throws stuff away when she isn't around.
As for when it started... over a year ago. At first, she just had to be reminded a lot to take a shower. Then she started going to horse camp as a volunteer and helping in the stables between camps and would refuse to take a shower when she came home. She would be gone for a week at a time, with no showers available, and still refuse to shower afterwards. We finally came up with a rule that she wasn't allowed in the house untils he was stripped down to underwear (clothes had to stay in the garage otherwise they ended up in the bedroom and stinking up the entire house like stables), and she wasn't allowed to stop or even say hi to anyone on her way to the shower.

More Answers



answers from Savannah on

um, I don't know what else you could possibly do...short of going into her room and removing the dirty clothes so she can't wear them repeatedly. I remember going through a phase like that too...but not as severe sounding and certainly much younger. Do you think she may be depressed? Could something have happened where she wants to keep people or boys away? Is this a new phase or has she always had poor hygeine?
Good luck. I wish I had an easy solution...I'm at a loss too. I'm sure the counselor can tell she's not taking care of herself...but like you said you can't force her talk about stuff. :(

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

This sounds like the beginning of OCD/Hoarding. Get her to a therapist.



answers from Chicago on

My seventeen year old daughter is similar - not quite as extreme but it's well over a week since she had a bath or shower and weeks since she washed her hair. She has to do her own washing, which she does do, but never wants any of it ironed. If I say anything it makes her more stubborn, and she leaves it even longer. She also wears the same clothes over and over again although she does wash them sometimes.She has improved, but she used to only wear scruffy jeans and horrid t shirts. I don't know the reason and I haven't really got any answers, but it might help to know you are not alone. Just out of interest, is there anyone in your family who is autistic or has Asperger's Syndrome. My son has Asperger's (high functioning Autism) and whilst my daughter doesn't, she does have some Asperger's traits sometimes, and I'd always put the hygeine problems down to that. My son only baths etc when told, but he doesn't mind being told, so it's not an issue. This may be nothing to do with your problem, it's just a thought.



answers from Miami on

This may sound crazy ..the way i handled the same thing your going through. I actually did not wash my hair for a few days and made my child smell my own head so she would now what people were smelling on her, this action did seem to help. I still smell my childrens heads as the come out of the shower and send them back in if they dont smell like they have used shampoo.


answers from Charlotte on

I don't think it's too abnormal, her "no bath" phase is just lasting a little longer than most. I remember growing up the thing I hated the most was getting out of the shower and freezing. Try making it a "spa" experience for her. Get her a cute little robe, some smell goods from bath and body works and see if that entices her.

As far as washing her not washing her clothes, I would take her favorite one's until she decided she could do a load of laundry. A couple a days of wearing some high waters should make her tighten up.

Also, don't underestimate the power of peer pressure. I'm sure she has friends and is interested in boys. Explain to her that nobody wants to be around someone with poor hygiene. Hope this helps


answers from Fort Walton Beach on

Have you tried to just let her be without showers and laundry? Since you talked to the counselor, did he suggest to you anything that you can do?

I say let her smell bad, let her go to school in smelly clothes. Let her friends or other kids pick on her for smelling foul.

Or you could point out to her the consequences of not caring for herself like getting a yeast infection, bladder infection, etc. Have her watch "How Clean is Your House?" on BBCA http://www.bbcamerica.com/content/100/index.jsp

I showed my son that on TV (mind you he is only 6) and made him watch it. They show all the germs and filth that is built up when people don't clean anything (it's really gross what lazy people don't do).

Or you could take her out to get her nails done and a pedicure - let her know how good it feels to get clean and sparkly. She doesn't have to go completely "girly" but this could boost her confidence. Let her know that she doesn't have to be a Paris Hilton to feel great about herself and that staying clean feels great.

Good luck!



answers from Montgomery on

Have you found a solution? I am going through the EXACT same thing with my 13 yr old. Going on 2 years of complete disorder and poor personal hygiene. I've tried ever method I can possibly think of and she absolutely refuses to talk to a therapist or take medication. She runs the shower and hides either in her room, in the bathroom, or in the back of the shower. I have found her fully clothed in the shower away from the water. I have to stand over her and watch her bathe and wash her hair and it's a roaring battle. I just can't do that everyday. It affects the entire household because she carries a stinch and the whole side of the house where her bedroom is stinks. She wears clothes several days in a row and sleeps in them. I wash them when she is at school but she often detects the smell of detergent and then refuses to wear them. I don't know what to do!

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