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How to check baby bath temperature without a thermometer

While bath time is a great experience for you and your baby, there are many things that can go wrong within a matter of seconds. The temperature of the water is very important, the bath water for a baby should be between 37-38°C. But how do you check baby bath temperature without a thermometer?

In many of the baby product guides you read on the internet, a baby bath thermometer is one of the recommended products on there. But are they really necessary? Let’s look at some of the ways bath temperature can be checked without a thermometer.

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Reasons to check baby bath temperature

Baby skin is so sensitive, it’s prone to drying out and if that happens, skin conditions such as eczema can develop. A bath with water that’s too hot can very quickly dry out skin and cause your baby discomfort. 

As mentioned above, the perfect temperature for your baby bath is between 37-38°C (around 98.6°F). Anything hotter will likely damage your baby’s skin and make them wary of bath time.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, having a bath that’s too cold comes with its own problems. While many adults say that a cold shower or bath has many health benefits, the same can’t be said for putting a baby or toddler in a colder bath. 

With newborns especially, it’s vital that they’re kept warm at all times. They spent 9 months inside a warm environment, it’s a shock for them to be exposed to anything under body temperature. Their lips can go blue and if they become really cold, they can start to become upset or worse, lethargic as their body tries to protect their vital organs.

how to check baby bath temperature without a thermometer

How to check baby bath temperature without a thermometer

A bath thermometer is the best way to determine whether the water is too hot or too cold. But there are other ways to check the bath water.


If you want an accurate temperature reading, a bath thermometer is the best option. There are so many available, from scientific looking ones to ones that resemble bath toys. The best thing to do is find one that appeals to you and go from there.

Elbow dip test

This is probably the most common way to check baby bath water without a thermometer. Your elbow has some of the most sensitive skin on your body so this is why it’s a good area to use.

If it feels comfortable on your elbow, it’s probably a good temperature for your baby; however, it’s worth remembering that most adults prefer baths or showers on the hotter end of the scale and babies are much more sensitive to temperature than we are.

Using your hand

My bath is ridiculously deep and when I was recovering from my section, there was no way I could lean over the side of the bath to dip my elbow into the water. I relied on running my hand under the tap and then feeling the water in the tub in order to check the bath temperature.

A good rule of thumb is to first hold your hand above the water for a few moments as you would then be able to feel if the water is too hot. Always be careful submerging your hand as you don’t want to get scalded. 

If, after dipping my hand in the bath or running water, I felt that I would be able to comfortably wash my hands in that water, I trusted that it was good for my baby.

Top tips for getting a safe bath temperature for baby

Even with bath thermometers and elbow dip tests, there’s still the chance that you could unknowingly make the water too hot or make bathtime dangerous for your baby. Here are some tips to help ensure bathing your baby is as safe and fun as possible before your have to check the bath water.

top tips for checking baby bath water

Change the hot water temperature at your boiler

Many boilers these days can be set at a temperature of your choice. This not only makes sure that the hot water that runs from your taps is the perfect temperature but it should also help your energy bills come down too. 

It’s a good idea to turn down the boiler temperature anyway to protect your inquisitive toddlers who will inevitably figure out how to turn on taps!

Turn on the cold water first

Whether you have separate taps or a mixer one, turning on the cold tap first is a good idea if you have an older boiler and the temperature can’t be changed. It’s a lot easier to warm up a bath than cool it down but remember to thoroughly mix the water together otherwise there could be hot or cold spots. 

Another good tip is to turn off the hot water first and allow the cold water to cool down the faucet but this only works on a mixer tap.

Install tap covers

This will reduce the risk of your child being scalded by hot water still dripping from the faucet and they’ll also protect your toddlers if they decide to turn on the tap mid bath. Bath spout covers will also protect against head bumps if you have a clumsy child!

Make sure the room is warm

It’s not just the water that needs to be warm. The room should be as well, to avoid any shock your child will receive in going from a warm bath to a cold room. Keep a warm and fluffy towel nearby to wrap them in as soon as they’ve left the tub and take them to another warm room to get them dressed.

Frequently Asked Questions

check baby bath temperature

Do I need a baby bath thermometer?

They aren’t an essential baby item but they are useful if you feel you’d prefer to know an exact temperature. As outlined above, there are ways to check the temperature of bath water without a thermometer.

What is the best baby bath thermometer?

This is a question that only you can answer. It all depends on the type of thermometer you want for you and your baby. My advice would be to check baby product guides and read reviews before making up your mind.

How do I know if my baby is too cold in the bath?

There are a few signs to look out for. Blue lips is an easy one as well as mottled skin, these are good indicators that your baby is too cold. Babies can have cold hands for various reasons, so this isn’t always the best thing to go by. They might also become upset and agitated quickly, something that is out of character for them.

The Bottom Line

There are many ways to check baby bath temperature without a thermometer. There’s no shame in admitting that you’d prefer to have an actual reading before you bath your baby but if you follow the tips and tricks outlined above, you’ll have no problems with baby bathtime even if you don’t have a thermometer.