Washing Under Your Unaffected Arm

Here was my challenge: when bathing, how to wash under my “good” arm considering I cannot use my affected arm and hand?

Post-stroke 101, welcome to my world. That is exactly how I felt on January 20, 1995, the day I was released from the rehab hospital after suffering a life-altering stroke. I had suddenly, and without perceptible warning, become a stranger in the strange land that my body had become in an instant three weeks before. Friday I had gone to work. Sunday, two minutes after the New Year, I was on my way to the hospital with an obvious diagnosis — stroke.

That first day home, I became immediately — and frustratingly — aware that there were many things that no one had told me about living life one-handed in a two-handed world. Granted, if you haven’t lived it, it’s nearly impossible to fully comprehend the challenges one faces on a daily basis. So, providing a survivor who has the use of only one hand workable solutions for all the challenges we are likely to encounter, before the fact, is nearly impossible. Then, of course, there are the more personal issues one may not be comfortable asking about. I’m a bit on the shy side and had difficulty asking and then discussing with my occupational therapist how to put a bra on. Okay, that turned out to be a fairly easy one — put it on over your head.

What I’m leading up to here as my first one-handed tip is at once simple and complicated, the sort of question one may not think or wish to put to an OT. Here was my challenge: when bathing, how to wash under my “good” arm considering I cannot use my affected arm and hand?

This is how I solved the problem, and I hope it allows one less embarrassing question to be asked by some shy survivor.


My first solution is to get a small, clean spray bottle. They are easy to find in the cosmetics, hair or travel accessory sections at drugstores and grocery stores. Rinse the bottle and fill it with anti-bacterial liquid soap. The soap needs to be less “creamy” and more the consistency of water. I use Hibiclens® , but there are others. When I’m in the shower, I hold the bottle in my good hand, reaching over the top of the bottle, so my thumb is in position to operate the trigger; I raise my arm slightly, aim the nozzle under my arm and spray. I let the liquid remain a couple of minutes and then rinse thoroughly.

Here is an alternate approach: Take a washcloth into the shower with you. Get it all wet and soapy. Hold it in with your functional hand. Raise your arm slightly and, while keeping a firm grip on the end of the washcloth, fling the loose end under your arm and capture it there by quickly lowering your arm. This may take some practice, but once captured, gently pull the washcloth out from under your arm. Repeat several times and rinse thoroughly.

There you have it. A bit personal and, I hope, helpful.


To wash under her unaffected arm, Rosanna uses a spray bottle filled with liquid soap, holding it on top and using her thumb to operate the trigger.

For more tips on bathing visit our Tips for Daily Living Library at StrokeAssociation.org/tips  and check out survivor Tia Thompson’s video tips for getting in and out of the shower. You can submit your own video, audio or text file to the tips library while you’re there!

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. These tips, products or resources have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.

Stroke Connection. Get the app for free.


- Advertisement -

This link is provided for convenience only and is not an endorsement or recommendation of either the linked-to entity or any product or service.

AD. Amramp Making Life Accessible. 20 years. Be accessible to everyone. Protect your clients & their caregivers from slip and fall accidents. 888-715-7599. Click here for more info.

AD: American Stroke Association-American Heart Association logo. Did you know that about 1 in 4 stroke survivors have a second stroke? Learn more.


Ad: American Heart Association logo. American Diabetes Associaiton logo. Know diabetes by heart logo. Living with diabetes? Inspire others. Submit story button.


AD. American Heart Association logo. Know your blood pressure numbers. And what they mean. Gain Control.  Learn more.


Ad: American Heart Association Support Network. Facing recovery after a stroke or heart disease diagnosis can be overwhelming. You are not alone. Our community is here for you. Join us today. heart.org/SupportNetwork.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-part series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Occipital Lobe

Our occipital lobe, the smallest of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, controls how we visually interpret our world.

When Stroke Affects the Cerebellum

The cerebellum contains 80 percent of our neurons. Its job seems to be to make things better. We talked with neuroscientist Jeremy Schmahmann about how stroke affects the “little brain.”

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

Practical tips and advice for day-to day living after stroke.

Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.

Helping Others Understand

Stroke affects people differently and many of the effects of stroke can be complicated. Helping friends and family understand how a stroke is affecting a survivor can help everyone involved.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!