Etiquette for massage: how to handle stinky butt

Warning: This is a delicate topic.

All massage therapists and bodyworkers who work with unclothed people have encountered this phenomenon, and it goes by several names: stinky butt, monkey butt, smelly ass, stinkbutt, stinky bum, ass stink, swamp ass, sweaty bum, and rotten smelly butt hole. You get the idea.

It happens like this: The therapist leaves the room, and the client undresses and lies down on the table between the sheets. The therapist re-enters and begins the session.

When the therapist is ready to work on the client’s hip/sacrum/gluteal muscles, he or she undrapes the area, usually leaving the butt crack covered.

Suddenly a nasty smell hits the therapist’s nose. Pee-yew! It’s gross, and the client is often unaware of it, which makes it embarrassing for both the therapist and the client.

And it can happen to anyone.

I first encountered stinky butt years ago when I was newly licensed and working for a chain. There was no guidance on how to handle it. This post is intended to provide some guidance.

I’ve done some online research. You won’t believe how many hits come up when Googling “smelly butt” – 840,000! “Stinky butt” gets 800,000. It’s a fairly common problem. Here’s what I learned.

Most of the time, the smell is caused by bacteria from not having thoroughly cleaned the anal area after pooping. Sometimes wiping with toilet paper doesn’t get it clean enough.

The smell is compounded by sweat and can also be caused solely by sweat. Bacteria like moist, warm environments in which to grow.

Hour by hour, minute by minute, those bacteria spread across the skin, increasing the stink factor. On the back of your body. Not where your nose can easily smell your own BO.

So what can a therapist do?

One good solution is for clients to be aware of this problem and to shower or bathe before getting a massage, cleaning the area thoroughly with soap and water and drying it well.

If that isn’t possible, for example, the client can’t get to a shower before their massage, baby wipes are the next best thing. Most massage therapists have them on hand for just such occasions.

If a client suspects his/her butt may be stinky, he/she can ask for the baby wipes and use them after getting undressed, before getting on the table.

(Note: Do not flush them! Baby wipes being flushed is a major cause of sewage backups that can require expensive repairs and affect entire blocks. Put them in the trash, preferably a trash can with a lid.)

As alluded to above, the client may be the last to know.

Massage clients (and I’m not talking to my current clients because NONE OF YOU HAVE STINKY BUTTS, you all smell really clean): If a massage therapist has the courage to offer you baby wipes to clean yourself with, she/he is doing you a big favor. This problem may have been affecting your social life and your sex life without you knowing it, and wouldn’t you rather hear it from a caring professional than from, say, a new lover?

The therapist should leave the room to give you privacy while you clean up, and come back in to give you a great massage. (Remember: this can happen to anyone!)

Even though you may feel a bit embarrassed, as long as their massage skills meet your needs, that therapist is a keeper who cared enough to tell you and help you do something about a problem that affects you both and probably others. Their professionalism will keep the information private, and it need never come up again, given your new awareness. Give them an extra big tip and your loyalty!

Note that in a few cases, butt stink is chronic and severe. You can try Gold Bond powder, baby powder, corn starch, a bidet, shaving the area, laser removal of hair, changing underwear more frequently, getting a colonic (colon cleanse), and adding more fiber in your diet.

If those don’t help, see a doctor. Consider going to a functional medicine or integrative medicine specialist, since they are known for problem-solving rather than just prescribing.

In my research, I learned of some things that can cause chronic butt stink: an anal fissure, a fistula, internal hemorrhoids, a fungus, yeast overgrowth, insulin resistance, diabetes, anxiety, hormonal issues, an imbalance of gut bacteria, Trimethylaminuria, food sensitivities, antibiotics, steroids, other drug reactions, Sucralose/Splenda, losing or gaining weight, and more.

If you have chronic butt odor and are clean but need a massage, call the therapist beforehand. Explain the problem and ask if she’s willing to work with you. If so, essential oils can mask the odor. You may also leave your underwear on.

If you have a different, constructive way of handling this issue, please share in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Etiquette for massage: how to handle stinky butt

  1. This is a frustrating topic. After almost 2 years as a therapist, you’re the first person I’ve come across who doesn’t think I should just grin and bear it. Thank you for a way to broach the topic with my clients.

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