A soap suds enema is used to promote relief from constipation and as a safe way to cleans the colon. It is commonly used in medical settings to improve abdominal pain caused by fecal impaction.
Soap suds enemas are considered to be safe for children and adults when administered appropriately. They are also used as part of a detox program and to help relieve gastrointestinal irritations.
A soap solution is prepared with room temperature water and then given using an enema bag or bucket. The solution is injected into the colon and held for a short period of time. This procedure may be repeated several times until relief is achieved.
The water triggers the colon to contract (peristalsis) and results in a bowel movement. This form of evacuant enema is generally effective for producing fecal output and works faster than oral laxatives and other treatments.
While soap suds solutions are not required for a successful enema procedure, the detergent can improve mucosal irritation of the colon wall, which helps to stimulate defecation. Research also shows that it is safe and produces a low risk of side effects if used properly.
Soap Suds Enema
Administering a soap solution as an enema can help to clear out the colon of unwanted waste products, alleviate constipation and improve detoxification.
Soap suds can be safely injected into the colon to stimulate bowel activity. This hygienic procedure may also be given in a medical environment to prepare the colon before a medical examination.
While it is not necessary to use soap suds to prefer a successful colon cleanse, the presence of soap can increase the efficacy by stimulating receptors in the colon wall to promote muscle contractions.
According to one source, “[A] soap suds enema (SSE) is a hypertonic solution that provides a large-volume and detergent-based mucosal irritation to stimulate defecation.”
In one published study of soap suds enemas used to treat constipation in children, it was found to be 82% effective for causing a bowel movement.
Not all soaps are suitable for preparing the enema solution at home. Do not use liquid handsoaps or detergents. It is important to select a soap that is mild and will not cause excessive irritation of the colon lining.
Castile soap is generally used in hospitals because it is a vegetable-oil based soap. The amount of soap used will vary depending on the volume of water taken. Generally, one teaspoon of Castile soap is recommended for 1000 mL of water.
Other soaps can be used, but liquid soaps tend to be the easiest to mix into a solution. Some sources describe using bar soap such as Castile or Ivory, but bar soaps can make it more difficult to measure the right ratio.
According to one source, “In general, add no more than is required to turn the water a slightly milky color.” 
How to Prepare a Soap Solution for an Enema
To prepare the solution for an enema, follow these steps:
Step 1: Prepare 0.5-2 litres of purified warm water in a container. If conducting your first enema, use a smaller amount of water to gauge comfort at first. For children, consult with a doctor to determine the right amount of solution.
Step 2: Mix one packet of Castile soap in the water. Stir gently for one minute.
Step 3: Add the soap solution into your enema bag or bucket. Measure the temperature of the water. It should be approximately body temperature within 98 to 104˚ F (37 to 40˚C). If the water is too hot, allow it to cool down to prevent burns or damage to your intestinal lining. If the water is too cool, heat it up gradually by placing the bag or bucket in a sink full of hot water. Check the temperature again to ensure it is in the correct range.
Step 4: Give the enema following the directions on the bag or bucket you have purchased or following the directions provided by your doctor. The patient will typically lie on their left side to receive the enema. It can take approximately 5 – 10 minutes for the full enema to be administered.
In one research study involving children, the solution was measured at 20 mL/kg of body weight. This means that a child weighing 20 kg would have received a 400 mL solution while a child weighing 30 kg would have received a 600 mL solution.
How Does It Work?
By filling the colon with a large volume of water, the walls of the colon are temporarily stretched. The soap also acts as an irritant, which can trigger involuntary muscle contractions known as peristalsis.
This is the process by which food and fecal mater is moved through the gastrointestinal tract and out the colon. It is a wave-like muscle contraction that pushes the material down through the gut in an anterograde direction.
A soap suds enema is purported to be more effective at promoting a bowel movement compared to using tap water alone.
The patient typically will retain the water in the colon for a short period of time until they feel the need to go to the toilet. It can take between 10 – 15 minutes for the bowels to be cleaned fully.
While enema bags and buckets are more typically used in clinical settings, for at an home produce a bulk syringe may be used. The bulb contains the soap suds solution, which is slowly injected into the rectum.
For relief of occasional constipation and fecal impaction, only one enema may be necessary to produce results. However, some procedures will require multiple cleanses to be conducted.
Do not conduct multiple soap suds enemas in close direction unless directed to do so by a doctor. Excess use could result in over-irritation of the colon or other adverse effects.
A soap suds enema is documented as a safe way to treat fecal impaction and severe constipation in medical studies when administered by a doctor
According to one research study, “No serious adverse events were noted that were attributed to SSE [Soap Suds Enema].” 
However, adverse effects are still possible when taking an enema, especially when performing one at home on your own. It is important to use caution and follow directions closely to minimise the risk of adverse effects.
Make sure to sanitize all materials used to administer the enema to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. If performing a Soap Suds Enema, do not use standard handsoaps or detergents as these may be unsafe to administer to the rectum.
Potential negative effects can include:
- Colon irritation
- Stomach cramps or abdominal pain
- Increased bloating
- Perforation of the colon
- Potential infection
Take care to measure the water temperature to ensure it is not too hot. Water that is too hot can cause burns or damage to the colon lining. Overuse of enemas could cause dehydration or imbalance in electrolyte levels.
Excessive use could also cause dependency where the body begins to rely on an enema procedure to perform the natural function of waste elimination. While rare with occasional use, this is a risk for people taking multiple enemas on a daily or regular basis.
An enema may be contraindicated of you suffer from specific medical conditions. Consult with a doctor before performing this produce if you have been diagnosed with any of the following:
- You have a perforated rectum or colon
- You have been diagnosed with a tumor or colon cancer
- You are currently experiencing undiagnosed abdominal pain
- You are being treater for Crohn’s disease, colitis, or diverticulitis
- You have been diagnosed with kidney or liver failure
- You are currently pregnant
- You have a history of heart attack, irregular heartbeat, coronary artery disease, or have an illness that can cause muscle weakness
- You have experienced serious adverse effects in the past due to an enema
- You are allergic to ingredients used in an enema solution
- You have been diagnosed with fecal stones, rectal obstruction or rectal prolapse
- You are currently dehydrated or have an electrolyte imbalance
- You have been diagnosed with a stomach or intestinal blockage
- You are currently suffering from inflammation of the large intestine
- You have undergone a colostomy
- You have Hirschsprung’s Disease or a congenital issue affecting the rectal opening
Consult with a medical professional to determine whether a soap suds enema is appropriate for you. If you experience ongoing or recurring constipation or serious abdominal pain due to fecal impaction, seek out medical attention.
- Corrie E. Chumpitazi, MD, Erin B. Henkel, MD,1 Karina L. Valdez, BS,1 and Bruno P. Chumpitazi, MD, MPH Soap Suds Enema are Efficacious and Safe for Treating Fecal Impaction in Children with Abdominal Pain. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2017 Jul 1.
- Soapsuds enema. Biology online dictionary.