One of the most essential joys of travel is discovering not just new places to bathe, but new ways to bathe. Whether it’s submerging yourself in a Japanese hot spring on a snowy, cypress-studded mountain, or taking in a traditional hammam in Morocco and emerging to the scent of freshly baked bread from the communal ovens next door—or simply melting into that extra-deep tub in your hotel room after a day of trekking along foriegn trails or cobblestones—the bath experience can open new portals of sensory delight. Luckily, many of the tools needed to recreate bathing nirvana at home are just a click away. Here are the best tools of the trade from around the world guaranteed to offer a fully transporting bathing experience—just add water.
Bath Brush with Knob
Country of origin: Sweden
Iris Handverk in Stockholm creates these maple and horsehair brushes by hand, stitching in each fiber to the wooden base. The workshop continues the tradition adopted by the company over a hundred years ago of employing visually impaired artisans to create the brushes in their exclusive designs. This handsome bath brush serves double duty as a soft exfoliator and superlative sudser, and as an exemplar of Swedish craftsmanship and social responsibility.
Raw Loofah Sponge
Country of origin: Greece
A natural, biodegradable alternative to the washcloth. This 100-percent raw loofah version is made from a type of fibrous cucumber that’s been gently dried in the coastal breezes of the Greek Islands – a state we all hope to achieve at least once in our lives. If you prefer your loofah pre-soaped, this sweet-smelling honey option offers built-in suds – and the added bonus of donkey milk, claimed to be a favorite beauty treatment of Cleopatra.
Exfoliating Bath Washcloth
Country of origin: South Korea
These exfoliating towels were originally made from a viscose fabric imported from Italy, giving these cult-status washcloths their name. Today, they are used throughout spas in Korea and, thanks to the power of the internet, throughout the world. Because of their abrasiveness, these come with a max dosage: use once a weekly to make you, according to one reviewer, “slippery like a baby eel.” Which is a thing we have all decided we want.
Dr. Singha’s Ayurvedic Mustard Bath
Country of origin: Europe, USA, India
Created by Ayurvedic healer and founder of the National Therapeutics Research Trust in London, this new-age staple has been sitting pretty on bathroom shelves in the US since the ‘70s. Backed by ancient Ayurvedic tradition, this potent blend not only makes a great bathing experience, it is also used to cure colds, thanks to its mind-mellowing (and sinus-clearing) combination of wintergreen, eucalyptus, rosemary and thyme.
The Japanese Bath
Country of Origin: Japan
Recreate the Japanese bath at home starting with a stimulating dry brush to boost circulation and slough off dry skin. This zebra-striped version from Kamenoko Tawasi has been made by hand the same way since 1907. After your pre-bath scrub, employ the Hinoki Bath and Sauna Umezawa – matching stool and bath bucket made from fragrant Hinoki (cypress) trees – to wet the body and prepare for cleansing.
Use the sculptural-yet-soft goat hair Shaquada Suvé Bath Brush to lather on soap (like this good luck “welcome fish” soap-on-a-rope made by one of Japan’s oldest soap companies) and rinse off before plunging into a hot drawn bath fragrant with the woody-citrus notes of Hinoki bath tea and finally achieve zen.
Horsehair Bath Glove
Country of origin: France
From Paris’s favorite body shop, Buly 1803. This handy glove blends rough horsehair and sisal on the outside and soft cotton on the inside for your dry exfoliating pleasure. The first use of horsehair in bath products came during the late 1700s and early 1800s, when horsehair was used as a cheaper alternative to the then-ubiquitous badger—so ubiquitous, in fact, that shaving brush was named blaireau, meaning badger. Use this glove for dry brushing before the bath or shower to reign in dry skin and stimulate circulation.
Moroccan Rose Beldi Soap
Country of origin: Morocco
Made from saponified olive oil, beldi soap—or black soap—is used throughout Morocco as part of the hammam tradition. After steaming yourself in the shower for a few minutes, slather on a generous coating of this amber liquid and wait several more minutes. Employ a Kessa mitt (like this Turkish option) to scrub the skin in a circular motion and feel circulation revive, tired skin become energized, and layers of dead, dry skin peel away.
Liha Post-Bath Moisture
Created in the Nigerian tradition by two Londoners, this duo combines two ancient ingredients in one bundle. Ivory shea butter has been used for centuries as an all-purpose moisturizer, while the Liha cold-pressed coconut oil receives a special African enfleurage infusion of night blooming tuberose. Layer them both on post-bath—and after all that exfoliating—for dewy soft skin and a new, otherworldly perspective.
Abbye Churchill is a multidisciplinary artist and author who works with textiles, plants, food, and community. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, Food + Wine and W, among others. She was the Editorial Director of Wilder magazine and her first book, A Wilder Life was featured in the New York Times Book Review’s “Best of Summer.” Her most recent title is The Gardens of Eden: New Residential Garden Concepts & Architecture for a Greener Planet. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.