How To Wash Hair Sitting In A Chair Without A Sink – Dementia Caregivers 

Someone with dementia, especially if their mobility is limited or they struggle with confusion, fear, anxiety, may not always feel that traditional methods of hair washing are possible or comfortable, and they may refuse to have a shower at all. One solution is learning how to wash hair sitting in a chair without a sink.  

I’m not talking about using a shower chair or using a basin sink. This is learning how to wash your loved one’s hair in an environment that they’re comfortable in, like their bedroom or even the living room. You can perform this simple task gently and reassuringly that will hopefully ease any anxiety your loved one may have from hair washing.  

But if you’re looking for other options, check out this post that includes 7 Hair Washing Aids including inflatable shampoo basin, tilting commode & shampoo caps etc.

Cooperation is clearly key and usually the hardest step so discussing it with your loved one will determine what the best approach could be. My mum hates water on her face or getting into her ears, so sometimes refuses to have her hair washed at all. On those days, I resort to this method to maintain mum’s hair cleanliness, explaining how simple it is, the lack of water cascading down her face and how quick and easy the entire process is.

Related: 10 Hair Washing Tips for Dementia Caregivers

Here’s an old but accurate video and easy to follow on how to wash hair sitting in a chair without a sink for loved one with dementia, elderly or someone with mobility issues. 

How To Wash Hair Sitting In A Chair Without A Sink

I hope the video was a helpful addition. Below are step-by-step instructions for washing hair while sitting in a chair for dementia caregivers: 

Preparing for the Hair Wash 

Before washing your loved one’s hair in a chair, it is important to make sure you have everything you need and set up a comfortable and easy to access washing area.

Gathering Supplies 

To wash hair sitting in a chair without a sink, you will need the following supplies: 

  • Shampoo 
  • Spray on Leave In Conditioner 
  • Towels & Flannel/Wash Cloths 
  • A basin or container of warm water
  • Spray bottle filled with warm water 
  • Washing Cape or Bin Bag (with a head hole) to protect clothing 

Having everything ready beforehand will save you time and make the whole process a smoother experience. 

Choosing a Comfortable Chair 

A comfortable chair is essential. Do you have a chair that has appropriate support and cushioning for your loved one? The main thing is to ensure that the chair provides stability, is safe to use and does not wobble during the washing process.

Place it next to a table or countertop to make it easier to reach your supplies and non-slip mat or towel underneath the chair to provide a non slip foundation. 

Setting Up the Washing Area 

Clear any clutter from the area and protect surfaces with towels or plastic sheeting if needed. Ensure good lighting. Consider playing soothing background music to help create a calm atmosphere and spray their favourite scent in the room to engage their other senses. Most importantly, make sure the room is warm enough to avoid chills while hair is wet 

Explain What’s Happening  

It really depends on your loved one whether they’re anxious about hair washing or just don’t see the need for it. One will need reassurance or the other will need a reason or explanation, e.g going out to see friends, church, family get together, celebration etc or simply restating that today (whatever day you have routine) is hair washing day. I know it’s not that simple, but if your loved one doesn’t want to engage after you tried several techniques, then you’ll just have to leave it and try another day.   

But if your loved one accepts having their hair washed and has agreed to sit/ or is sitting in a wheelchair, then you need to explain each step.

Before you start anything, approach your loved one from the front, getting down to their eye level and explain again simply what you’re doing using calm, reassuring tones.  

Make it an enjoyable experience. Offering encouragement throughout can help reduce any anxiety, fidget toys can help also in distraction. Drape towels or a waterproof cape (or diy bin liner) around their neck to protect their clothing. 

Wetting the Hair 

Start by wetting their hair thoroughly. Use a basin & washcloth or a spray bottle to wet their hair properly. Make sure the water reaches the roots of the hair and the scalp. Go slowly explaining or chatting about something they love to reassure your loved one. 

Applying Shampoo 

Once the hair is wet, apply a small amount of shampoo to your hands. Gently massage the shampoo into their hair and scalp using circular motions. Focus on the scalp and oily areas of the hair that need extra cleaning.  Repeat as needed.

Rinsing and Conditioning 

After massaging the shampoo, rinse the hair thoroughly with warm water. Make sure to remove all the shampoo from their hair using a washcloth and water in the basin. Change the water as it gets dirty and keep washing the shampoo out by wiping over with the washcloth.  

Drying and Styling 

Wrap the hair in a towel for a few minutes to absorb the excess water. Then blot the hair with the towel, avoid rubbing instead, just gently squeeze the moisture out. Apply a light spray of leave in conditioner.

If your loved one is like my mum and doesn’t like the hair dryer, either allow the hair to air dry or explain there’s a time limit on how long the blow dry will be on. Set the hair dryer on a low speed and temperature and lightly dry the hair.  

Brushing or Combing 

After your hair is dry, you can use a brush or comb to style it. Start by detangling any knots or tangles gently, starting from the ends and working your way up. Use a detangling brush to prevent breakage and minimize damage. You can also apply a styling product, such as a serum, to add shine and control frizz and style the hair in their preferred way. 

Remove the cape/towel and go do something you both love together! 


Learning how to wash hair sitting in a chair without a sink is an alternative way to maintain hair hygiene for your loved one who may be dealing with mobility, anxiety or resistance issues. Being prepared, patient, flexible and understanding with your approach can turn the experience, hopefully, into something your loved one looks forward to rather than dreads in the future. 

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