Deep clean in winter by hot toweling your horse 


Grooming your horse in the winter is challenging, especially if your horse is fuzzy and thoroughly enjoys the mud. While it may seem impossible to bathe your horse in the winter, try hot toweling to steam clean them and end up with a sparkling clean horse in any weather. You may also have heard the term “hot cloth” or “hot clothing your horse” – it’s the same thing.


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What is hot toweling a horse, exactly?


  • Hot toweling is a way to use a hot towel to steam clean your horse using small rags or towels soaked in piping hot water. It’s a bit like curry combing your horse with a damp cloth instead of bathing. It’s a good summertime touch-up, too, if you don’t want to give your horse a full-body bath with horse shampoo and the works.


Hot toweling accomplishes a few things:


  • Get your horse sparkly clean in the winter. Yes – you can give your horse this type of “bath” in the winter. 


  • Work on your strength by employing elbow grease. Hot toweling, or hot clothing as some horse lovers call it, takes some time and effort. 


  • Steam clean your own pores. Hot toweling uses steam and perhaps a bit of no-rinse shampoo or spot remover to clean your horse, and it’s almost like a day at the spa for you, too. 


Work in small areas. Use a cooler on your horse to cover their steamed areas. This prevents chills and helps the drying process.


Can hot toweling be used for muscle pain relief?


  • Yes, I think hot toweling can be used for muscle soreness relief. Applying a warm towel to sore muscles helps increase blood flow, relax the muscles, and reduce stiffness. Because you are using a curry comb action, it’s like a nice massage.


Products needed for hot clothing your horse


This process gives you the best results if you keep it simple and focus on the currying. You need a few tools to make this happen:


  • Washcloths—at least a few of them so you can reuse them when they get dirty. This is dirty work, so plan on being amazed at how much you can pull from your horse’s coat.


  • A bucket of water that is hot to dunk your small towels.


  • A cold water bucket to clean your cloths.


  • Some no-rinse shampoo or horse spot remover will help lift the dirt and clean the hair as you hot cloth your horse.


  • You could also use vinegar, like apple cider vinegar, as an additive if that works well for your horse. I don’t love the smell, and I’d rather use a spot remover that I know works.


  • Dry towels, in case you get your horse gets a little too wet, but a cooler is better. Wool or fleece coolers work well, but I think a thick wool cooler does a slightly better job of staying flat against your horse and wicking moisture away.


  • Rubber gloves, as the cloths will be dang hot. As you wring them out, they cool off enough to handle in your hands without gloves. The rubber gloves also help keep your skin from drying out.



This instant hot water kettle is great for having a fresh supply of steamy goodness.


Steps for hot toweling and removing stains and dandruff


  • The most important thing is to start with currying, brushing, and perhaps even vacuuming your horse. This gets most of the loose dirt and dander away. Consider this your upper body warm-up.


  • Prepare your hot water concoction. I use smaller buckets, that hold about two – five gallons.
    • If you have hot water at your barn, that’s great and convenient. Or you can use an an instant hot kettle, which lets you get steamy hot water almost instantly. It does cool quickly in cold weather, so keep making fresh batches.
    • The hot water should not be boiling, but definitely hotter than you can stand.


  • Add a few capfuls of no-rinse shampoo to about a gallon of hot water.


  • Make your cool water rinse bucket, about a gallon or so of water.


  • Drop a few cloths into your hot water mixture and swirl things around.



  • Grab one cloth and wring it out like mad. Like this cloth wronged you in the worst possible way. You want your washcloth steamy damp, not hot wet.


  • Use the towel like a curry comb to work back and forth in small areas at a time. Work with and against the natural lay of the hair. Focus on areas where the tack lays, as lifting the grit from the coat makes your horse feel better when tacked up.


  • When your cloth is dirty, cool, or both, toss it into your rinse bucket. You can let it soak, or wring it out immediately and pop it back into the hot water to use again.


  • To encourage drying, leave the hair poking up and cover with a cooler to help dry and keep warm. If the hair is wet, you have too much water and must wring out the towel more. Aim for your horse to be barely damp. Almost dry.


  • If your horse is clipped, please be super careful with the water/steamy towel temp as a clipped horse has much less protection from the heat.  


Does hot toweling work for all horses?


  • It’s all a giant experiment – your horse’s hair coat is different from every other horse! Very thick winter coats can be helped with hot toweling, but often get too wet and take too long to dry. However, if you need to hot cloth your horse, you can always try it in critical areas like the saddle or a stain and go from there!


very shiny bay horse on the grass

After hot clothing, you can use a grooming oil to add some shine. 


Is there a difference between a hot cloth session and oil buffing? 


  • Not really—the techniques are the same, but instead of using a no-rinse shampoo, oil buffing uses some grooming oil. A few capfuls of grooming oil in your gallon of hot water adds shine and conditioning to your horse’s coat.  
  • There are many ways to oil buff your horse, and using hot water and cloths is one way.  You can also apply it directly with a cloth or stiff brush in the winter.  

Read more about oil buffing here. 

When you are all done, your arms will have had a great workout and your horse will be awesomely clean!



Hot toweling instructions.


Oil buffing vs. hot toweling – similar, but not really. More details on oil buffing your horse for an amazing shine are here





Stock up here for your horse supplies to hot cloth your horse. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, but it’s ZERO extra cents to you.  You can also visit my Amazon storefront here:  PEG storefront.

Shapley's Easy-Out No Rinse Shampoo 32 fl.oz

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Big Hoss - Outlaw Nutrition

Omega 3's plus gut health support in a delicious cold milled flax formula. It's delicious and it will turn your horse's coat into a mirror.

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SHOOFLY Horse Leggins for fly control
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Thank you!