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Another victim of Soap Poisoning?


Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap. My personal preference was for Lux, but I found Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor - heady, but with just a touch of mellow smoothness. Life Buoy, on the other hand...

Ralphie: YECCHH!

A common punishment, mostly for children, after they have said a dirty word is to get their mouth washed out with soap. This often indicates a very conservative family, or a child who has been neglected and not taught "proper" language.

Examples of Soap Punishment include:


  • A recent Super Bowl commercial showed a montage of kids with a bar of soap in their mouths for no apparent reason. Then we learn that the ad was for a new car with an automatic retracting roof. A kid says "holy sh--!" when he sees it in action, hence the soap in the mouth.

Comic Books

  • Done in Lucky Luke by Ma Dalton to one of her foul-mouthed sons.


  • Happened in A Christmas Story to Ralphie. After sending him to bed, his mother sticks the soap in her own mouth, just to see what it tastes like.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the lead weasel is threatening Eddie to tell him where Roger is and to "cut the bullschtick". Eddie tells him to watch his mouth or he'll "wash your mouth off" and shoves a bar of soap into his mouth.


  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Collateral Damage has FBI director Elias Cummings threaten this sort of punishment to Daniel Winters for throwing four-letter words around.
  • The Catcher in The Rye: Holden Caulfield tries asking Ward Stradlater if Stradlater gave Jane Gallagher the time. That, by the way, is old slang for having sex with someone. Stradlater responds "What a thing to say. Want me to wash your mouth out with soap?"
  • In the Harry Potter series, casting the cleaning spell Scourgify on a human will result in their mouth being washed out with soap. James Potter used it this way on Snape in the "Snape's Worst Memory" flashback from Order of the Phoenix.
  • The autobiography of Aileen Porter, Papa Was A Preacher, tells about how she got her mouth scrubbed out with soap for saying "I'll be John Brown" within her father's hearing.

Live Action TV

  • Used in Dinosaurs when Baby learns rude words off the television. When Fran washes his mouth out, every time a bubble from his mouth pops it echoes the word.
  • In the United States of Tara, Alice, one of Tara's alters who is a 1950s housewife, invokes this trope after Kate gives her Ethical Slut rant. Alice follows through on the threat, driving Kate to get a job so she can move out (which becomes a major subplot for the next two seasons).

Newspaper Comics

  • Jump Start for 12-16-11. Marcy Cobb tells her husband Joe that she had to wash out their son Joseph's mouth for lying. Joe reminds her that washing out someone's mouth with soap is for cursing, not lying.
  • Aunt Dolly does this to Wal after she hears him swearing at the livestock in an early Footrot Flats strip.

Video Games

  • The response to the player swearing in The Very Big Cave Adventure:

 You are in the Swear Box.

It is a bare room with neither windows nor doors.

In one corner is a washstand and a cake of soap.

You know what to do.


Web Original

  • Used in the Smosh episode "If Cartoons Were Real". The South Park parody has Stan's mouth being washed with soap.

Western Animation