Can you use the Prestidigitation cantrip to replace bathing and washing your clothes while wearing them?

I'm so sorry, but this was brought up and we had a 30-minute discussion in game; inquiring minds want to know.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by replace? There are no hard requirements to wash yourself or your clothes in the first place, so what exactly are you hoping to accomplish? \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Aug 14 '19 at 19:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are there specific rules you're hoping to work around with this use of prestidigitation? Or is this meant to be a more theoretical/lore-based question a la "Do wizards take baths?" \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Aug 14 '19 at 19:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ related: twitter.com/pottermore/status/… \$\endgroup\$ – Geoffrey Brent Aug 15 '19 at 3:44

Going by the rules it could replace washing clothes (but not bathing), but these aren't features supported by rules in the first place.

Before I delve into what Prestidigitation can and can't do I should point out that, like Cubic said, there are no hard requirements in D&D 5e to wash yourself or your clothes. This is purely a thematic and narrative action that isn't supposed by the ruleset.

That said, let's look at what Prestidigitation does:

This spell is a minor magical trick that novice spellcasters use for practice. You create one of the following magical effects within range:

You create an instantaneous, harmless sensory effect, such as a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, faint musical notes, or an odd odor.

  • You instantaneously light or snuff out a candle, a torch, or a small campfire.
  • You instantaneously clean or soil an object no larger than 1 cubic foot.
  • You chill, warm, or flavor up to 1 cubic foot of nonliving material for 1 hour.
  • You make a color, a small mark, or a symbol appear on an object or a surface for 1 hour.
  • You create a nonmagical trinket or an illusory image that can fit in your hand and that lasts until the end of your next turn.

If you cast this spell multiple times, you can have up to three of its non-instantaneous effects active at a time, and you can dismiss such an effect as an action.

Whether you can clean your clothes or not depends on whether they're a cubic foot or less, which would ultimately be at your GM's discretion, as would whether you can clean them all at once or have to use the effect on each article of clothing individually.

However, it can't replace bathing, because player characters aren't objects; they're classed as creatures. No effect of the spell cleans a creature.

In short, the bathing going by RAW is a hard no because the spell can't do it, and the clothes question would be up to your GM's discretion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would have no problem with allowing the spell to target a willing creature. You're going to exceed the size limit, though, so I would require multiple castings, pick parts of the body that are below 1 cubic foot as your targets. \$\endgroup\$ – Loren Pechtel Aug 15 '19 at 15:51

In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, Prestidigitation specifies that one of the effects is that

You instantaneously clean or soil an object no larger than 1 cubic foot

Provided your clothing can compress down into an area that is 1 cubic foot or less, the RAW indicates that you can instantly clean them. This is certainly possible for many articles of contemporary IRL clothing, though you may run into issues with clothing from creatures of size Large or larger. Bulky items like coats or heavy cloaks may also pose a problem if they are unable to be compressed into the size limit.

In Pathfinder 1e, the RAW cleaning effect can be used to replace bathing and washing clothes, though it will take multiple castings.

It can color, clean, or soil items in a 1-foot cube each round.

For arguments about whether or not a PC or NPC counts as an item, the spell can be invoked as targeting perceptible dirt or grime. Dirt is definitely an item that can be targeted in the Pathfinder version of the spell.

However, in my games, I do allow Prestidigitation to function as a substitute for bathing/clothes washing in both Pathfinder and D&D, though it will take up to 10 castings to achieve regular levels of cleanliness. Taking 10 actions (about a minute), is equivalent to a very fast shower, but has not proven to be game-breaking in my experience. By using it in this way, Prestidigitation can still be used to clean up crime scenes as well as providing a means to quickly make someone more presentable in the event of say, a suspicious guard wandering around, but characters still run the risk of being not being able to clean all the blood off in time for the guard's perception checks.


The spell description states:

You instantaneously clean or soil an object no larger than 1 cubic foot

An average person's body takes up 1.76 to 2.43 cubic feet of space. Therefore with two to three castings of prestidigitation, you could clean yourself, as well as anything you're wearing.

The spell doesn't specify that the entire object you clean can't be more than one cubic foot, it just said that the area you clean is no larger than one cubic foot. You could cast the spell to clean a stain off your shirt, to wash your hands or feet, or to get the mud out of your wizard shoes, one cubic foot at a time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually the spell does specifically say "an object no larger than 1 cubic foot" and says nothing about an area or a part of an object. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Aug 26 '20 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Wak That's true from a strict reading. I would hazard to wager that it's common for tables to play with a looser interpretation that uses the object size limitation more as a guidance for how much can be cleaned in a casting (rather than "at all"). Certainly the latter part of Sandwich's answer talking about cleaning just the shirt or shoes with each casting is valid under either interpretation, though! \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Aug 26 '20 at 19:35

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