Cleansing is one of those subjects that gets bandied around a lot but can be, unfortunately, vague and confusing for newer witches. There are dozens of methods, different purposes behind each method, and often the needed information is buried in a mountain of spiritual nonsense and vague soliloquies. It’s no wonder that cleansing is something I get asked about daily!
To be completely honest with you, I don’t cleanse enough.
Cleansing is something that should be done very regularly, at least weekly, but most witches, myself included just don’t. I feel pretty safe assuming that plenty of other witches out there are also struggling with keeping on top of their magical maintenance tasks, so today I’m giving you the full breakdown of how cleansing works and why you need it.
What Is Cleansing & Why Learn It?
Again, cleansing is one of those things that everyone is supposed to know about but never gets taught thoroughly, so we’re starting from the ground up. Often I find that people will have misconceptions about what cleansing even is, perhaps misunderstanding the purpose of it or thinking something like banishing or grounding is cleansing when, in reality, cleansing is something completely different!
Cleansing is simply the act of removing unwanted energies from a person, place, or object. Cleansing is generally the gentlest form of removal, whereas banishing would be a more forceful tactic. Instead of forcefully ejecting an offending influence or spirit, you’re simply removing the bonds that hold the energy in place and allowing that energy to be transmuted into something neutral.
This process is useful for ensuring that you, your living space, or the things near you are clear of energies that could harm or disturb you. It’s useful for creating a blank slate in your environment or preparing tools for spell work and keeping your energy stable and healthy. Many witches like to cleanse their homes regularly, as well as cleansing new objects being brought into the home. Cleansing has a myriad of uses and is one of the foundational skills every witch should possess.
So How Does Cleansing Work?
1. Pick what needs to be cleansed
The first step in cleansing is deciding what it is that needs to be cleansed. Is the energy in your home feeling a little stagnant? Have you noticed weird energy hanging around on your hand-me-down rolling pin? Did you get a new ritual tool or crystal? Are you feeling a little drained and sluggish? It might be time to turn to cleansing! Just figure out what it is that needs a little magical TLC and go from there.
2. Pick your cleansing method
This step is vital to successful cleansing. There are many MANY ways to go about cleansing; however, not every method is suitable for every application. For example, using water to cleanse a delicate crystal could result in the crystal being damaged. Smoke cleansing a room where your parakeet lives would be incredibly dangerous to your pet. Each method has a time and place where it will be safest and most effective, and you must choose your method wisely.
Smoke cleansing is the process of cleansing a room, an object, or yourself with smoke. Often sage is the go-to, but incense, cedar, rosemary, and many other herbs can also be used for this purpose.
The process of smoke cleansing is fairly simple. Light your herb bundle and blow out any flames so that it is smoldering. Waft smoke over the object, over your body, or around the room, allowing the smoke to break up stuck or unwanted energies and transform them back into neutral, free-flowing energy.
It’s important to note that while many practitioners mistakenly use the term, witches do not use smudging. This term refers to a very specific practice of smoke cleansing that is exclusive to Native American cultures. Not only is it inappropriate to pilfer their vocabulary, but it would also be inaccurate to say that our smoke cleansing practices resemble anything like the practice of smudging. They are simply not the same.
Another important consideration when using this method is the health of your pets. Dogs and cats are likely to be ok as long as they’re not too close to the smoke and the room is well ventilated (open a window!) but small pets should NEVER be exposed to smoke of any kind. Rodents, birds, and reptiles have very small lungs and can suffer health repercussions from even small amounts of smoke. If you have pets of this variety, it’s best to use another form of cleansing!
There are many ways to cleanse with water. Bathing, washing an object, or letting something soak are all excellent ways to remove unwanted energies. Another option is to fill a spray bottle with charged water and mist a room with it. Always be careful that whatever you place in water will not harm the object or you if you come into contact with the water. Some herbs, stones, and crystals can be very toxic when placed in water.
Water is one of the most powerful forms of personal cleansing and probably the cleansing method that I use the most. Immersing yourself in a good cleansing bath can not only remove energetic nastiness but also spirits, spells and curses, emotional issues, and so much more. They’re basically the best multi-tool a witch could ask for! Not to mention they’re a great way to relax and unwind while you’re doing your magical self-care. If you want to learn the best methods, rituals, and recipes for making the most of cleansing baths, check out The Cleansing Bath Masterclass! >>
Salt or Earth
Burying an object in salt or soil for 12-24 hours can remove unwanted energies. If you bury something in soil, I would suggest doing so in a container (a pot or bowl) so that the item doesn’t become lost accidentally.
Moonlight & Sunlight
Moonlight and sunlight can be used to both cleanse and charge objects depending on your intent. Often in these cases, taking the moon phase or season into account is necessary as these things can affect the resulting energy that the item takes on.
Bells, drums, tambourines, and rainmakers are all capable of removing unwanted energetic residue. This method is particularly good for large spaces and can be combined with dancing for added effectiveness. I hang bells on my front door so that my home stays cleansed and my own energies are given a boost every time I leave or return home.
Some crystals can be used for cleansing. Smokey quartz and citrine are both quite effective and they do not hold on to energies, so they never need cleansing themselves!
3. Time to cleanse!
Once you’ve chosen what you’ll be cleansing and the appropriate method for it, it’s time to get down to cleansing!
The important thing to remember is that regardless of what you’re cleansing or what method you’re using to cleanse it, intention is what drives the magic. For most of the methods described above to work, you have to hold the intention that the object will be returned to a neutral energy state. This can be done in many ways, either by visualizing the energy changing, imagining how the changing energy will feel, or simply holding the thought or idea in your head. As long as you’re holding the intention to cleanse the object or space, the magic will handle the rest.
4. Finishing touches
Often after cleansing, many people get a “what now?” feeling. Cleansing is quite simple and it can leave many witches feeling like they’ve only half-finished the job. If you find yourself feeling like this, there are many ways to follow up cleansing and give it a tidy finish.
Warding after cleansing a place, an object, or even yourself can help prevent the unwanted energy from returning. Often if you can identify the origin of the unwanted energy, you can nip the problem in the bud and prevent a resurgence in one go.
Occasionally, cleansing isn’t quite strong enough to finish the job. If you find yourself finishing a cleansing and still feeling like something is off, you might need to turn to more firm-handed means. Banishing can often get rid of energies that cleansing can’t, whether from old or very stubborn energies or troublesome spirits. Banishing is also an important skill for every witch to learn.
Filling Space With New Energy
After cleansing, there’s often a sort of energetic void left over. This neutral energy is susceptible to picking up errant energies that you may not want around. The best way to prevent this is to recharge whatever it is you just cleansed with a new energy of your choosing.
When Should I Cleanse?
Cleansing is a tool you can whip out pretty much any time you like. It’s a fairly gentle method of clearing energies, so it’s difficult to overdo it. My suggestion is to cleanse your home once every week or two, as well as after any big emotional upsets or stressful periods. If you’re empathic, sensitive to other people, or prone to mood swings and emotional turbulence, you can cleanse multiple times a week, or even every day if you find that it helps you.
Cleansing new objects being brought into your home can be useful for keeping old energetic buildup from being dragged into your house. This is especially useful with secondhand and antique items! Often these items have a long history and there’s no telling what kind of energetic residue they might be carrying around. Cleansing ritual tools before consecrating or using them is a good idea, but if you’ve already programmed an item or worked spells on it, you may want to hold off on cleansing until you’re ready to have a fresh slate to work new magic on.
That said, if you’re looking to deactivate a spell or deprogram a tool, cleansing is an excellent first step. Depending on the intensity or complexity of the spell, it may require more than a simple cleansing to remove properly.
It’s also a good idea to cleanse your home and belongings thoroughly after a breakup. Pay particular attention to mattresses, shared belongings, and anything you mentally associate with them. It may be necessary to cleanse these things multiple times, since you’ll likely add more negative emotion into the mix as you go through the post-breakup stages.
Cleansing your personal energy is a fairly individual subject. Some people enjoy cleansing their energy very regularly, while others may find that they rarely need to do so. Experiment a bit and find your personal preference. There are many easy ways to cleanse your energy, daily or otherwise. Simply incorporating water cleansing into your shower or bath will certainly do the trick, but even an action as simple as washing your hands can serve as an adequate cleansing routine. Standing with your feet in the grass or a natural body of water can be effective, as can carrying cleansing stones on your person, such as citrine or smoky quartz. You can even let a breeze carry away any unnecessary energy as you go about your day.
Cleansing is a witch’s first line of defense and one of the most well-loved and oft-used techniques available to us. Give it a try and if you’re up for it, join me in The Cleansing Bath Masterclass to learn more about one of the most potent cleansing methods available to us as witches. You can get this class and 40+ other classes at The Traveling Witch Academy for just $7/month!
Thank you so much for this! I’ve read that things need to e cleansed before using them in rituals and things like that, but I haven’t come across anything that so clearly states the different ways. It was very helpful!
If I have an incomplete spell that I won’t be able to finish. Do you know of a good way to diminish this spell and release it? I felt like a cleansing spell would work, but I’m very new and unsure how to fix this pickle.
Your definitely right to feel like it needs to be dismantled. Take the peices apart and say with intention that you want the spell to end. Im sure there are elaborate rituals to do it found in books, but that’s what works for me.
This was helpful. I’ve wanted to get into witchcraft for a long time but I wasn’t sure how. I talked to a couple witches and they helped me but never went into detail about cleansing. This was helpful!
This is very helpful to get started, thank you. Just wanted to say that using White Sage or Palo Santo is discouraged unless you acquire them directly from a practitioner that respects and understand their importance– and sources them from sustainable places that don’t exploit or encourage scarcity.
I also enjoy a form of saining I use. I take a cedar or juniper branch, which are local to me, and use it to sprinkle water around or on whatever I’m cleansing.