Rats hate baths.
I have read about those gutsy people who give their rats baths, and how successful they are assuming the moon is aligned correctly, assuming the water is the correct depth and temperature, and assuming the bather is wearing titanium gloves, but I must tell you, unless it is absolutely necessary, don't put your rat through that torture!
Now, why, you wonder, is this human so anti-bath? Well, for one, they get really really nervous. I've found that their lives are way too short to be adding life-span decreasing stress to it. Furthermore, when rats are under stress in bath water, water flies everywhere - in their ears, in their noses, etc. If they accidentally catch a draft on their way out and they're already carriers of Mycoplasma (and probability says they are), they've now got pneumonia to add to their list of potential things to combat. Watch a rat gasp for air once and you will not take that chance.
Selfishly speaking, they will tear the hell out of your arms in an attempt to get out of the water, and they may even snap at you. It's also frustrating because they don't like the smell of what we call "clean" and will consequently whiz on themselves and lick madly until they get that icky evil smell to go away.
In short, it's really not worth the hassle. Rats are the cleanest animals around. They are so picky, in fact, that they graze off the nubbies, scabs, and lick out the pus in wounds. Do not doubt their cleanliness!
You will find, however, as they get older, that they tend to miss spots, particularly when they are not feeling well or when their roommates aren't doing their jobs. In that case, wet a paper towel with warm water, grab a couple of dry paper towels, put a little bit of soap on the wet paper towel, and scrub small portions, as if you were a rat tongue, following each small section with a scrub of the dry towel. They love that, well, love may be too strong, but often they will respond to that by trying to clean a bit of themselves or you.
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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not
one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed
and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes: