Can a bleach bath treat chronic eczema?

Answers from Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D.

A bath with a small amount of bleach added to the water may help lessen symptoms of chronic eczema (atopic dermatitis).

Eczema is an itchy skin condition, often worsened by a bacterial infection. An eczema bleach bath can kill bacteria on the skin, reducing itching, redness and scaling. This is most effective when combined with other eczema treatments, such as medication and moisturizer.

If properly diluted and used as directed, a bleach bath is safe for children and adults. For best results:

  • Add 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of bleach to 40 gallons (151 liters) of warm water — that will fill a U.S.-standard-sized bathtub to the overflow drainage holes. Use household bleach, not concentrated bleach.
  • Soak from the neck down or just the affected areas of skin for about 10 minutes. Do not submerge the head.
  • Rinse off and gently pat dry with a towel.
  • Immediately apply moisturizer generously.
  • Take a bleach bath no more than three times a week.

You may experience dry skin if you use too much bleach or take bleach baths too often. If your skin is cracked or very dry, any bath — including a bleach bath — may be painful. Talk to your doctor before trying an eczema bleach bath.

Jul. 17, 2014