Bleach Baths for Eczema: Tips for Using Bleach on Skin

Eczema is a term used to describe a group of seven conditions that can cause the skin to become inflamed and itchy. More than 31 million Americans have some type of eczema. The condition can range from mild to severe and can affect both adults and children.

Symptoms of eczema are different for everyone. The most common symptom of eczema is itchy skin. In most people, the itch feels mild to moderate, but in some people the itch can be so severe that people scratch the skin until it bleeds.

There is no cure for eczema, but treatments are available. These range from over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and lifestyle changes, to complementary or alternative therapies.

Bleach baths are one treatment option for eczema that may be used alongside over-the-counter or prescribed medications. Bleach baths can reduce inflammation and itching, and may lower the number of bacteria on the skin which can cause infections.

This article covers bleach baths for eczema in more detail.

Bath

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Severe Eczema Treatments

Eczema can cause a variety of symptoms. As well as itchy skin, other symptoms of eczema may include:

  • Dry or sensitive skin
  • Inflamed skin
  • Discolored skin
  • Rough or leathery patches of skin
  • Areas of swollen skin
  • Oozing or crusting on the skin

People with eczema may experience some or all of these symptoms.

There is no cure for eczema, but treatments can help with symptoms. Treatment options vary based on the severity of eczema and the age of the person experiencing symptoms.

Treatments can include:

  • Biologic drugs
  • Over-the-counter remedies
  • Prescription topical medications
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Natural and alternative treatments
  • Phototherapy

Medications

Medications for eczema are available both over the counter and with a prescription.

Over-the-counter options for eczema treatment include:

  • Antihistamines (e.g., Benadryl, Sudafed, Claritin)
  • Painkillers (e.g., Tylenol, Advil, NSAIDs like ibuprofen)
  • Topical hydrocortisone which may come in the form of a gel, cream, or lotion
  • Medicated shampoos

Prescription medications can include topical, injectable, and oral medications.

Topical Medications

Topical medications are applied directly to the skin to help reduce inflammation and symptoms of eczema.

Topical medications for eczema include:

  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors: These nonsteroidal drugs work by interfering with the immune system and stopping inflammation, redness, and itching. Tacrolimus ointment and pimecrolimus cream are two options of this kind drug for people with eczema.
  • Topical PDE4 inhibitors: Crisaborole (Eucrisa) is a topical PDE4 inhibitor in the form of an ointment used to treat mild to moderate eczema.
  • Topical steroids: Topical corticosteroids, commonly referred to simply as steroids, are the most common medications prescribed for eczema. These medications come in different strengths, as well as in different forms including ointment, cream, spray, or lotion.

Prescription Injectables

Biologic medications, also called biologics, are prescription injectable medications that use human DNA in targeted therapy in the immune system. This medicine can be given either through the skin or in the vein.

Dupixent (dupilumab) is a biologic medication used in the treatment of moderate to severe eczema when topical treatments are not working or are not an option.

Prescription Oral

Prescription oral medications for eczema include traditional systemic medications and steroids.

Traditional system medications include:

  • Azathioprine
  • Cyclosporine
  • Methotrexate
  • Mycophenolate mofetil

In severe cases of eczema, oral steroids like prednisone may be prescribed to help control symptoms. This is often not recommended due to the “rebound effect”—when symptoms can return and be worse when the medication is stopped.

Alternative Remedies and Lifestyle

Those living with eczema may try alternative remedies or lifestyle changes to manage their symptoms. These may include:

  • Topical vitamin B12
  • Coconut oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Traditional Chinese medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Ayurveda
  • Meditation
  • Hypnosis
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Massage

Moisturizing, wet wrap therapy, and bathing are other possible remedies.

Bathing treatments include:

  • Baking soda
  • Bath oil
  • Oatmeal
  • Salt
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Bleach

Do Bleach Baths for Eczema Work?

Bleach baths are used by some people with eczema to help manage their symptoms. But experts are divided on how effective this treatment option is.

The National Eczema Association says taking a bleach bath two to three times a week can help reduce symptoms and bacteria on the skin that might lead to infections.

But a 2017 study found that while bleach baths could reduce the severity of eczema symptoms, they weren’t any more effective than bathing just in water.

However, there are limitations to the studies currently available, and larger randomized controlled trials are needed.

Possible Benefits

According to the National Eczema Association, bleach baths may provide a number of benefits. These include:

  • Decreased inflammation
  • Decreased itching
  • Reduced amount of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on skin

Bathing in a warm tub of water can also help the skin to better absorb moisture, as well as relax the body and reduce stress.

Mixed Opinions

Researchers are divided on the efficacy of bleach baths for eczema.

One study noted that although symptom severity was reduced with a bleach bath, there was no difference in efficacy between a plain water bath and a bleach bath. That same study found no difference in the density of bacteria found on the skin of those who took either bleach or plain water bath. This suggests some of the efficacy of bleach baths may in fact be attributed to the water and not actually the bleach in the bathtub.

How to Prepare a Bleach Bath for Eczema

The National Eczema Association advises having a bleach bath two to three times a week.

To prepare a bleach bath:

  1. Fill a bathtub with lukewarm water.
  2. For a standard-size bathtub (roughly 40 gallons), add one-half cup of bleach. For a standard bathtub that is half full, add one-quarter cup of bleach. For a baby bathtub, add two tablespoons of bleach.
  3. Soak in the bath for 10 minutes.
  4. Rinse off with warm tap water.
  5. Continue with a daily skincare routine.

Side Effects and Complications

Bleach baths may not be appropriate for everyone. Those with skin that is extremely dry may find them painful.

Also, people who have asthma or have a sensitivity to bleach may find the fumes from the bleach irritating and should speak with their healthcare provider before trying a bleach bath.

Infants and Children

Parents should consult their child’s healthcare provider before trying a bleach bath for the first time. Using a bleach bath in a baby bath (about four gallons) requires less bleach, just two tablespoons.

Natural Bath Ingredients for Eczema

If bleach baths are not a possibility, other bathing options may help the symptoms of eczema. These include:

  • Bath oil
  • Oatmeal
  • Salt
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Baking soda

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you treat baby eczema with bleach?

Parents and caregivers should consult with their baby’s healthcare provider before trying a bleach bath for the first time. With a healthcare provider’s approval, babies may be given a bleach bath in a baby-sized bath (about four gallons) using two tablespoons of bleach.

How often and how much bleach should you use?

The National Eczema Association advises taking a bleach bath two to three times a week.

  • For a full standard-size bath (about 40 gallons), use one-half cup of bleach.
  • For a half-full standard-size bath, use one-quarter cup of bleach.
  • For a baby- or toddler-size bath (about four gallons), use two tablespoons of bleach.

Do bleach baths for eczema work?

Bleach baths may help reduce inflammation and itching, and may also reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin that could lead to infections. Bleach baths may not work for everyone, particularly those with very dry skin. Bleach baths in this case may be painful.

A Word From Verywell

Eczema can cause very itchy skin that is inflamed and sore. There is no cure for eczema, but a number of treatment options are available. These include over-the-counter remedies, prescription drugs, and alternative therapies or lifestyle changes.

Bleach baths are a possible at-home remedy that may benefit people with eczema. Bleach baths may help reduce inflammation and itching. However, bleach baths may not be appropriate for those with very dry skin, asthma, or bleach sensitivities.

If you are unsure about whether a bleach bath is right for you, you should speak with a healthcare provider.

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10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Eczema Association. Bathing, moisturizing and wet wraps.

  3. National Eczema Association. Over the counter.

  4. National Eczema Association. Prescription topicals.

  5. National Eczema Association. Prescription injectables.

  6. National Eczema Association. Prescription oral.

  7. National Eczema Association. Complementary and alternative treatments.

  8. National Eczema Association. Bleach bath recipe card.

  9. Chopra R, Vakharia PP, Sacotte R, Silverberg JI. Efficacy of bleach baths in reducing severity of atopic dermatitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2017;119(5):435-440. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2017.08.289

  10. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Bleach bath recipe for skin conditions. Updated September 28, 2020.