How to Prepare Wet Wraps for Eczema

Children and adults stand to benefit from concentrated moisture

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Wet wrapping combats the itching and discomfort of eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis (AD). Though there is no cure for eczema, wrapping the skin with layers of wet and dry cloths has been done for centuries to help calm flare-ups and relieve eczema symptoms.

In this article, you will learn what research says about wet wrapping, how it’s done, and what materials should be used.

Man scratching dry skin on his elbow

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Wet Wraps: A Complementary Eczema Treatment

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that can’t be cured. It affects about 10% of Americans, and symptoms begin in childhood for about three-quarters of people with eczema.

There are many ways to manage eczema. Wet wrapping is a technique that helps combat severe eczema flare-ups, especially in children.

People in ancient Babylon and Egypt applied moist dressings to treat skin wounds, and the popularity of wet dressings for itchy skin conditions became increasingly popular throughout the 1900s. By the 1990s, the term “wet wrap” was coined as more studies sought to find evidence to support the use of these treatments.

Although there is no cure for eczema, the key elements to successfully managing and treating it are to:

  • Repair and maintain the skin’s barrier
  • Add moisture to the skin
  • Reduce inflammation

Wet wraps can help achieve this in theory, and it’s a technique to treat severe flare-ups, particularly in people who have not seen improvement with other treatments. Studies are mixed on the benefit of wet wrapping, but there are also no reports of any harm from wet wrapping.


Several studies find that wet wrapping has successfully increased moisture and improved the effectiveness of other topical treatments. In addition to increasing moisture and reducing inflammation, wet wrapping can also help treat eczema by:

  • Providing a physical barrier against scratching
  • Reducing itch
  • Decreasing bacteria on the skin’s surface

Although some studies have investigated wet wrapping for up to 14 days, others suggest that symptoms can improve in as little as three days.

For Children

Though wet wrapping is a complementary therapy in people of all ages with eczema, many studies focus on the value of these treatments focused on children.

One report revealed that 71% of children with severe eczema had improved skin health and reduced symptoms for a month after treatment with wet wrapping. Research also suggests that wet wrapping may help people avoid using systemic medications to treat eczema—a particularly valued benefit in children.


A wide range of materials for wet wrapping has been studied. Traditionally, old clothing may have been used, and cotton is a common choice. Plain, white cotton or simple gauze is preferable. Other materials, like semi-synthetic viscose dressings or nanotextiles engineered to help trap
moisture, have also served as wet wraps.

Viscose and nanotextiles may offer some degree of superiority when it comes to trapping moisture against the skin, but these materials are usually much more expensive than plain cotton and have a reputation for feeling less comfortable on the skin.

As for the dry layer, additional dry dressings or even occlusive materials like plastic wrap can work. At home, it’s most common to place gloves, pajamas, or other articles of clothing over the wet dressing layer.


Although the materials for the different layers of wet wrapping may seem crucial, the liquid or medication that moistens the wet layer also has a big impact.

Wet-wrapping with materials soaked in a topical corticosteroid is useful for controlling oozing or weeping blisters and lesions, especially when the drainage prevents the absorption of medications
applied as simple topical treatments.

Some other effective treatments and medications used in wet wrapping include different types of topical steroids, emollients, and moisturizers.

DIY Versions

Though guidance from your doctor or other healthcare professional is preferable when using wet wrapping, it is possible to continue these treatments at home with basic items you would find around the house.

A simple wet wrap can be made with clean, white cotton clothing or gauze that is soaked with warm water using the following steps.

  1. Wet a piece of plain cotton or gauze with warm water until slightly damp. Do not saturate or leave it dripping.
  2. Wrap the moist cloth around the affected area.
  3. Apply a dry dressing made of similar material (cotton fabric or gauze) over the top of the wet layer.
  4. Carefully apply pajamas or other clothing to avoid disturbing the dressings.
  5. Wet wrapping done at home is usually applied at bedtime and left in place overnight.

How to Manage Eczema Flare-Ups

Managing your eczema is a long game, and knowing how to tackle flare-ups is just as important as keeping up with your maintenance treatments.

Good skin hygiene and moisturization, as well as other lifestyle changes, may help to keep your eczema in check. A severe flare-up, however, will usually require additional treatment with prescription topical medications like steroids.

It can be a good idea to establish a plan for flare-ups with your healthcare provider when you are developing your maintenance regimen.

Placement Instructions

You can place wet wrapping on just about any area of the body, but the technique might vary a bit from one spot to another.

Wrapping gauze around legs and arms is pretty straightforward, but be sure not to wrap the dressing so tightly that you reduce circulation in that area. If you are wet wrapping hands or feet, it may be easiest to use socks or gloves in place or dressings that must be wrapped. In that case, cotton gloves or socks are preferable for the wet layer, and vinyl or plastic gloves can work for the dry layer.

One area you may not want to apply wet wrapping to at home is the face. The National Eczema Association recommends that only trained nursing staff apply face wraps. Face wrapping is usually only done in cases of severe eczema flare-ups, and dressings are left in place for shorter periods of time (usually four to six hours).

Keep in mind that facial skin is more sensitive than skin in other areas of the body, and wet wrapping can increase the potency of any medications used in the wet layer. You will also need to take care to avoid covering your nose or mouth in a way that could interfere with your breathing.

Is Wet Wrapping Safe?

The true benefits of wet wrapping may be debated by researchers, but few studies have uncovered any risks or negative side effects from this treatment strategy.

In studies that have uncovered side effects, the most common was increased mild skin infections. It's also important to consider what you are using to wet the dressing. Medications like topical corticosteroids can have negative effects when used for long periods of time.


Wet wrapping is sometimes used to help treat severe eczema flare-ups. This layered dressing pairs warm water or medications on a base layer of the dressing with a dry dressing over top. The goal of this treatment is to reduce itching and inflammation, moisturize the inflamed area, and protect your skin from additional irritation.

A Word From Verywell

Wet wrapping is a treatment that can be prepared simply at home with warm water and plain cotton. Experts suggest only using these dressings under the supervision of a medical professional, though, especially if you are going to apply any topical medications within the wet layer.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it safe to use wet wraps for eczema every day?

    Wet wrapping is typically done for between three and 14 days at a time to control eczema flare-ups. Wet wrapping is not recommended as a routine maintenance treatment for eczema.

  • What’s the ideal length of time for wet wrapping?

    The ideal duration for wet wrapping is unclear, but a range of three to 14 days is typical. In one study, children hospitalized for severe eczema flare-ups saw improvement after just three days of wet wrapping.

  • Does eczema clear up better with moisture or air exposure?

    Repairing the skin barrier and keeping skin moist are both important parts of an eczema treatment plan. In some cases, dry air is a trigger for eczema flare-ups. However, wet wrapping is not recommended as a daily treatment strategy for eczema.

12 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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  7. National Eczema Association. Wet wraps: what they are and how to use them.

  8. Nicol NH, Boguniewicz M, Strand M, Klinnert MD. Wet wrap therapy in children with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis in a multidisciplinary treatment program. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. July 2014;2(4):400-406. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2014.04.009.

  9. National Eczema Association. Wet wrap therapy.

  10. National Eczema Society. Paste bandages and wet wraps.

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By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.