Bleach baths can lessen symptoms of chronic eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) in children and adults. People with eczema are prone to bacterial infections and bleach baths can help reduce the number of bacteria on their skin. Bleach baths can be used 2-3 times per week, or as often as recommended by your dermatologist. Consult with your dermatologist before beginning the bleach baths. If he or she recommends this treatment for you or your child, here are instructions for how to perform bleach baths:
1) Add lukewarm warm water to half-fill the tub. Use regular strength (6%) bleach. DO NOT USE CONCENTRATED BLEACH. Add 1/4 cup of the household bleach to the water. (If you are using a full tub of water, add 1/2 cup of bleach. For a baby or toddler bathtub, add one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water). NEVER apply undiluted bleach directly to the skin as this would be very irritating.
2.) Stir the water well before soaking to ensure the solution is completely diluted. Soak in the bath for 5-10 minutes.
3.) After soaking, THOROUGHLY RINSE the skin with lukewarm fresh water, which will minimize dryness or irritation from the bleach.
4.) To dry the skin, pat dry rather than rub as rubbing is equivalent to scratching the skin.
5.) Immediately apply any prescribed medications as directed by your dermatologist and/or thick moisturizers.
DO NOT perform a bleach bath if the child or adult has asthma or a sensitivity/allergy to chlorine or if there are numerous open areas or breaks in the skin as this would cause stinging/burning.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, watch the American Academy of Dermatology video on bleach bath therapy below:
Dr. O'Reilly holds a PhD in cancer cell biology and an MD, both from Cornell University. She completed her internship in internal medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and her dermatology residency at New York University. Although she has a special interest and expertise in cutaneous oncology, she also enjoys treating general dermatology patients, both children and adults.