Eczema causes the skin to crack and break open, increasing the risk of skin infections. Some people find that bleach baths reduce their eczema symptoms, though not all of the research agrees.
In this article, we look at the evidence behind the benefits of bleach baths for eczema, as well as the risks and side effects. We also discuss other types of baths that may help treat eczema.
Do bleach baths work for eczema?
Bleach baths may help treat eczema when used safely.
Some people believe that bathing in a mild bleach and water solution kills the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria living on the skin, reducing eczema symptoms and the likelihood of infection.
The National Eczema Association suggest that bleach baths may improve the symptoms of eczema for some people, though users should be aware of the possible risks and safety procedures.
However, a systematic review of the available evidence, published in 2017, found that bleach baths were no more effective than bathing in water alone after 4 weeks of treatment.
The experts are divided on whether bleach baths can reduce the severity of eczema or not. More studies are needed before doctors know how effective this treatment can be.
How to use bleach baths
The National Eczema Association recommend only taking a bleach bath 2–3 times a week.
They advise people to use regular, unconcentrated household bleach, which usually contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite.
The organization's directions for adults are as follows:
- fill the tub with lukewarm water
- for a full, standard-sized 40-gallon bath, add half a cup of bleach, or for a half-full bath, add one-quarter of a cup
- soak in the water for 10 minutes
- rinse off completely using warm water
- apply moisturizer quickly and continue with a regular skin care routine
When using a bleach bath, people should follow these safety tips:
- avoid using very hot or cold water
- do not add any other products to the tub
- spend no more than 15 minutes in a bleach bath
- avoid putting your head or face in bleach bath water
- never apply bleach directly to the skin
For a baby or toddler bath, use 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water.
Anyone thinking about incorporating a bleach bath into their own or their child's eczema skin care routine should speak to a doctor or healthcare professional first.
Side effects and risks of bleach baths
People who are sensitive to bleach or have allergic asthma may find that bleach or chlorine fumes can irritate their skin or respiratory system.
Bleach baths can be painful for people who have extremely dry skin.
Benefits of bathing treatments for eczema
Moisturizing regularly is important for people with eczema.
People with eczema tend to have dry skin because the condition affects the skin barrier. This is the upper layer of the skin that stops irritants, bacteria, and viruses from getting in and moisture from getting out.
Many healthcare providers recommend the 'soak and seal' method for eczema treatment, which involves soaking in the bath and then moisturizing straight away. This helps to tackle dry skin and reduce symptom flare-ups.
The method involves:
- taking a 5 to 10-minute lukewarm bath, then using a gentle, non-exfoliating cleanser
- drying the skin by patting lightly with a towel, leaving it slightly damp
- applying prescription eczema medication if needed
- liberally applying a high-oil content moisturizer all over the body within 3 minutes of getting out of the bath
- waiting for the moisturizer to absorb before getting dressed
High-oil content moisturizer is available for purchase online.
Some people think that adding a small amount of bleach to this routine helps with inflammation as well as prevent infection.
Alternative baths for eczema
Other bath treatments that might help ease the symptoms of eczema include:
Using bath oil
Adding gentle oils to the bath water can help keep a person's skin moisturized. People with eczema should take care not to use oils that contain fragrances or bubble bath solutions, as perfumes and harsh chemicals can irritate their skin even more. A range of products is available for purchase online.
Baking soda bath
Baking soda is a popular remedy for relieving the itching associated with eczema. Try adding one-quarter of a cup of the powder to the bath water.
People can also make baking soda into a paste and apply it directly on the affected areas of skin.
Much in the same way as baking soda, people use colloidal oatmeal to relieve itching in eczema. Add it to the bath water or apply to the skin as a paste.
People can find colloidal oatmeal in health stores or online.
During a severe eczema flare up, bathing may cause the skin to sting. Saltwater can help reduce the pain. Add 1 cup of salt to the bath water before getting in the tub.
Adding between 1 cup and 1 pint of vinegar to the bathtub may kill bacteria, which could help prevent infection.
Some people with eczema believe that bathing in bleach is an effective way to reduce inflammation and prevent infection because it kills the bacteria that live on the skin.
The experts are divided on how effective bleach baths are for eczema, and some sources say that they are no more effective than bathing in water.
Anyone who is considering adding a bleach bath to their or their child's eczema skin care routine should speak to their healthcare professional first.