A bleach bath is a diluted bleach solution used to help treat skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and other fungal or bacterial infections. While bleach baths can be effective, it’s important to use the right kind and concentration of bleach to avoid irritation or toxicity.
What is a Bleach Bath?
A bleach bath is made by diluting a small amount of household bleach into a regular bath of warm water. Typical concentrations range from 1⁄4 cup to 1 cup of bleach per 40 gallons of water. This creates a 0.005% – 0.01% hypochlorite solution similar in strength to a swimming pool.
The theory behind bleach baths is that the diluted bleach:
- Kills bacteria on the skin that can cause infections
- Reduces inflammation and irritation
- Dries out oozing or weeping skin lesions
Bleach baths are often prescribed by dermatologists for common conditions like:
- Other fungal or bacterial skin infections
They may provide antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits by killing germs and drying out irritated skin when used properly.
What Kind of Bleach Should You Use?
It’s important to use the right type of bleach when making a diluted bleach bath solution. Household bleach comes in different concentrations, so you need to know what kind you have before mixing it into the bath water.
The two main kinds of bleach available for home use are:
5.25% Sodium Hypochlorite Bleach
This is the most common strength of basic “household bleach” sold in jugs or bottles in the cleaning aisle of supermarkets and hardware stores. Popular brands like Clorox Regular Bleach or store generic brands typically contain 5.25% sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient.
8.25% Sodium Hypochlorite Bleach
Stronger bleach products contain around 8.25% sodium hypochlorite. They may be advertised as “concentrated” bleach. Common brands are Clorox Concentrated Regular Bleach or store concentrates.
When using the higher 8.25% concentrated bleach, you need to dilute it further to achieve the same level of dilution compared to regular 5.25% bleach. Otherwise it can irritate the skin.
Bleach Concentrations for Baths
The concentration of bleach you add to bath water depends on the type of bleach and size of the bathtub. Typical recommendations are:
|Bleach Type||Amount of Bleach||Bathtub Size (Gallons of Water)||Approximate Bleach Concentration|
|5.25% Sodium Hypochlorite||1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup||40 gallons||0.005% – 0.01% hypochlorite|
|8.25% Sodium Hypochlorite||1⁄8 to 1⁄4 cup||40 gallons||0.005% – 0.01% hypochlorite|
As a general rule, you want the bleach concentration to be around 0.005% to 0.01% hypochlorite in the full bath water, which is similar to the chlorine levels in a swimming pool. Start with less bleach at first to assess tolerance.
Safety Tips When Using Bleach Baths
When using any bleach solution on your skin, it’s important to take precautions to avoid irritation or accidental ingestion:
- Wear gloves – Bleach can irritate and dry out skin
- Check concentration – Accurately measure bleach based on type and bathtub size
- Rinse off – Rinse skin thoroughly after getting out of the bath
- Ventilate area – Use in well-ventilated bathroom to avoid inhaling fumes
- Avoid contact with eyes and mouth – Rinse immediately if bleach gets in eyes or mouth
- Start with short baths – Limit first baths to 5-10 minutes to check for irritation
- Pat dry gently – Be extra gentle when drying off sensitive skin
- Moisturize after – Apply moisturizer to help replenish skin and reduce dryness
Children should always be supervised closely when using bleach baths due to the risk of ingestion or irritation of their delicate skin.
Alternatives to Bleach Baths
While bleach baths can be effective for some skin conditions, they may not be right for everyone. Some individuals may be sensitive to bleach and experience stinging, redness, or irritation of the skin during or after bathing. Children and those with very sensitive or raw skin may not tolerate bleach baths very well.
There are some alternatives to try instead of bleach baths for antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits:
- Salt baths – Dissolve cups of plain table salt orDead Sea salt in a warm bath
- Oatmeal baths – Grind up colloidal (finely ground) oatmeal and sprinkle into the bathwater
- Baking soda baths – Add 1-2 cups of baking soda to a lukewarm bath
- Apple cider vinegar baths – Add 1-2 cups apple cider vinegar to bath water
- Wet wraps – Wrap dampened gauze around affected areas to soothe skin
These can help cleanse, reduce inflammation, and moisturize the skin. Make sure any additions are fully dissolved in the bath and that the water is lukewarm, not hot. Cooler water is less drying. Be sure to moisturize skin after bathing.
When to Avoid Bleach Baths
While bleach baths are generally safe when used properly, there are some situations where they should be avoided:
- Open wounds – Can cause painful stinging
- Eczema flare-ups – Can worsen red, angry, oozing skin
- Sensitive areas – Avoid breasts, genitals, face
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding – Due to skin sensitivity and potential ingestion risk for baby
- Children under 5 years old – Difficult to prevent ingestion and skin irritation
- Contact allergy to bleach – Irritation, hives, itching, swelling
- Respiratory conditions like asthma – Bleach fumes can trigger breathing problems
Talk to your doctor before using bleach baths if you have any concerns about irritating your skin disease or potential side effects.
With the right concentration and safety precautions, bleach baths can be a beneficial part of treating some chronic skin conditions. Use 5.25-8.25% sodium hypochlorite bleach and dilute it properly to achieve around 0.005-0.01% concentration in the bath water.
Start slowly, avoid contact with eyes and mouth, and rinse skin thoroughly after bathing. Check with your doctor to see if bleach baths are appropriate for your situation. For those who don’t tolerate bleach well, salt, oatmeal, baking soda or vinegar baths can make good alternatives.