Can Bathing in Bleach Help With Skin Infections?

by Alisha Bridges Patient Advocate

When you think of bleach, what are the first words that come to mind? Cleaning? Brightening your whites? Sanitizer? What if I told you bleach can also be used to help the skin?

The Mayo Clinic reports in “Answers from Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D.” that adding a small amount of bleach in water can provide some relief for those with skin conditions like eczema; additionally, it can also help with psoriasis, impetigo, boils, and other skin infections.

Clay Cockerell, M.D., of Cockerell Dermatopathology stated during a video interview that the use of bleach baths became common during World War I and World War II. Back then, the method was used for individuals hurt by guns and bombs from the war. The bleach aided in cleaning and preventing infections of their wounds.

Although two different diseases, psoriasis and eczema can cause irritated, inflamed, itchy, and dry skin. Another big concern of these particular skin issues is that a person can increase their risk of infection when they scratch and break the skin; this is where bleach baths may provide assistance for the diseases.

Although the benefits of bleach baths were discovered 80 years ago, according to dermatologist Fred Ghali, M.D., this option for those with skin diseases is a newer option. “I would say five to 10 years ago, it became common practice within pediatric dermatology to use bleach baths diluted in order to decrease Staph aureus,” which is an infection that can disturb the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology advises that these baths can kill germs, helping to decrease the amount of bacteria found on the skin, thus lowering one’s chances of an infection.

Please consult with a doctor before using this method on yourself or others.

The AAD suggests the following steps in an instructional video on bleach baths (measurements are intended for school-age children to adults):

What you will need

  • An 8-ounce anchored measuring cup

  • Regular household beach with a strength that does not exceed six percent (do not use bleach with added fragrances)

  • A bath tub filled with warm water

The following measurements and instructions are based on a full tub of water:

  • While the tub is filling with water, add ½ cup of bleach to the water

  • Soak in tub from five to 10 minutes

  • Once out of the tub, pat dry

  • Apply topical meds (prescribed by doctor) and heavy moisturizer to your skin

Before considering this option, consult with your doctor, and check out these pros and cons!

The upside

The cheap choice

Dr. Cockerell states that bleach baths are cost-effective compared with other, more expensive treatment methods used for the skin.

No resistance

In some instances, antibiotics are used for infections of the skin. If taken too often, the body can build a resistance to the medicine; therefore it will no longer be effective. Dr. Cockerell says that the bleach bath method is effective in killing an infection of the skin, and you don’t have to worry about the resistance factor.

The downside

Dry skin

If bleach baths are used every day, they could cause the skin to dry out. Dr. Cockerell suggests that these baths should only be used one to two times a week.

The pain

If a person’s skin is cracked or broken, adding bleach could potentially be painful to use.

Alisha Bridges
Meet Our Writer
Alisha Bridges

Alisha Bridges has dealt with psoriasis since 7 years old after a bad case of chicken pox triggered her disease to spread on over 90% of her body. For years she hid in shame afraid of what people would think of such a visible disease. She has suffered from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks due to psoriasis. Years ago Alisha wrote a letter entitled “My Suicide Letter.” The letter was not about actually killing herself but killing parts of her like low self-esteem, fear, and shame so she could truly live to her fullest potential. This proclamation catapulted her into psoriasis and patient advocacy. Following this letter she created a blog entitled Being Me In My Own Skin where she gives intimate details of what it’s like to live with psoriasis. Alisha is a community ambassador for the National Psoriasis Foundation and has served her community in countless ways to help give a better understanding of what’s it’s like to live with psoriasis. Her life motto is the following: “My purpose is to change the hearts of people by creating empathy and compassion for those the least understood through transparency of self, patient advocacy, and dermatology.” Alisha is also a Social Ambassador for the HealthCentral Skin Health Facebook page.