Bleach Baths for Atopic Dermatitis

By: Vivacare - Dr. Mark Becker

Bleach baths offer an easy means of reducing the risk of developing skin infections among people with atopic dermatitis (eczema).

Atopic dermatitis can cause significant itching and scratching that damages the skin and makes it susceptible to infection with staph (staphylococcus aureus), including MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus). As a result, people with atopic dermatitis are often prescribed antibiotics to treat skin infections.

Taking bleach bath helps to control the bacteria on the skin, and possibly reduce the need for antibiotics.

The bleach bath has antibacterial properties that decrease the number of bacteria on the skin and reduces the need for antibiotics. A reduction of staph bacteria on the skin may also reduce the number of atopic dermatitis flares.

Taking a bleach bath is like making your own swimming pool in the bathtub.

Steps

  1. Fill a bathtub with lukewarm water (about 40 gallons).
  2. Pour in 1/4 to ½ cup of liquid bleach (Clorox™). The active ingredient of bleach is sodium hypochlorite. The concentration of sodium hypochlorite in the bleach used should not exceed 6%.
  3. Stir the water. This creates a solution that is slightly stronger than a chlorinated swimming pool.
  4. Soak in the bath for about 10 minutes.
  5. Rinse the skin in fresh, lukewarm water when finished soaking.
  6. Gently pat dry the skin with a soft cotton towel. Do not rub vigorously.
  7. Immediately apply any prescription medications and/or a moisturizer.
  8. Repeat the bleach bath 2 to 3 times each week, or as recommended by your doctor.

Precautions

  • Do not use undiluted bleach directly on your skin
  • Bleach baths can cause skin dryness and irritation. Speak to your doctor if you find that the bleach baths are causing additional irritation.

In a 2009 study of bleach baths, researchers treated 31 patients (6 months to 17 years old) who had moderate to severe atopic dermatitis and signs of a bacterial skin infection for 14 days with oral antibiotics. One-half of the patients also received bleach in their bath water (half a cup per full standard tub). All were instructed to bathe for 5 to 10 minutes twice a week for three months. There was rapid and significant improvement among the children who were taking the bleach baths.