Bleach vs. eczema: Bleach wins

I have eczema, a very common skin irritation. Unfortunately, both Sammy and Sophie inherited it from me. For a time last year, their skin condition was truly terrible. While once they slept through the night, for a while every single night either one of them or both of them woke up multiple times, usually with itch attacks.

Our pediatrician recommended a dermatologist, and the dermatologist recommended something that I had previously read about but hadn’t actually tried: Bleach baths.

With eczema, there’s a skin condition (a disease, mostly genetic), and it’s made worse by all the scratching, which causes infections due to the bacteria entering the open wound (mostly Staph Aureus), which causes the eczema to get worse, which causes more scratching, making a vicious cycle.

By putting bleach in the bath, you kill the bacteria on the skin, sterilizing it, which reduces the number of infections, thus helping control the itching.

The dermatologist recommends the following (taken verbatim from their handout):

  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup of bleach (like Clorox) in a bathtub that is at least half full of water. Measure the bleach and put it in the tub first, then add lukewarm water to fill the tub to ensure that the bleach is diluted completely in the water.
  • For a baby bathtub, you can add just a capful or tablespoon of bleach to the water
  • These baths should be performed 3 times per week to cut down on the bacteria on the skin
  • As soon as the bath is over, pat dry, and immediately apply your favorite emollient, such as Vaseline, Aquaphor, Cerave, etc.

Remember, undiluted bleach is dangerous to the skin, so be sure to mix the bleach.

How well does it work? After a low point in August of last year when I was at wit’s end, we began trying this in September. It took about two weeks to really see the difference. Since then their skin has been in much better shape (mine too). We give baths to our kids every other night. If we slack off on the every-other-night bleach in the bath routine, we notice the flareups return.

2 Responses to “Bleach vs. eczema: Bleach wins”

  1. Davis Freeberg Says:

    A friend of mine bought a tanning bed as a way of treating his. I’m not sure that I’d want to trade it for skin cancer, but he seemed to have a lot of success with it.

  2. Stephen Mack Says:

    Davis, that’s very interesting. There’s definitely a weather pattern for my own outbreaks of eczema — cold weather triggers it.

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