There aren’t many studies about using a diluted bleach bath for psoriasis, but some say they may be helpful for itchy skin, inflammation, skin infections, and eczema.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system sometimes attacks your body. It causes your skin cells to grow faster than usual.
Psoriasis can cause itchy, raised patches of skin ringed with irritation. It might make you more prone to skin infections due to itching. It’s a chronic condition and can be painful.
There isn’t a lot of literature specifically endorsing a diluted bleach bath for psoriasis, but there are many studies that find them helpful for itchy skin, inflammation, skin infections, and eczema. Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis and, like psoriasis, leads to dry, itchy skin.
Bleach baths themselves aren’t harmful. If done right, bathing in one is not unlike swimming in a chlorinated pool.
What is a bleach bath?
A so-called bleach bath may conjure images of strong, eye-irritating fumes or unpleasantly strong bath water. However, it’s not a bath in bleach but rather a regular bath with just a little bit of bleach mixed in.
Your dermatologist or other healthcare professional may recommend them for many skin conditions, including eczema and the prevention of some skin infections.
There aren’t a lot of studies looking at whether bleach baths can help psoriasis.
However, some studies and experts indicate that bleach baths can help itchy skin and inflammation.
They can also help prevent infections by killing harmful bacteria that can grow on your skin. When conditions like psoriasis cause you to scratch, that can cause breaks in the skin that bacteria can get into and cause an infection. Killing the bacteria lessens the likelihood of those infections.
Bleach baths, if diluted correctly, aren’t harmful unless:
- you take them too often
- your skin is very dry
- the ratio of bleach to water is too strong
- you stay in them too long
- you have another condition that could make you sensitive to the effects of bleach
- the bath is too hot, which could lead to a psoriasis flare-up
If you have psoriasis or another condition, speak with a healthcare professional before trying one.
In general, warm, appropriately diluted bleach baths are safe. However, some people should avoid them.
- children younger than 2 years
- people with very dry, sensitive skin
- people with bleach allergies
- people who have open sores, cuts, or wounds
- those sensitive to bleach fumes
Bleach baths may also dry out your skin, so it’s important to rinse thoroughly afterward and apply an appropriate lotion or moisturizer.
Undiluted bleach can cause burns. If you get straight bleach on your skin, you should rinse it off immediately with water and wipe the area off with something absorbent, such as a sponge, and use gloves if needed.
Call the Poison Control hotline at 800-222-1222 or go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care clinic if you experience bleach burns (raised red welts) or develop symptoms of shock, such as:
- rapid, weak, or absent pulse
- irregular heartbeat
- rapid, shallow breathing
- dilated pupils
- chest pain
- loss of consciousness
Some researchers suggest bleach baths for various skin conditions that stem from infection. When certain types of bacteria and fungi get on the skin, they can cause infection and inflammation.
Bleach baths can help kill staphylococcal bacteria, which are the culprit in the following conditions:
- impetigo, a common, very contagious, crusty skin infection that’s especially common in children
- boils, deep, pus-filled hair follicle infections
- folliculitis, also hair follicle infection
- infected eczema
- infected wounds, which happen when harmful bacteria enter an injury and multiply, leading to inflammation and sometimes a fever or other symptoms
Are bleach baths good for eczema?
Dermatologists and others have long recommended diluted bleach baths to help manage eczema. The chronic skin condition affects more than 28 million people in the United States.
Hot water and bubble baths can cause eczema to get worse, and you may develop characteristic dry, scaly, red patches. But the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) recommends bleach baths to help with inflammation and reduce the chances of bacterial infections for those with moderate to severe eczema.
Psoriasis in People of Color
People of Color tend to have a harder time getting the right treatment for psoriasis, leading to delays in treatment.
One reason may be that psoriasis looks different in people with darker skin. In white people, psoriasis usually shows up as red, scaly plaques. Medical literature often shows plaques on white skin as representative of the condition.
However, psoriasis in darker skin types can look purple, grayish, or darker brown, leading to misdiagnosis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.
According to the foundation, it can also cover more body areas in some ethnic and racial groups other than white people. In 2018, non-Hispanic racial minorities, including Black people, Asians, and Native Americans, were also 40% less likely to seek medical treatment for psoriasis.
The foundation has more information about racial differences and treatment options for psoriasis here.
The AADA suggests bleach baths to help with inflammation and reduce the chances of bacterial infections for those with moderate to severe eczema.
The association recommends the following for eczema, and you can try at home for psoriasis:
- regular strength (6%) plain bleach
- half a cup per bathtub full of water, a quarter cup for half a bathtub, or 1 tablespoon per gallon of water for smaller baths
- a 5-to-10-minute soak at most, but discuss with a dermatologist or other healthcare professional first
- rinse off afterward
- pat dry and apply a moisturizer
Before taking a bleach bath, speak with your healthcare professional and discuss which moisturizer to use. The AADA adds that bleach baths may hurt if you have very dry skin, so you might discuss that as well.
You can try managing your symptoms at home with bleach baths or other psoriasis remedies if your skin symptoms are mild.
But if symptoms last longer, bother you, or worsen, it’s best to see a healthcare professional.
Bleach baths are warm baths with a little plain household bleach mixed in. The result is a soak that’s less chlorinated than most pool water but that has antimicrobial properties.
There’s evidence that they may help prevent skin infections and relieve itching and inflammation related to some skin conditions, such as eczema.
There isn’t much published research on whether bleach baths are helpful for psoriasis, but they probably won’t hurt.
If you take a bleach bath, rinse off afterward, and apply an appropriate moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out and aggravating your psoriasis.