Kids Health Info

Skin infections – bleach baths

  • Diluted household bleach has been safely used for many years to help treat skin infections. A small amount of bleach added to the bath is recommended for conditions such as impetigo (school sores) and scabies, to help reduce bacteria on the skin and improve the severity of disease.  

    What you need

    • White King household bleach (4.2% sodium hypochlorite) – do not use lemon or lavender bleach
    • measuring cup 
    • standard-sized bucket (10 litres)

    How to give a bleach bath

    • Fill the bath with tap water to the desired level using a standard-sized bucket. Count the number of buckets you use. Then mark your bath with tape so you don't need to use the buckets again. 
    • Add 12 mL of bleach for every 10 litres of water (final bleach concentration of 0.005%).
    • Let your child soak in the bath for 10 minutes.
    • Wash your child's head and face with the bath water. You can immerse their head in the water as the concentration of bleach is very low and it will not cause any problems.
    • Wipe away any crusting or weeping at the infected area while your child is in the bath. Use a soft disposable towel (e.g. a Chux-type cloth) and throw it away afterwards.
    • Do not rinse your child's skin after the bath.
    • Use old or white towels to avoid possible bleaching of coloured towels.
    • Repeat the bleach baths as often as recommended by your child's doctor or nurse.

    Possible side effects

    Household bleach can sometimes cause a stinging or a burning sensation on the skin. The instructions outlined in this fact sheet are for a very diluted bleach bath, which means there is less risk of stinging happening. The final bleach concentration is lower than a swimming pool, which most people can safely swim in without damage to their skin or hair.

    If your child does have stinging or irritation in the diluted bleach bath, rinse them off with plain water. Discuss this with your child's doctor or nurse before giving them another bleach bath.

    Bleach baths for eczema

    If your child has eczema, bleach baths can be helpful if the eczema is infected and difficult to control. Bleach baths for eczema also have oil and salt added. See Formula for an eczema bath.

    Key points to remember

    • Diluted bleach baths are safe and effective in reducing bacteria on the skin.
    • Add 12 mL of bleach per 10 litres of bath water.
    • Do not rinse the skin after a bleach bath.

    For more information

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    Can I just use a generic 4% concentration bleach – does it have to be White King?

    No particular brand is better than another, you can safely use most household bleaches as long as they are non-fragranced (e.g. lemon scented), but discuss this with your doctor or nurse.


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Dermatology department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers. 

    Reviewed May 2018.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.