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 eczema, impetigo (school sores), boils, and infected wounds, to help reduce bacteria on the skin and improve the severity of disease.  

    What you need

    • household bleach, 4.2% sodium hypochlorite  – do not use fragranced (e.g. lemon or lavender scented) 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, but do not immerse their head in the water. 
    • 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 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. 

    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 a particular brand? 

    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 July 2020. 

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


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