How to Use Bleach on Poison Oak

Household bleach can help relieve the itchy poison oak rash.
Household bleach can help relieve the itchy poison oak rash. (Image: cleaning mailbox 2. image by mdb from

Poison oak — a relative of poison ivy — is a plant found along the Pacific coast of North America that creates a painful rash after it comes in contact with the skin. The itchy rash, caused by the plant's urushiol oil, can take between 24 hours and a full week to appear after a person has touched the plant. While bleach should not be a first recourse for treatment because of the potential for irritation, those suffering from blisters and an itchy rash can get some measure of comfort by carefully creating a compress soaked in a diluted, half-bleach, half-water mixture.

Things You'll Need

  • Household bleach
  • Water
  • Gentle soap
  • Bowl
  • Clean washcloths
  • Calamine lotion

Wash the affected area with warm water and gentle soap.

Pat the skin dry with a washcloth.

Combine equal parts water and household bleach in a small bowl or container.

Dip a clean washcloth into this mixture.

Wring out the washcloth so it is not dripping.

Drape the washcloth over the poison oak-affected skin and leave it on for 30 minutes.

Remove the washcloth and rinse the area with cold water.

Apply a layer of calamine lotion to the affected areas to soothe the skin.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can dip a cotton ball into the half-bleach, half-water mixture and rub it on affected areas to soothe the itch, as well.
  • Wear old clothes when performing this remedy because bleach can ruin clothing.
  • Try other methods before using bleach on your poison oak rash; while bleach can be effective, some specialists do not recommend using bleach on a rash because bleach is tough on the skin, removing the top layer. This is why diluting the bleach with water is essential.
  • Do not let your hands be in prolonged contact with undiluted bleach. Quickly rinse your skin with cold water.
  • Applying bleach, even in diluted form, to your skin may sting a bit.
  • If using bleach seems to make your skin worse, discontinue use and consult a dermatologist or other health care professional as soon as possible.
  • Avoid inhaling bleach because the vapors are harmful to the body.

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