How to Use Bleach on Poison Oak

by Ginger Yapp

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.

Items you will need

  • Household bleach
  • Water
  • Gentle soap
  • Bowl
  • Clean washcloths
  • Calamine lotion
Step 1

Wash the affected area with warm water and gentle soap.

Step 2

Pat the skin dry with a washcloth.

Step 3

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

Step 4

Dip a clean washcloth into this mixture.

Step 5

Wring out the washcloth so it is not dripping.

Step 6

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

Step 7

Remove the washcloth and rinse the area with cold water.

Step 8

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


  • 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.

Photo Credits

About the Author

Ginger Yapp has been writing professionally since 2006, specializing in travel and film topics. Her work has appeared in such publications as "USA Today" and online at Yapp also has experience writing and editing for a small California newspaper. She earned her B.A. in film and media studies and has worked as an ESL teacher at an international school.