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Bleach and Herpes

Based on a 1988 laboratory study showing the effectiveness of bleach on killing the herpes virus, some people recommend bleach for herpes. Using bleach for herpes is an unsafe practice.
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In 1988, the Journal of Clinical Microbiology published a clinical study comparing a variety of common household chemicals and commercial antiseptic products for their effectiveness in treating herpes.

The researchers wanted to to know how herpes simplex virus- 1 and herpes simplex virus- 2 would react in the presence of bleach and several other cleaning chemicals.

Under laboratory conditions, both the oral and genital forms of the herpes simplex virus were killed in ten minutes with a diluted concentration of bleach.

The scientists placed 2000 micro liters per liter (0.4 teaspoons, or just under half a teaspoon in a quart of distilled water) of a standard commercial bleach product and salt water in a petri dish containing herpes simplex virus- 1 and herpes simplex virus- 2.

Because of the laboratory results of this study, a number of participants on herpes forums have suggested taking “bleach baths” in order to treat herpes outbreaks.

What is herpes?

The herpes simplex virus is one of the most common and infectious pathogenic viruses.

Oral herpes, known as cold sores, is herpes simplex virus- 1. It is spread by kissing and sharing personal items such as straws, drinking bottles, shaving razors, and eating utensils with an infected friend or family member.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sates that between 80-90% of all Americans get oral herpes when they are children or young adults. The virus stays in the blood stream forever, but outbreaks become less intense and less frequent over time.

Genital herpes is herpes simplex virus- 2. It is a sexually transmitted disease. Genital herpes outbreaks look like small red bumps, a red rash, or small blisters on the genital area or around the buttocks. Outbreaks can be so light that they may go undetected.

The only way to contract genital herpes is through direct skin to skin contact with sexual partner who has herpes. Unfortunately, herpes simplex virus- 2 can be spread between outbreaks, and before a partner realizes he or she has the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one out of between four and six sexually active women have genital herpes. One out of every nine sexually active men have herpes simplex virus- 2.

The only ways to reduce the risk of spreading or getting genital herpes is to practice safe sex, including the use of condoms, and to limit the number of sexual partners one has. During active outbreaks of genital herpes, partners should abstain for all sexual activity.

Does bleach cure herpes?

The short, and responsible answer to whether bleach cures herpes is "no."

There is no “cure” for herpes at all. The herpes simplex virus will stay in the human body forever. Over time, the virus will go dormant, and may appear to have been “cured.”

However, according to Web MD, herpes outbreaks can be triggered by several factors. Stress, a poor diet, colds, monthly female hormone changes, and even sun exposure can trigger an outbreak of herpes simplex virus- 2.

Why do people still use bleach for herpes?

Because of the clinical study cited above, some alternative health writers on the Internet have interpreted the study to mean that bleach is safe to use for treating herpes if the bleach is diluted, or bleach is added to bath water.

People who suffer from herpes must understand that the 1988 Journal of Clinical Microbiology scientists were testing the use of bleach and other household chemicals to kill the herpes virus in a laboratory dish.

There have never been any human trials performed involving bleach and herpes.

At best, and assuming that bleach was safe to use, the topical use of a dilute concentration of bleach on a herpes lesion would kill the virus on the surface of the skin. Bleach would never be able to kill the herpes simplex virus inside the body.

Why people should not use bleach for herpes

While, under laboratory conditions in the 1988 study, the herpes virus was cultivated, placed in a petri dish, allowed to grow, and then was inactivated with a variety of antiseptic products, herpes in humans occurs on the skin.

The skin is porous, like a sponge. The skin not only perspires, it breathes. Anything we place on our skin gets absorbed into our bodies.

Chlorine bleach is a toxic oxidizing agent. It removes the coloring from almost any surface, and whitens it. While bleach is a highly effective disinfectant for bathrooms, kitchens, and swimming pools, it is still poisonous.

There are concerns that the bleach and fragrances found in many household cleaning products on the market can lead to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these compounds may be carcinogenic to humans, especially thick liquid and gel cleaners.

Although bleach is used to disinfect “germs” in the environment, it does get into our bodies. If bleach can kill viruses as strong as herpes, it might be able to kill the good microflora found in our intestinal tract and upset the balance.

There is no clinical or medical support for using bleach for herpes.



Pubmed.gov, “Comparative study of inactivation of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 by commonly used antiseptic agents.” W. S. Croughan and A.M. Behbehani. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 1988 February; 26(2): 213–215.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.gov, “Genital Herpes- CDC Fact Sheet”

Web MD.com, “Potential Herpes Triggers”

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