Herpes is a disease that affects roughly one out of every five sexually mature people in the world. It is estimated that about 80 percent of people suffering from herpes are unaware they carry the virus. As a result, it is little wonder that herpes manages to spread so efficiently. While there is no cure for herpes, there are a number of homegrown remedies that purport to relieve symptoms and temper outbreaks. One such method involves bleach.

What Is Herpes?

Herpes is a disease transmitted through sexual contact. Once contracted, it can exist in the body forever. The virus thrives on unpredictability—while it is usually dormant in the body, outbreaks can surface at any time. It is commonly believed that the virus can only spread during an outbreak phase, but herpes can actually be passed on at any point, even where there are no visible symptoms. The combination of misinformation and the prevalence of herpes in individuals unaware that they are infected allows the virus to proliferate unabated.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of herpes during an outbreak phase include painful burning or itching in the infected area, coupled with the development of sores and blisters, discharge from the penis or vagina, muscle aches and headaches, and fever. After a person contracts the virus, the initial outbreak usually manifests after a period of about two weeks. Symptomatically, the first outbreak is the worst. Subsequent outbreaks decrease in severity, although the virus remains just as potent.

Is Bleach an Effective Cure?

Application of bleach to affected areas during periods of outbreak has been heralded as an effective home remedy for herpes symptoms. The most common recommendation is to wash the area with diluted chlorine bleach. This is believed to kill the virus on the skin, rendering it impotent for the moment and relieving symptoms. Scientifically, a study published on pubmed in 1988 by W.S. Croughan and A.M. Behbehani from the University of Kansas Medical Center demonstrated that an application of bleach for 10 minutes could render the virus inactive.

What Are the Risks?

Even where properly diluted, bleach still has the ability to cause irritation and burning on the skin's surface. Prolonged inhalation of bleach is toxic due to the common ingredient of sodium hypochlorite. Other suggested (safer) alternatives include the use of rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. But if you are in a bind, bleach can be used without undue levels of risk, so long as care is taken to dilute the mixture and it is applied in a room with sufficient ventilation.


With the use of any home remedy, the proper analysis is always a balancing of the expected benefits of the treatment against the potential risks. On balance, for those suffering from endless outbreaks of genital herpes, the transient skin irritation caused by bleaching the area might understandably be outweighed by the relief from the symptoms of herpes. However, the best prevention is to always be proactive in guarding against the contraction of sexually transmitted disease. An evening of fun is never worth a lifetime of misery.