What is potassium permanganate?

Potassium permanganate is a common chemical compound that combines manganese oxide ore with potassium hydroxide.

It was first developed as a disinfectant in 1857. Since then, it’s been widely used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including fungal infections. In many countries, including the United States, you’ll need a prescription from your doctor to receive potassium permanganate.

Keep reading to learn more about its medical uses and safety tips.

What does it treat?

When applied to your skin, potassium permanganate kills germs by releasing oxygen when it meets compounds in your skin. It also acts as an astringent, which is a drying agent.

Some of the conditions that potassium permanganate can help treat include:

  • Infected eczemaIf you have eczema with blisters, potassium permanganate can help to dry them out.
  • Open and blistering wounds. Potassium permanganate is used as a wet dressing for wounds on your skin’s surface that are blistered or oozing pus.
  • Athlete’s foot and impetigo. Potassium permanganate can help to treat both bacterial and fungal skin infections such as athlete’s foot and impetigo.

How do I use it?

Before applying potassium permanganate to your skin, it’s important to dilute it with water. Most medical uses require a dilution of 1 part to 10 when using a 0.1% potassium permanganate solution.

To achieve an appropriate dilution using potassium permanganate 0.1% solution, combine 1 part potassium permanganate with 10 parts hot water. Undiluted potassium permanganate has a striking purple color, but a diluted solution should be pink.

Potassium permanganate must be diluted since the undiluted solution may cause burns. Even with dilution, it may irritate the skin, and with repeated use may still cause burns.

Potassium permanganate also comes in 400-milligram (mg) tablets. To utilize the tablets in a bath soak, dissolve 1 tablet in 4 liters of hot water before pouring into the bath. The bath soak may be repeated twice daily for two days.

Here are some guidelines on how to use potassium permanganate for specific conditions:

  • Infected eczemaUse or create a dilution of 1 part in 10,000. Add it to a basin or bathtub and soak the affected part of your body.
  • Superficial wounds. Apply a dilution of 1 part in 10,000 to a bandage and apply it over your wound. Change the bandage two to three times a day.
  • Athlete’s foot. For severe infections, soak your foot in a 1 part in 10,000 dilutions of potassium permanganate every eight hours. Depending on how severe your infection is, your doctor might prescribe a stronger solution.
  • Impetigo. Gently rub a dilution of 1 part in 10,000 on the affected skin to removed loose bits of skin.

Depending on your condition, your doctor might instruct you to create a stronger solution with a dilution of 1 part in 7,000. To achieve this, mix 1 part potassium permanganate with 7 parts hot water. This will create a slightly darker pink liquid.

Are there any side effects?

Potassium permanganate is generally safe, but it may leave a brown stain on your skin and nails, which should fade after a day or two. It might also leave a stain in your bathtub that’s hard to remove, which is why many people prefer to use it in a smaller basin.

Adverse side effects include skin irritation, redness, or burns.

Is it safe?

Potassium permanganate is a powerful solution that must be diluted before applying it to your skin. If it’s not diluted, it can damage your skin as well as the mucus membranes of your nose, eyes, throat, anus, and genitals.

Avoid using it near your eyes, and make sure you don’t swallow any, even in its diluted form.

For added safety, make sure you wear gloves when you’re preparing a dilution. If you’re using potassium permanganate tablets or crystals, make sure they’re fully dissolved in water before using the solution. Using hot (not boiling) water will help them dissolve.

If it irritates your skin or causes redness, stop using it immediately and contact your doctor.

The bottom line

A 1 in 10,000 dilutions of potassium permanganate can be a cheap and effective treatment for infected eczema, impetigo, and other skin ailments. Carefully follow the prescribed dilutions, and consult your doctor if you experience any irritation.