Protect Your Hands at Home

If activities at home are causing your hand eczema, your doctor will help you determine what irritating chemicals or practices are contributing to your condition. In addition to modifying those risks, many hand-protective strategies can help. Here are some ideas:

  • “Dishpan hands” are actually a form of hand eczema. It occurs because constant wetting and drying breaks down the skin’s protective outer barrier. Perfumes and preservatives in soaps and irritants in household cleansers can make things worse. If you already have hand eczema or are recovering from an episode, you need to avoid wetting your hands whenever possible.
  • When you need to sanitize your hands, wash your hands with lukewarm water and a perfume-free mild cleanser, then blot your hands dry gently and immediately apply a moisturizer. The best moisturizer is petroleum jelly, but creams in a jar or tube are also effective. You should keep a good moisturizer next to every sink in your house. If it feels tacky on your hands, wipe off the excess. You only need a very thin layer.
  • When making your hands sanitary isn’t an issue, try waterless hand washing. Use the same gentle cleanser you normally use — but without any water. Blot it off gently. Avoid waterless or antibacterial sanitizers if you are in the midst of a flare-up; they generally contain solvents and other ingredients that may make your problem worse. If your hands are clear, the latter products may actually help prevent hand eczema.
  • Keep several pairs of cotton gloves around the house to protect your hands while doing chores. Even folding laundry can irritate tender skin. When these gloves get dirty, wash them in a perfume-free and dye-free soap. If your fingertips aren’t affected by hand eczema, you can cut the glove tips off to stay cooler in hot weather. For wet work, put on your cotton gloves and then cover them with unlined powder-free vinyl or neoprene gloves. (The latex in rubber gloves can cause allergies.) Afterward, wash eczema reusable gloves inside-out and let them air dry thoroughly. If a reusable vinyl glove gets a hole in it, throw it away. Wearing a glove with a hole in it is worse than wearing no glove at all. If water gets in your glove, take it off immediately; blot your hand dry, and use a new glove.
  • Wear gloves when peeling potatoes and when working with meat, onions, peppers, or acidic fruit, like citrus and tomatoes. We recommend disposable vinyl gloves. When you finish preparing these foods, just throw the gloves away.
  • Never wear a waterproof glove for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time.
  • Ask someone else to shampoo your hair for you. Or wash your hair wearing your waterproof/cotton liner glove combination. Use rubber bands on your forearms to keep water out.
  • Rings can trap irritants underneath them. Remove them when doing housework and before washing and drying your hands. Also, clean your rings regularly by soaking them overnight in one tablespoon of ammonia in a pint of water.
  • Use the washing machine and the dishwasher, not your hands, to do laundry and dishes. If you must wash dishes by hand, do it under running water. Use a long-handled scrubber to minimize hand damage from hot water.