Potassium permanganate solution soaks

What are the aims of this leaflet?

This leaflet has been written to help you understand how to use potassium permanganate (Permitabs®) soaks.

What is potassium permanganate?

Potassium permanganate, when diluted, is a mild antiseptic and astringent (something that dries the skin). It is for external use only.

Important safety advice:

  1. Never swallow or take internally.
  2. Always wearing gloves when handling the Permitabs® to avoid staining or irritant reactions on the fingers.

What skin conditions are treated with potassium permanganate?

Skin conditions commonly treated with potassium permanganate soaks include weeping or blistering conditions such as acute weeping/infected eczema and leg ulcers.

What does the procedure involve?

The solution should be prepared freshly just before use, as if left it will start to oxidise and go brown. Use a clean container lined with a clean white bin liner bag. Fill with 4 litres of warm tap water and add one (Permitabs) tablet (wearing gloves) and allow to dissolve completely. The water should be light pink coloured. If treating hands and feet, apply vaseline to the nails to prevent staining. If recommended for the limbs, then immerse area to be treated. Occasionally it may be recommended that you soak some gauze swabs with the diluted solution and apply the damp swabs to the weeping areas of skin for example under the breasts or in the groin. Soak affected areas for 10-15 minutes and then pat dry. Discard the solution and clean container thoroughly after use.

How should the treated area be cared for?

Once the affected area has been soaked and dried apply any prescribed cream/ointment and or dressings, and repeat as recommended by your healthcare professional.

What are the possible side effects of potassium permanganate soaks?

  • Can cause irritation if the dilution is not adequate.
  • Contact with eyes and mucous membranes (inside of mouth, nose, ear, genitals and anus) may cause irritation and should be avoided.
  • Harmful when swallowed – eating and drinking should be avoided when using the product.
  • Dryness.
  • Permitab is a dye and will stain clothing, fabrics and ceramic basins.
  • Can cause burns.

How will I be monitored for the side effects of potassium permanganate soaks? 

The nurse administering the treatment will assess your skin prior to and post treatment. If you are treating yourself and you have concerns, contact the healthcare professional who prescribed the treatment. If you accidently swallow the tablet or solution drink plenty of water, do not induce vomiting and seek immediate medical help.

Where can I get more information about potassium permanganate?

Alliance Pharmaceuticals LimitedAvonbridge HouseBath RoadChippenhamWiltshire SN15 2BB


For details of source materials used please contact the Clinical Standards Unit (clinicalstandards@bad.org.uk).

This leaflet aims to provide accurate information about the subject and is a consensus of the views held by representatives of the British Association of Dermatologists: individual patient circumstances may differ, which might alter both the advice and course of therapy given to you by your doctor.

This leaflet has been assessed for readability by the British Association of Dermatologists’ Patient Information Lay Review Panel



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