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What Are the Best Tips for Cleaning a Wound?

By Rebecca Mecomber
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A wound is an opening of the skin from an impact, tear, cut or other trauma. When the skin is wounded, proper cleaning of the wound is important, because this helps protect the body from infections and diseases. The best tips for cleaning a wound include evaluating the wound, cleaning out and sanitizing the wound, preventing excessive bleeding, applying proper bandaging, and knowing when to seek help from a medical professional. A wound should always be cleaned before it is dressed, or covered with a sterile wrapping and bandage.

For most minor wounds, cool tap water flushes out most of the pathogens from the surface of the wound. Saline solution is gentler than tap water for cleaning a wound that is sensitive or tender. If the wound contains debris, such as wood splinters, gravel or other material, these objects must be removed with sterilized tweezers or a clean washcloth before cleaning a wound and dressing the injury with a bandage.

Cleaning a wound with water and removing debris may further instigate bleeding. This is the body's normal and natural response to an open wound and helps to further clean the wound. Minor bleeding is harmless and usually ceases in several minutes. Though if the bleeding does not stop or becomes very heavy, the wound must be covered with sterile dressing, such as gauze, and direct pressure must be applied to the wound. The patient should consult a medical professional as soon as possible.

Once the wound has been rinsed, it can be washed with an antiseptic solution, such as iodine, antibiotic rinse or antibiotic ointment. These solutions destroy certain residual pathogens left behind from rinsing with tap water. Antibiotic ointment is helpful because it also moistens the wound, encouraging new skin cells to adhere to one another. Besides promoting healing, antibiotic ointment reduces the likelihood of an unsightly scar.

Sometimes a wound may require stitches or a suture glue-like adhesive. A deep cut that exposes the yellow-colored fatty tissue of the skin needs stitches. Long cuts that do not close easily needs stitches, as do areas of the skin that stretch with movement. Wound care for injuries requiring stitches is the same as for other wounds. In such a case, keep the area clean and sanitized, stop the blood flow, and dress the wound until it can be closed by a medical professional.

Clean wounds should be covered with sterile dressing, such as gauze or an occlusive or semi-occlusive adhesive strip. The dressing protects the wound from further contaminants and seals in moisture, which promotes healing. Wound dressings must be changed daily or even more frequently, depending on the severity of the wound and if the dressing becomes wet or soiled.

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Discussion Comments
By Scrbblchick — On Oct 02, 2014

My mom is a retired nurse and passed on a fair bit of first aid type knowledge to us, so I know a little about wound care.

It came in handy when the guy who lived in the apartment next to me and my husband knocked on the door and asked if I had a band aid. He'd been rollerblading with no kneepads, had fallen and really skinned his knee. It was ugly.

Fortunately, I'm not too squeamish, so I brought him inside, cleaned the knee off with a gauze pad soaked in water, got a cotton swab and dabbed plenty of antibiotic ointment on it. I bandaged it and then sent him home. He didn't even have band-aids in his house, and I had a stocked first aid kit. Bachelors.

By Lostnfound — On Oct 01, 2014

My dad was a believer in hydrogen peroxide for cleaning a wound. That's not the prevailing wisdom nowadays, but it's how he did it and none of us ever died of scepticemia or had to have a limb amputated from gangrene!

I still use peroxide to clean the wound and use antibiotic ointment to put on the wound before putting on an adhesive bandage. So far, peroxide hasn't failed me. I've always had wounds heal up well. Of course if I had something serious, I'd see a doctor, in case I needed stitches. But I'd still probably at least rinse it with cool water before I went to the ER.

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