Acute wounds: How to use antiseptics

Acute wounds require proper care. In most cases, these wounds must be cleaned and properly treated right away using an antiseptic to lower the risk for infection. Nevertheless, if a wound shows signs of a potential infection, it is vital to seek immediate medical care as soon as possible.

Commonly used antiseptics for acute wounds


All types of soap can clean, but an antibacterial soap acts as a gentle antiseptic and a cleanser. Always wash hands first and proceed by cleansing the entire site of the damage to avert the surrounding skin bacteria from tainting the wound.

Rinse the site generously using clean water or 0.9% sterile saline solution that is relatively gentler on the impaired skin. Make sure that acute wounds are kept clean until properly covered.


All types of soap can clean, but an antibacterial soap acts as a gentle antiseptic and a cleanser.

Povidone iodine

Povidone iodine is an effective and safe antiseptic for acute wounds but should not be used for those who are allergic to seafood or iodine.

It is applied using a cotton swab or pre-soaked pad. Remember that it can tint the skin and even stain fabrics.


Alcohol is considered as a good antiseptic but can damage the tissues. One that contains 70% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol can eliminate microorganisms and suitable for cleaning around acute wounds. Take note that it might sting if it enters a wound.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel contains some alcohol content but not enough to be categorized as an antiseptic. It can help in cleaning the skin as well as stops the bleeding and lessens the swelling. It is applied using a cotton ball that is left on the skin as a compress if desired.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is not categorized as an antiseptic since it damages the skin and delays healing. On the other hand, it can be utilized to get rid of debris from dirty or deep wounds.

You should wash dirty or deep wounds using soap and rinse thoroughly using water or even sterile saline if on hand. Only utilize peroxide in case clean water is not available and follow-up with an antiseptic.

Benzalkonium chloride

Benzalkonium chloride wipes might be available in a first aid kit. It is the safest to use around the eyes but should not allow to enter the eyes. Take note that there is a risk for being allergic to it with extended use.

Benzethonium chloride

Benzethonium chloride is considered effective for the staph bacteria including the resistant strain or MRSA. This should be used in limited amounts.

Chlorhexidine gluconate

Chlorhexidine gluconate is a safe and effective skin antiseptic for acute wounds. Make sure that it should not enter the ears since it can damage hearing.

It can be applied on a wound and surrounding area and even allowed to dry on the skin. It possesses a residual antibacterial action where new bacterium could not grow in or around the wound for up to 6 hours.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on using antiseptics for acute wounds is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to manage acute wounds, register for a first aid and CPR course with Vancouver First Aid.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Captcha * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.