Home > Personal Cleaning > Cleaning and Disinfecting Wounds

Cleaning and Disinfecting Wounds

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 22 Dec 2015 | comments*Discuss
Cleaning Wounds Disinfecting Wounds

All too often a small cut or abrasion turns into a much more serious matter because of poor cleaning and disinfecting leading to infection and inflammation, which, if left untreated, can even lead to fatal systemic conditions like septicaemia. The skin normally acts as a protective barrier against any bacteria and other pathogens lurking on your body but the minute that defence is breached, bacteria start entering the wound and multiplying exponentially.

So it is a good idea to have a sound knowledge of how to clean and disinfect any cuts, puncture wounds or abrasions.


Before touching the wound, make sure that you have scrubbed your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water (refer to the article “Clean Hands” for the correct way to wash hands effectively), and ideally dry them on disposable paper towels.

Also make sure that you have collected all the equipment and materials you need and that you have sterilised everything effectively using either steam, boiling water or (most conveniently) alcohol wipes - or are using freshly-opened materials such as bandages and dressings. Especially if you will be touching a wound on another person and will be in contact with bodily fluids such as blood, it may be a good idea to put on latex gloves after washing your hands to prevent the spread of infection.


If it is a small cut or abrasion, flushing the area with soap and running water, or a saline solution should suffice. Alternatively, you could use the many commercially available antiseptic or alcohol wipes. For larger, deeper wounds, it may be wiser to use a proper disinfectant – such as a dilute solution of iodine and water or chlorhexidine gluconate (e.g. as in “Savlon”).

If things are urgent and you do not have a disinfectant solution handy, you can make up an "emergency" disinfectant with salt dissolved in boiled water (sterile saline solution). Never use neat alcohol or neat iodine on an open wound – these are both too powerful and may damage the tissues. However, you can use them to clean and disinfect the skin around the injury.


All open wounds are contaminated so using sterile tweezers pick out any debris embedded in the wound to discourage the further growth of bacteria. This is particularly important when you have abrasion wounds, such as the skin scrapes that occur when you fall from a bicycle or something similar, as any debris left in the wound can cause painful infection as well as an unwanted tattoo left under the skin, if it isn’t thoroughly cleaned. If you find that you cannot effectively remove all particles from a wound yourself, it is best to seek medical help.

Once you have cleared the area, you can irrigate the wound again with your disinfectant, using a sterile eyedropper if necessary, to reach all areas of the wound. You can follow this with an anti-microbial or anti-septic cream, ointment or spray. This must be done immediately after cleaning the area as the body will quickly form a seal over the wound, which the antiseptic won’t be able to penetrate.


You may place a bandage or dressing over the wound to keep it clean and prevent further debris from entering the vulnerable area. However, make sure it is not airtight as sealed wounds are more likely to become infected. Contrary to popular belief, a moist wound is actually not an infection risk, as long as it is not oozing pus and fluids – a slightly moist wound is actually more likely to heal quickly, compared to a dry, hard scab. Change the bandages or dressings regularly so that the wound does not become too moist or too dry and you may need to further irrigate with disinfectant each time you change the dressing.

Resist the temptation to touch or pick at the wound as it is healing, particularly when your hands have not been thoroughly washed. As the wound heals and the skin reforms, it is natural to experience itching and irritation but it is vital that you allow the injury to heal of its own accord, as picking at it even at this later stage can still introduce infection or even lead to permanent scarring.

NOTE: for serious puncture wounds, such as dog bites, it is important to seek medical help and possible receive a dose of antibiotics.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
I stood on the tip of a rusty garden picket while I was gardening foolishly barefoot. My heel has a deep gash about 3cm long. I went for a 20 minute walk along the water's edge at the beach. Tomorrow, I'll go again, and expose my cut to the sun for ten minutes or so. I have found previously that land-based cuts benefit from this treatment. Cuts from rocks etc at the beach however are different and benefit from being disinfected and kept dry, away from salt water.
Louise - 22-Dec-15 @ 9:46 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • back
    Re: Types of Germs
    It is so super . thank you that you create it
    19 April 2017
  • Hunnyb22
    Re: How to Get Rid of Stale Smoke Smell?
    I moved into my bungalow over four years ago, although I've never smoked, the previous tenant did, all the woodwork was…
    13 April 2017
  • jack
    Re: Removing Body Stains
    There is stains in my body. Its not to much white. Some time go but next time is repeat last time it is seems me 18 month ago since 18 month…
    13 April 2017
  • Juanny
    Re: The Truth About Robot Vacuum Cleaners
    I personally think the Karmin professional robot vacuum is the best (Y)
    17 March 2017
  • CleaningExpert
    Re: How Do I Remove Mould Stains?
    KarenRed - Your Question:I am restoring a bisque doll with calico body. There is mildew and it looks like a spot of blood (the…
    1 November 2016
  • KarenRed
    Re: How Do I Remove Mould Stains?
    I am restoring a bisque doll with calico body. There is mildew and it looks like a spot of blood (the head was missing presumed…
    30 October 2016
  • CleaningExpert
    Re: Cleaning Routines
    sunnygirl - Your Question:I have a flat which I let out and the previous tenants were smokers. I have had the carpets cleaned but there is still…
    7 September 2016
  • sunnygirl
    Re: Cleaning Routines
    I have a flat which I let out and the previous tenants were smokers. I have had the carpets cleaned but there is still a smell of tobacco. Do…
    6 September 2016
  • Fridge
    Re: Dangers of an Unclean Kitchen
    I just want t find out and know more about food poisoning, diseases, in the Commune especially if the commune is for work…
    4 July 2016
  • Itworks
    Re: Top Tips for Cleaning Silverware
    Hi DizzyGirl. Try Ecover oven and hob or multi action, we find it works really well our on black nickel.
    17 May 2016
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the CleaningExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.