Cleaning and Bandaging a Wound - Topic Overview
Skin wounds need to be thoroughly cleaned as soon as possible to
reduce the risk of infection and scarring and to promote healing.
If the wound is large, deep, too painful to clean, or has dirt, debris,
or a foreign object in it that you cannot remove, see a doctor.
Stop the bleeding
Before you clean the wound, try
to the stop the bleeding.
- Put on medical gloves, if available, before
applying direct pressure to the wound. If gloves are not available, use many
layers of clean cloth, plastic bags, or the cleanest material available between
your hands and the wound.
- Hold direct pressure on the wound, if
possible, and elevate the injured area.
- Use your bare hands to
apply direct pressure only as a last resort.
- Remove or cut clothing
from around the wound. Remove any jewelry from the general area of the wound so
if the area swells, the jewelry will not affect blood flow.
steady direct pressure for a full 15 minutes. Use a clock-15 minutes can seem
like a long time. Resist the urge to peek after a few minutes to see whether
bleeding has stopped. If blood soaks through the cloth, apply another one
without lifting the first. If there is an object in the wound, apply pressure
around the object, not directly over it.
- If moderate to severe bleeding has not slowed or stopped, continue direct pressure
while getting help. Do not use a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Do all you can to keep the wound clean and avoid further injury to the area.
- Mild bleeding usually stops on its own or slows to an ooze or trickle after 15 minutes of pressure. It may ooze or trickle for up to 45 minutes.
Clean the wound
If you are not going to see your doctor immediately, rinse
the wound for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
- Wash your hands well with soap and water, if
- Put on medical gloves before cleaning the wound, if
- Remove large pieces of dirt or other debris from the
wound with cleaned tweezers. Do not push the tweezers deeply into the
- Wash the wound under running tap water (the more the better)
to remove all the dirt, debris, and bacteria from the wound. Lukewarm water and
mild soap, such as Ivory dishwashing soap, are the best. (Note: If you are cleaning a wound near the eye, do not get
soap in the eye.)
- Scrub gently with a washcloth. (Moderate
scrubbing may be needed if the wound is very dirty.) Hard scrubbing may
actually cause more damage to the tissue and increase the chance of infection.
Scrubbing the wound will probably hurt and may increase bleeding, but it is
necessary to clean the wound thoroughly.
- If you have a water
sprayer in your kitchen sink, try using the sprayer to wash the wound. This
usually removes most of the dirt and other objects from the wound. Avoid
getting any spray from the wound into your eyes.
- Large minor dirty
wounds may be easier to clean in the shower.
- If some dirt or other
debris remains in the wound, repeat the cleaning.