Wound Cleansing Supplies
During the Civil War, soldiers had an extremely high rate of death from wounds, in part due to ignorance of wound hygiene. Without adequate cleaning and disinfection, foreign objects and bacteria may prevent the closure and healing of a wound, leading to infection, serious scarring and even death, if left untreated. This is one area where an ounce of prevention is most definitely worth a pound of care.
Soap and water is adequate for most surface wounds and scratches. Running water will flush out most debris and I keep a bottle of liquid castile soap with a little tea tree oil in the bathroom specifically for this use. My rule with my kids is that, unless it is really serious, it’s got to be washed before I’ll take a look at it. For some reason, this is really effective… (Note: excessive use of tea tree oil can cause sensitization—use adequately diluted and only as needed)
Saline solution is an excellent wound cleaner and does not cause further tissue damage or impede healing. It is also very inexpensive and easy to make at home. To store your own sterile saline, simply bring clean water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon table salt for every cup. Stir to dissolve and boil 10 minutes. Fill clean canning jars, reserving ½” headspace and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. If you need saline solution for use right away, you can skip all the boiling and simply mix the salt into clean warm tap water. Discard unused product when finished.
Betadine or Povidone Iodine is a very effective cleanser and will not inhibit wound healing if the dilution is correct—that is a 1:10 betadine to water ratio of the commonly available 10% solution. For all the details, read here.
Over-the-counter wound cleansing products vary in quality and effectiveness and there are too many to review them here. Type in “best wound cleanser” in your search bar or read reviews at online retailers.
Hydrogen Peroxide is excellent for mouths, but may cause tissue damage and inhibit healing in some other applications.
Rubbing Alcohol is another old stand-by, but is probably best for surface cleansing and instrument sterilization as it also causes a degree of tissue damage. I once worsened a rather deep infection using rubbing alcohol as it killed off healthy surrounding tissue and allowed the infection to spread.
An Infant Hair Brush can be helpful in cleaning wounds with embedded foreign particles like sand or gravel. It provides gentle friction without being unnecessarily abrasive. Use under running water to wash away loosened particles.
A Squeeze Bottle is useful for irrigating wounds in a situation where running water is not available or practical. The bottle can also be filled with saline or betadine solution. Old shampoo or condiment bottles will work, but make sure they are well-washed!