Hydrogen Peroxide or Rubbing Alcohol On A Wound? Neither—Here's Why

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Physician Dr. Ian Smith and Dr. Jen Caudle are debunking some common first aid myths — so get ready to learn the truth about home remedies we all grew up hearing.

FAQ: Should you use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol on an open wound? 

When you have a minor injury like a cut or open wound, the first thing you should do is clean it with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, right? WRONG. 

It turns out the routine practice your parents and grandparents probably taught you could be doing more harm than good.

"Both hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol are antiseptics, which means they do kill germs, but they can also harm the surrounding tissue of the wound, which is why they burn when you apply them," Dr. Caudle explains.  

"So they're killing the germs, but they're also destroying healthy cells along with the germs, and therefore, delaying healing," she adds.  

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"The answer is you don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol," Dr. Ian explains. 

So, how should you clean an open wound? All you really need is soap and water, the doctors explain. Here are Dr. Ian's step-by-step instructions.


STEP ONE: Clean out the wound with water to loosen and remove dirt and debris.

STEP TWO: Use isopropyl alcohol to clean a pair of tweezers, then use the tweezers to remove any large bits of debris. Rinse again with water.

STEP THREE: Dip a soft washcloth in a mixture of mild soap and water and use it to clean AROUND the wound. Don't get soap in the wound, because it can cause further irritation.

STEP FOUR: Apply pressure to stop the bleeding. "It's really about compression. You want to apply enough pressure so that the clotting cascade can occur," the doc explains.


In some cases, you might want to bandage your injury. "In some cases not — it depends on how deep the wound is," Dr. Ian says.

If a wound is large, deep or bleeding nonstop, or if you can't clean it on your own, always consult a medical professional.

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