Surgical Wound Cleaning
Cleaning and wound hygiene is important in both closed and open healing, the body is going to create a lot of debris as it heals and removing the leftover construction materials keeps your wound clean and healthy.
What you should NOT use is Alcohol or Hydrogen Peroxide. You can use either of them (diluted at 50%) for an occasional cleaning but both of these products are too harsh for daily use in healing wounds. Hydrogen Peroxide was once used for its debriding ability; since about 1996 wound care specialists have observed that too much tissue damage occurs to healthy cells and have stopped recommending it. HP is considered “cytotoxic”, meaning deadly to cells and it actually inhibits wound healing.
Unfortunately, there are still some doctors and nurses that are not informed that HP is no longer recommended for wound healing and they give their patients instructions that actually SLOW DOWN the healing process.
Your instructions from the surgeon will likely be to avoid getting the area wet for the first 24 hours. After that, you can wash the area gently once or twice daily. It is better not to use deodorant soaps or soaps with fragrances or moisturizers mixed in. We strongly suggest cleaning the suture area with Hibiclense. Which should be available at most any drug store in the US or online. There are likely comparable products in other countries, just ask your drug store pharmacy. After washing, pat gently dry with a towel and apply dressing as normal. Closed incisions require no further cleaning.
One of the cornerstones of Open Healing wound care is frequent cleansing out of the wound bed. It is critical to flush out the wound with water or saline and change the dressing at least twice a day until only the top 1/4″ is left to heal. My surgeon recommended three (3) times a day for the first month of healing but other doctors have recommended twice (x2) a day so it’s your call – both ways work. Even wound care professionals are split between how often packing changes are necessary, the only consensus is that twice a day is a minimum. If you are in a position where you can do three times daily, it certainly won’t hurt.
For Open Healing patients, the best way to cleanse your wound is in the shower, using a hand held sprayer to gently flush out the inside of the wound. Some people have also used a squirt bottle in place of a sprayer, whatever works for you (and is sanitary) to flush out the inside is ok. You do not need to use any kind of soap inside the wound. Don’t worry if the wound bleeds a little bit, this is actually good and bleeding helps the wound clean itself. Usually minor bleeding is the result of a clump of dead tissue being washed off an area with lots of new blood supplies that haven’t sealed over yet. Large amounts of blood are a reason to contact your doctor. If the bleeding doesn’t stop in a couple of minutes, go to Emergency right away.
Another option is to use Saline Solution to flush out the wound. You can purchase pre-made solutions at any drug store or make at home yourself, just be sure any homemade product is well sterilized. You can also take sitz baths with Epsom Salts as a way to bathe the wound in salt water, but be sure to still flush the wound out afterward. Some doctors have told the patients not to take baths at all, thinking that soaking in your own germs in not a very good idea. It is our opinion that soaking is fine with Epsom Salts since salt has natural antibacterial properties. Salt bonds with the moisture in skin to create a barrier against germs. Salt also reduces inflammation, itching, and increases blood circulation.
Some surgeons have had patients clean open healing wound areas with Hibiclense. This product is a well studied antibacterial (your surgeon probably scrubbed with it prior to surgery) but should be used sparingly and not inside the wound unless specifically directed by your doctor. It does do an excellent job of getting the rest of the natal cleft clean and reducing bacteria, which can effect your healing wound.
Advanced Wound Cleansers
Under normal circumstances, an Open Healing wound needs only water or saline for basic cleaning. If healing is not progressing at the expected rate, you might consider bringing in the big guns and giving your body a helping hand in getting that wound closed. Normally the advanced wound products are used under the supervision of a Wound Healing Center for difficult to heal wounds.
The advanced wound care products tend to be very expensive but may be covered by insurance if your doctor or Wound Healing Center prescribes them. Many of them can be purchased on Amazon.
There are two major classifications of wound cleansers at the high end:
Healing Enhancers – Many of these products are Zinc based and will help with both moisture and nourishing new tissue formation. You might consider these to help speed up healing that seems to have stalled.
Antimicrobials – These products work by killing or inhibiting the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other nasty things. These would normally be used after a culture of the wound tissue indicated that bacteria was entering the wound and delaying healing.
A great list of products can be found at WoundSource.com.
The main overview page for our Surgery Aftercare section where you’ll learn all about wound care and healing after surgery.
A healing wound can drain all sorts of fluids of various colors and consistencies; this is a guide to what is good and bad.
Dressings provide a barrier to keep the wound moist and protected. They can be as simple as basic gauze or seriously hi-tech.
This page last updated: January 5, 2019