The Dirt On Disinfectants

The next time a cut sends you scurrying for the hydrogen peroxide, hold up: Some of the wound disinfectants we rely on actually do more harm than good, says Eric A. Weiss, M.D., a professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University’s medical center.


1. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can actually damage skin tissue and is a weak antiseptic, Dr. Weiss says.


2. Isopropyl Alcohol

Otherwise known as rubbing alcohol, isopropyl alcohol is a terrible disinfectant, says Dr. Weiss. “And it can harm healthy skin,” he adds.


3. Sterile Saline

There’s nothing harmful about saline, but save your cash. Irrigat-ing the wound with tap water is just as effective.


4. Benzalkonium Chloride

If water isn’t available, this is a good choice, says Dr. Weiss. It’s powerful against both bacteria and viruses and is safe to use on wounds.


5. Povidone-Iodine Solution

The 10 percent solutions sold in stores are too strong. Dilute it to a 10:1 water-to-solution ratio.



Image by Rodale.