The best way to clean a cut, scrape or puncture wound (such as a wound from a nail) is with cool water. You can hold the wound under running water or fill a tub with cool water and pour it from a cup over the wound.
Use soap and a soft washcloth to clean the skin around the wound. Try to keep soap out of the wound itself because soap can cause irritation. Use tweezers that have been cleaned in isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) to remove any dirt that remains in the wound after washing.
Even though it may seem that you should use a stronger cleansing solution (such as hydrogen peroxide or iodine), these things may irritate wounds.
Bleeding helps clean out wounds. Most small cuts or scrapes will stop bleeding in a short time. Wounds on the face, head or mouth will sometimes bleed a lot because these areas are rich in blood vessels.
To stop the bleeding, apply firm but gentle pressure on the cut with a clean cloth, tissue or piece of gauze. If the blood soaks through the gauze or cloth you’re holding over the cut, don’t take it off. Just put more gauze or another cloth on top of what you already have in place and apply more pressure for 20 to 30 minutes.
If your wound is on an arm or leg, raising it above your heart will also help slow the bleeding.
Leaving a wound uncovered helps it stay dry and helps it heal. If the wound isn’t in an area that will get dirty or be rubbed by clothing, you don’t have to cover it. If it’s in an area that will get dirty (such as your hand) or be irritated by clothing (such as your knee), cover it with an adhesive strip (one brand: Band-Aid) or with sterile gauze and adhesive tape. Change the bandage each day to keep the wound clean and dry.
Certain wounds, such as scrapes that cover a large area of the body, should be kept moist and clean to help reduce scarring and speed healing. Bandages used for this purpose are called occlusive or semiocclusive bandages. You might want to include this type of bandage in your first aid kit.
Antibiotic ointments (some brand names: Neosporin, Ultra Mide) help healing by keeping out infection and by keeping the wound clean and moist. A bandage does pretty much the same thing. Most minor cuts and scrapes will heal just fine without antibiotic ointment, but it can help the wound close up and help reduce scarring.
Also see our lesson on Open Wounds
We also offer a free certificate of completion. To receive the certificate you must pass a 50-question test with a score of 70 or higher. Check our Basic First Aid Certificate of Completion page for more information.