Imagine this: You’re in the mountains. The air is warm, so you have an ample amount of exposed skin. You are completely alone, surviving the elements. Also, have a small day pack filled with the necessities, but you hadn’t planned on being away from base camp for long.
You climb up a rocky outcrop, and one one the stones breaks off. Unfortunately, You fall, cutting your leg open. Help will not arrive. Your only hope is to make it to civilization before infection sets in. What do you do?
If you were well prepared, you were never leave camp without a first-aid kit. No first aid kit is complete without an antiseptic. If you wrap your wound without properly cleaning it, all you’re doing is stopping the bleeding.
An antiseptic can be loosely defined as an antimicrobial substance used to stop infection. It can either be germicidal or bactericidal. The former actually eats bacteria, while the later simply prevents growth. However, both are able to speed up the healing process.
We’ve put together a guide to help you find the best antiseptic for your kit. Never be caught without one.
Types of Antiseptics
There are four main varieties of antiseptics. While they do have different uses, they can all be used to treat wounds. Though there are not so much pros and cons of one versus the others, but your choice may depend on the other uses you might have. Some are more commonly used during surgery, some are more common in the home, others can be found in both.
The main determining factor may be price. Those used most commonly in surgery tend to be higher. There is also a price difference between wipes versus the liquid. As you might expect, wipes cost a good bit more. However, that is just cutting out the step of pouring the liquid onto a cloth. It does, however, insure that the material used to wipe down the wound is sterile.
Fortunately, most of the varieties can be found in both forms. They are also usually available in sprays and ointments. Keep these options in mind, but the main difference comes in the cleansing substance itself, not the form.
Alcohol antiseptics are the most versatile. They can be used to treat skin before surgery, sterilize the tools, or even cleanse your hands before lunch. The most recognizable form of this antiseptic is hand sanitizer. They are also widely available in wipes.
If you buy a premade first-aid kit, chances are you will get alcohol wipes. These are perfectly fine for prepping a wound. The wide availability and ease of application will likely make this your go-to last minute antiseptic.
The main disadvantage is that the effects are short lived. If you’ve ever used hand sanitizer, you know it dries very quickly. After it dries, bacteria can once again attack the wound. This can be solved by wrapping it securely or using it in combination with other substances. For this reason, it may be a bad choice if a wound may be exposed for a long time before help is found.
This is the most common household antiseptic. It is usually found in the form of hydrogen peroxide. It’s likely that you already have the substances under your bathroom sink. If you have children, you likely use it to treat minor injuries like skinned knees.
It also has a variety of uses around the house. It can whiten clothes and teeth, be used as a cleaning product, or even work as a colon cleanser. That means that even if you choose to use a different antiseptic for your pack, hydrogen peroxide is a great buy for your everyday life.
As an antiseptic, there are people that advise against it. Some assert that it can be too harmful to your body. While it will definitely kill the microbes, it might kill some healthy cells in the process. All that means is that use of hydrogen peroxide should be limited. If you find your self wounded several times a week, maybe stay away from peroxygen antiseptics.
Chlorhexidine Antiseptics are often used in hospitals do to their long duration. We talked about the short lived effects of alcohol. Chlorhexidine steps in to solve that issue. It is used as a pre-operation patient scrub, a hand sanitizer, as well as during surgery. It is a very effective substance for medical care, as it can last for up to six hours.
Chlorhexidine has also shown to be useful in pet care; often used as a skin treatment and a shampoo. It keeps animals smelling fresh and clean, as well has preventing infections.
Chlorhexidine is very use in a survival situation, as a wound may need to stay clean for days. If it is reapplied every few hours, your wound has a fighting chance against infection. It is slightly more expensive than the previous two varieties, but it is still affordable. Since it is very potent, it might be wise to look for it in wipes or pre-deluded ointments.
Quaternary Ammonium Compound Antiseptics
Also known as quats, Quaternary Ammonium Compound Antiseptics are the most expensive antiseptic on the market. For that reason, their use is usually confined to medical and commercial settings. In hospitals, they are used through out the surgery process, especially for cleaning tools.
In a commercial setting, they are often used to clean tools that may come in contact with food. For example, prep teams often use a four step process of detergent, rinse, quats, and rinse. It can also be used to clean hard surfaces. It disinfects and deodorizes, making it useful, once again, in the food industry.
For it’s price alone, this may not be your primary choice. It is a very effective antiseptic, but money is always a factor. So if you do have the spare funds, quats may be a smart variety to look into. However, given the affordability of the other three options, spending the extra money may not be wise.
There are plenty of well known brands for antiseptics. Some of them you may even be able to pick up at your nearest drugstore. However, these should only be used as a reference. There are plenty of brands and generics to choose from.
Perhaps the most well known name in antiseptics, Purellis the top brand for hand sanitizers. They almost exclusively produce alcohol antiseptics, mostly in gel form. You can find their products almost anywhere.
Purell has been putting out this product for 24 years. In that time, brand ownership has changed, but the product has remained the same. They have also branched into hand soap, but their top product is still hand sanitizer. Within that line, options are limited. There are a few different scents and varieties, like one with added aloe, variety is mostly limited to size.
To combat oral ingestion, the company added a bitter taste. Ingestion incidences have been very rare, but it can cause intoxication or serious complications. However, the type of alcohol they use means that a much larger dose is needed to kill than many other brands.
The main benefit of Purell over others, however, is simply availability.
Kleenhanz is a newer company. They have just recently made their way into major retailers. Their main market niche is that they are 100% alcohol free. They use quats instead. They claim that their system is different for several reasons.
First, as a wipe, they can actually clean hands. Hand sanitizers just push grime around. Second, since quats have a longer effective range, that cleanliness lasts. Third, alcohol dries out hands. If your hands are cracked, they are susceptible to infection.
Kleenhanz only puts out this one product. There are a variety of sizes, from massive tubs to individual packs. This is beneficial to the survivalist, because an individual pack can be carried on the go.
Unfortunately, this is marketed more as a hand cleaner than a wound cleaner. Since they are referring to it as sanitizers, they should theoretically work to clean wounds in a pinch, but should not be fully relied on. It may not be the best antiseptic.
Top 10 Antiseptics
Now here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: our list of the top 10 antiseptics on the market. You will see the brands above, but you’ll notice many of fantastic products from less recognizable names. That should not turn you away from these products. After all, we should only be using brand as a starting point.
You are mostly going to see ones geared for household use that is easily available on the market for survivalists. That said, medical grade antiseptics is also a good realm to look in if you do have the time.
Without further ado:-
They also contain aloe, which provides additional soothing to the affected area. They measure at 6x5 inches, making them a bit larger than your average prep towelette. For field use, that is important. Larger wounds require larger wipes, but small cuts can use whatever size is around.
Always go bigger if possible.
However, it should be known that medium only means 2x2 inches. For larger wounds, this is a pretty useless size. If most of your injuries are small cuts and scrapes, 2x2 should be fine. Nicks from your knife, skinned knees, and cuts from thorns are just part of the life of a survivalist.
They should still be treated seriously, as they can still get infected.
However, Smith & Nephew is a highly regarded medical supplier, specializing in wound care. While this may not be the best option for a survivalist, it is a reliable prepping wipe. Depending on your needs, these might be worth it for the low price.
Curad sells these prep wipes as 4 packs of 100. While that is still a hefty amount, many of the top wipes are only sold in bulk online.
The wipes are two-fold quilted, so this is a substantial wipe. Perfect for cleaning wounds, as opposed to the market skin prep.
They are slightly thicker and softer than other swabs. This means that they can likely clean up more. Plus, they may feel more comfortable on someone’s skin if you are assisting. They are very affordable, but only sold in large quantities. Be prepared to stock up.
The real stand out feature of this is the “latex free” label. Whether or not you have an allergy is not an issue. You know what you can and cannot use. However, a survivalist should be prepared to help others. By stocking up on universally useable products, you can help with no fear of a reaction.
This means that it is a strong antiseptic that will not dry your skin out. Another advantage is that it will not sting. That’s not necessarily a top concern in the wilderness, but it can be if used on others.
Certain consumers have noted that the towelettes are small. Depending on the area of the wound, that may be an issue. However, this can be remedied by making sure you always carry a few on you. They are individually wrapped, so that is a viable option.
Overall, these are a great, clinical grade wipe. They are affordable, and the packaging is convenient. Really the only draw back is the size. Keep that in mind before purchasing, but they are sold in packs of 1000. Using two or three will not dent your supply.
Our next product is a sterile alcohol based prep pad from Covidien. This is actually formulated for wound care. The solution is made up of 70% alcohol, soaked into a non woven sponge.
That is important so that it does not leave lint behind while cleaning. They are large in size making the perfect for bigger wounds.
They are individual wrapped, which we’ve previously stated is ideal. The chances of you needing more that one on a short trip from base is slim. Obviously the ideal situation is to not even need one, but their small size makes it east to toss a few in.
While Covidien is not a household name, they have a long history of reliability. They design a lot of these product with clinics in mind, which is perfect for a serious adventurer. While these are not in our number one spot, they may be the best suggestion for wilderness survival.
Our next product is another alcohol wipe from Purell. While these are made for hands, they will still clean wounds. The man selling point of this product is the name.
Purell is a name you can trust. Generic alcohol wipes can’t always be counted on in a pinch. The wipes dry out. Maybe the content is not as pure. Maybe the content is toxic. Purell has the backing of 24 years of expertise.
They are sold in large tubs of 270. That may be a little unwieldy for a survivor on the move. Carrying something that large is a waste of space. While this might be fine for base camp, these would not be smart for a first aid kit.
The advantage of the large canister is savings. For cheap, you get six massive tubs. That’s over 1600 wipes. While you may not need that many, but the savings are undeniable.
The one that I prefer is the antiseptic is another alcohol based wipe from Sani-hands. While this is formulated specifically for hands, the beauty is that alcohol is alcohol.
Especially in an emergency scenario, disinfecting the area is what matters. Comfort is not important. You need to clean the wound and get it wrapped as quickly as possible.
The wipes contain aloe. While this is more important to avoid dryness in the hands, an overly area around the wound can also be an issue. Even for non emergencies, this makes it a great purchase for base camp. It’s important to keep yourself and your hands clean. When you don’t have access to medical care, hygiene is your best doctor.
These are sold in bulk, you can get 1000 individually wrapped wipes. You can keep the boxes at camp, and throw a few wipes in your day pack. It’s convenience and a good deal wrapped into one.
As this top product list shows, most options are alcohol based. For an adventurer in a dirty environment, alcohol is a fast acting antiseptic. If you have a full first aid kit, the short lived effects might not matter.
If you cover the wound properly, you’re prevent contaminants from entering. A bandage is not fool proof, but alcohol only becomes ineffective when the would is going to be exposed for extended periods.
Keep this in mind when choosing a product. Yes, there are drawbacks of alcohol, but consider your intended use. Can you cover it right away? Do you care if your skin dries out? The likely answers are yes and no, respectively. What you should be looking at is size, thickness, and packaging. If you are preparing for the worst, go for thick and large.
If you simply cut your hands up doing manual labor, small is fine. However, If your primary use is at a wilderness homestead, stocking up on a few tubs is ideal. If you are on the move, you need individually wrapped. Easy, ain't it?
Here is a video on how to properly use an antiseptic towelette or pad. If you know how to use one, you can have a better idea of what you need. Remember to stock up on other safety pieces, like gloves and proper bandages.
Choosing the right antiseptic is hard. Fortunately, it’s also difficult to go wrong. Despite the ranging varieties, all four types work on wounds. If you have other uses in mind, like mouth wash, certain ones stand out. Do not let price hinder you from getting the appropriate option. Size is important.
Alcohol is by far the easiest to find. There are drawbacks, but if you need a last minute antiseptic, this is your go to. You can certainly find quats and peroxygen options at a drugstore, but not always.
If you know you need a certain variety, stock up ahead of time. You never know when disaster might hit, and you want the best antiseptic for the job.