Debunking Myths and Establishing Facts About Antiseptic Spray

Antiseptic sprays are a critical and effective component of any first aid kit. However, I wanted to take a look at some little known and important antiseptic spray facts in this article.

Antiseptic spray facts you didn’t know

Short answer: antiseptics serve to prevent infection in many applications. They stop microorganisms from growing and multiplying, such as bacteria - which can result in infection. 

  • Antiseptics are used in many ways. Common usages include disinfecting wounds, hand washing (such as soap), and medical/clinical applications such as in hospitals or post and prior surgical uses. 
  • It is important to note the difference between antiseptics and disinfectants. They are actually different items with different uses. 
  • An antiseptic is for bodily use, and a disinfectant is for use on surfaces/items (not bodily areas). 
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How Does an Antiseptic Spray Work?

When you are tending to a wound or an injury of any sort, (especially an open one) one of the most important things to do is apply an antiseptic spray.

But how does an antiseptic spray actually work?

Well, firstly let’s cover the basic premise of this substance. 

  • An antiseptic in any form serves to prevent and lower infection risk; specifically by slowing down or inhibiting bacterial/microorganism growth. 
  • In other words, an antiseptic spray can prevent the micro-organisms that are responsible for causing an infection from growing. 
  • Infections are a common threat when dealing with many first aid applications - so needless to say, this is a pretty crucial practice. 
  • They might come in any form: sprays, liquids, ointments or in hand washes/ combined in various items. 
  • Antiseptics don’t just kill bacteria; they can also kill fungi and viruses. 

There are many different types of antiseptics, and the term itself is general.

However, they all serve the same purpose.

Fact: there is often some confusion about antibiotics and antiseptics.

The difference is antibiotics only kill bacteria, as opposed to both viruses and fungi - and primarily serve this purpose over disinfection.

Applying Antiseptic Sprays to Wounds 

When you are dealing with a wound or an open injury, generally one of the first things to do is ensure that infection is prevented. 

If bacteria enters an open area of the skin or a wound, there is always the risk of that bacteria multiplying. 

When this happens, infection is the result. 

Before covering a wound, you can clean it or wash it (basic soap and water is sufficient) before applying an antiseptic spray to prevent infection.  

You will then cover the wound with the desired dressing or bandage, and change it every so often for optimal infection prevention. 

Sometimes, antiseptics will be handily used to prevent infection if soap and water is not immediately available on hand (such as in a remote area) and there is no way to cleanse a wound. 

Instructions for using antiseptic spray on a wound: 

  • Keep the spray bottle about 10 cm or so away from the wound (raised in an upright position) and spray directly onto it. 
  • You can very gently pat the area dry if it is very wet (with something sterile). Or, allow it to be absorbed by the wound pad and continue directly with coverage. 
  • Cover the wound with your desired dressing or bandage. 
  • Change the wound or reapply the spray and bandage as needed. 


You should not use an antiseptic for a severe wound (such as a deep or expansive open wound).

This includes severe burns, such as third degree burns.

Instead, it is appropriate to seek medical attention for more serious situations.

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Common Wound Disinfection Mistakes 

Let’s cover some common mistakes when disinfecting a wound, using some of these important antiseptic spray facts. 

  • Using anything other than an antiseptic
  • As we covered, it is very important to not make the mistake of using the incorrect item for disinfection.

    This includes disinfectant!

    Antiseptics and antibiotics (though we are focusing on the former in this article) are two examples of things that can be used on the body directly.

  • Failing to cover a wound (leaving it infection prone)
  • Unfortunately, there is a little benefit to spraying a wound just to leave it uncovered and exposed to all sorts of different bacteria and microorganisms. 

    Antiseptic spray kills bacteria, but it can’t stop it from coming in. 

    After you spray it onto a wound, you should always cover the wound with some sort of dressing or bandage. 

    Open wounds can become infected if they aren’t covered. 

  • Not removing foreign objects from the site of the wound 
  • First and foremost, you have to set the grounds for proper wound disinfection. 

    If there is any item/object embedded in the wound, it poses an infection risk. 

    You should never disinfect or cover a wound with anything inside it

    Note: do NOT remove severe/embedded objects yourself. Seek medical help. 

  • Leaving dirt in a wound, or improperly cleansing it prior to covering it 
  • You should always clean a wound properly prior to covering it. 

    • You can use clean water to do this, but make sure any major dirt is removed before applying an antiseptic spray. 
    • Do not leave any dirt on/in the wound. 

    Tip: it is also important to use the right type of coverage.

    Some wound pads have glue/adhesive that can irritate the location.

    If you use something that has fluff or debris that gets into the wound, it can also irritate it or cause infection.

    You don’t want any loose fluff or strands getting inside.

  • Using antiseptic spray on a severe or deep wound, without medical consult 
  • You should never use antiseptic spray for disinfection on a severe wound, like a third degree burn.

    You must seek medical attention prior to attempting something like this, as very deep or severe open wounds may require additional treatment.

  • Not changing the wound dressing (and reapplying disinfectant)
  • You don’t have to do this excessively, but if you want to ensure that your wound remains bacteria free you should change it relatively frequently.

    How often you change your dressing and reapply your antiseptic spray will depend on the type of wound you have and the severity.

    It may range from once a day to a few times a day.

    For minor cuts or injuries you may not have to reapply all that frequently.

Differences Between Antiseptics and Disinfectants 

One thing that can cause frequent confusion is the difference between an antiseptic and a disinfectant.

Despite what may be said, these are actually different substances with separate purposes.

What is the difference between them? 

  • Simply put, a disinfectant is a substance that is used for surfaces or non bodily applications. 
  • It serves to disinfect items or areas as opposed to being for skin/first aid practices.

    This could include flooring, tabletops, any commonly used/touched surfaces, tools (such as in a clinical/hospital setting or door handles etc).

    So whilst disinfectant serves the same purpose in the sense that it kills bacteria and prevents contamination, it is not for bodily use.

  • Antiseptics are for first aid or skin/bodily use. 
  • This means that they can be used for wound disinfection, surgical applications (such as cleaning an area before or after surgery) and for any topical application.

    Some potential applications of antiseptics include:

    • Disinfecting a wound/an injury, and other first aid uses 
    • Prior or post operation disinfection: such as cleaning the skin/an area of the body before or after an operation to kill bacteria 
    • Disinfecting preparations: such as a hand wash/soap designed to kill bacteria 
    • Topical application to various areas of the body, including the skin or even the mucous membranes for medical reasons. 

Note: antiseptics can not be applied in the eyes, however.

They should also not be ingested internally, although some substances serve as natural bacteria killers.

These are usually referred to as “antibacterials” instead, for internal use.

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Related Questions:

Where can I buy antiseptics, and is there a certain type I should get? 

Depending on the use of the antiseptic, there are a variety of different options and preparations.

For example, you may use a different antiseptic in a hospital or clinical setting than for other uses.

One overall antiseptic that is a good option for both wound disinfection and clinical uses is Betadine (also known as povidone iodine).

It can be purchased in most chemists and major retailers.

When can I not use an antiseptic spray? 

There are certain instances in which an antiseptic spray may not be suitable.

These include allergies to any ingredients in the spray, or use for a severe or deep open wound.

Antiseptic sprays are most suited to minor cuts and injuries, as opposed to severe ones.


I hope you found these antiseptic spray facts useful!

Antiseptics are an incredible and effective invention, and are used as often as daily in medical or first aid applications (though avoiding overuse is best).

Make sure you avoid the common mistakes when using them, and cover your wound properly for the best infection prevention results.


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