FAQ
overflow

Great Answers to
Questions About Everything

QUESTION

A lot of hikers carry denatured alcohol for cooking. Is there any risk to using it as an antiseptic for cuts and lacerations?

{ asked by Russell Steen }

ANSWER

No, it is not safe to use denatured alcohol for two good reasons:

  1. Denatured alcohol refers to a class of ethanol produced for industrial uses that has been "denatured" which essentially means "made undrinkable" by mixing other compounds that are toxic or unpleasant to humans. The thing is, you, as the consumer, have no idea what exactly was mixed in. Different denaturing agents have different skin toxicities, none of them are pleasant, and some of them are known mutagens. Many countries also require denatured alcohol to dyed to help prevent accidental consumption.

  2. Any modern wound management training reccomends against using alcohol of any kind as an antiseptic. Although it does kill bacteria, pouring alcohol in a wound also kills perfectly healthy flesh which disrupts the healing process, can result in longer heal-times, and result in higher susceptibility to infection down the road.

Best treatment for a wound: wash thoroughly with soap and drinking water then bandage appropriately (more thorough details here).

{ answered by LBell }
Tweet