How to Clean Wounds: The Myths of Hydrogen Peroxide

For years, people have used hydrogen peroxide to clean out wounds. It’s also still one of the most commonly used solutions for wound irrigation and trying to rid fresh injuries of infection. Sometimes it’s used straight and other times diluted with water.

Either way, its bubbling action makes it look like it’s doing its job by loosening up dead material and cleaning out bad bacteria. The bubbling is believed by many to be caused by the solution attacking bacteria within the lesion, when in fact it’s also damaging cells in the process.

Hydrogen peroxide isn’t able to distinguish between good and bad cells within the wound. It kills everything, including the white blood cells, which slows down healing, making the wound stay open longer, which can lead to more infections.

Another commonly used source for cleaning wounds is rubbing alcohol. While it is true that alcohol can work to minimize germ activity within the wound surface, it will also burn the skin immediately. Skin cells can be damaged when put in contact with rubbing alcohol and swelling or itching that results might be misread as inflammatory symptoms.

The first choice for cleaning a wound should be thorough flushing of water or saline over the injury to initially minimize infection. This will provide moisture and help cleanse an injury without risk of cell damage. Saline, when made correctly, has the same makeup as body tissue and is gentle on vital healing cells. Daily flushing will remove bacteria, pus, and dead cells.

How to make a saline solution for your dog or cat:

  • Pour out 1 cup of boiling water.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  • Stir to dissolve and leave it to cool.
  • Make a fresh solution each time you need it.

Hair should be clipped away. After flushing, dry the wound gently and apply an herbal salve to protect the cells, decrease infection, and promote healing. The area should be protected from drying. I’ve had great luck even with MRSA cases using this herbal salve. Apply a bandage if the wound is on a limb (not too tight!). Be sure to change at least once a day. Manuka honey is also a great antibacterial wound treatment on an area that can be bandaged.

A note from Dr. North:

I use Calendula ointment by Boiron or Manuka honey – each are hoslistic/ homeopathic type options that have gone “mainstream” so you can usually find them in the wound treatment section of your local drug store (yes, CVS,  Walgreens etc)

This is my favorite recipe for light scrapes / wounds but I don’t apply it to open wounds. Just use it around the wound, keep in mind it will absorb quickly and heal the cells near the wound as well. I only recommend DoTerra essential oils. That is a strict rule about this DIY recipe.



Skin irritation spray:

1 oz spray bottle 

10 drops DoTerra lavender or serenity essential oil

10 drops DoTerra frankincense essential oil

10 drops DoTerra copaiba essential oil  

(optional 2 drops helichrysum)

1 TBSP colloidal silver

(optional 1 TBSP rosewater)

Top off spray bottle with 100% pure aloe for moist skin conditions; top off with extra virgin olive oil/coconut oil for dry / flakey conditions. 

Mix all ingredients together and shake before using. I recommend shaking until you can count to ten then spray immediately on or around areas of skin irritation. If the pet wants to lick the area, consider covering it with a light bandage or T-shirt. This is safe if they do lick it but it does prolong the healing process. 

My favorite brand of coconut oil — they are not all created euqally

Doterra Fractionated Coconut Oil

Happy healing out there!

** if your pet shows signs of fever or infection- redness, heat, pain – please see your veterinarian. Some wounds will require veterinary intervention.

Neely North, DVM, CVA, CVFT, CVMMP