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Techniques & Solutions for Cleaning Pressure Ulcers

By Toby Pendergrass

Extended periods of sitting or lying in one position often cause a lack of blood flow that triggers pressure ulcers, also called pressure sores or bedsores. Symptoms of pressure ulcers include itchy skin with a red or blue appearance, open sores, or large wounds that signal damage to your muscles and other internal body parts. Proper cleaning and care of pressure ulcers is vital to your recovery. Alert your doctor before taking any herbal remedy to treat skin wounds.

Basic Cleaning Technique

Techniques to clean pressure ulcers focus on the removal of dead tissue, which resembles a scab and hinders the wound’s ability to heal. Use mild soap and water as a solution for newly developed pressure ulcers that are closed. A saltwater, or saline, solution that reduces excess fluid and loose skin is more effective for cleaning advanced ulcers that appear open, according to the Mayo Clinic. Set aside time to rinse the wound with each daily bandage change. Avoid the use of cleaning antiseptics like iodine and hydrogen peroxide that often damage sensitive skin and can interfere with healing.

Gauze Cleaning and Hydrotherapy

Some pressure ulcers improve through the use of wet or moist gauze bandages that dry after application to the sore. Dead tissue adheres to the gauze and is removed when you change the bandage each day. A daily whirlpool bath, or hydrotherapy, may also be helpful as a method to clean your pressure ulcer and reduce tissue that is dead or contaminated, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Hydrocolloid Solution

Doctors often recommend cleaning severe pressure ulcers with a hydrocolloid dressing composed of a dissolving gel or foam, according to The dressing, which can remain on your skin for three days, molds to the wound and accelerates healing as well as the growth of new skin.


Pressure ulcers that become infected require treatment with antibiotic ointment that may include silver sulfadiazine cream, although if your doctor determines that your bone or internal tissue may be damaged, you will likely need a prescription for oral antibiotics. Surgical treatment is necessary in some cases. Yellow pus, swelling and an unpleasant smell typically accompany infected ulcers. Your infection has likely spread to other parts of your body if you suffer chills, fever or a rapid heartbeat, according to


Ask your doctor to recommend a pain reliever that can reduce the discomfort of cleaning and removing dead tissue from a pressure ulcer. Plan to take the pain reliever at least 30 minutes prior to your cleaning for best results. Signs that a pressure ulcer is healing successfully include the appearance of less fluid and a reduction in the size of the wound. Healthy tissue grows at the bottom of the ulcer during healing and is often shiny and pinkish in color. Most ulcers begin healing after at least two weeks of cleaning.

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