How to Clean a Cold Sore

It starts as mild irritation on your lip and face, turns into an invisible bump under the skin and finally grows to poke out and turn into a full-fledged sore--visually and physically unpleasant. Cold sores are one of life's dreaded skin conditions, causing victims pain and covering their mouths for a week. Cold sores stem from the herpes simplex virus type 1 (not to be confused with type 2, the genital form), which is contagious and once caught will stay in your system forever. Once you get one cold sore, you can't prevent outbreak, but you can educate yourself on how to quickly clean your face of these sores.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


Become familiar with cold sore symptoms to get rid of it quicker. Cold sores and canker cores are different. Canker sores are bacterial infections inside your mouth, and cold sores are red, pussy blisters around the mouth. Early cold sore symptoms include itching, tightening and burning, growing into large clusters of sores filled with puss. They can last for one to two weeks.

Allow the sore to heal and keep from spreading the virus by not touching it. Cold sores--like other herpes infections--are spread through physical touch. Touching your cold sore could spread the virus to elsewhere on your face or even to another person. Additionally, cold sores will heal quicker and stay cleaner if you don't touch your face, especially in the infected area.

Clean frequently with a warm rag and warm, soapy water. To relieve tension, itching and other discomfort, use antibacterial soap to soak and scrub the sore and around it. This will minimize the damage and keep the infection from spreading, the hot water serving to neutralize the infection. Scrub gently to avoid irritation.

Spread petroleum-based gel over infected area. This will speed up the healing process, cleaning and mending faster. Additionally, pain-relief products like Neosporin will keep the herpes virus from spreading and serve as a healing catalyst. To apply, make sure your hands and face are clean and dry. Then dab a small amount of the gel/ointment on the sore.

Be aware of your cold sore triggers to avoid sore development. These are different for everyone, but there are a few major ones that affect many people: salty foods, stress, anxiety, menstruation, change in weather, flu and cold. Figuring out your cold sore triggers will make it easier to prevent outbreaks in the future.