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An antiseptic is primarily used in the medical field to prevent infection of a wound. It can kill various germs such as viruses, fungi and bacteria. Because of this antiseptic effect, antiseptics are also used as disinfectants.

With the help of our antiseptic test 2021, we would like to provide you with all the important information on the topic of antiseptics. This includes the effect and application of antiseptics as well as possible alternatives. In addition, we have compared different antiseptics with each other and selected the best for you.




The most important

  • Antiseptics are used in both medical and private settings to prevent wound infection. In addition, antiseptics can also be used to disinfect surfaces.
  • A distinction is made between liquid antiseptics and antiseptic ointments and gels. Before buying an antiseptic, there are criteria you should consider when making your choice.
  • Even if antiseptic is convincing with its effective action, there are many alternatives that you can definitely consider and that can be at least as effective.

The Best Antiseptic: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for antiseptics

Antiseptic is not just antiseptic. There are some criteria that are important in choosing the right product. These aspects include:

Before buying an antiseptic, you should compare the different offerings based on these features.

Ingredients

The composition of the ingredients of antiseptics depends on the manufacturer on the one hand and on the intended use on the other. The proportions of the different substances can also vary greatly.

Common ingredients of an antiseptic are purified water and alcohols such as ethanol, hexanol and propanol. But also other substances such as polyhexanide, sodium chloride, povidone-iodine, chlorhexidine and sodium hydroxide.

With antiseptics, a distinction is made above all between products with and without alcohol. Alcohol has a very strong antiseptic effect, but can be too aggressive for some areas of application.

Skin compatibility

Another important point when choosing an antiseptic is the compatibility of the product on the skin. Skin tolerance depends, among other things, on the ingredients of the antiseptic.

The best-known quality seals come from Dermatest, ECARF, DAAB and the Deutsche Haut- und Allergiehilfe e.V. (German Skin and Allergy Aid).

You can recognise an intolerance of the product on your skin by looking at customer reviews. The most common complaints are a burning sensation on the skin, pain when the antiseptic comes into contact with wounds and allergic reactions.

You should also look for whether the product has been dermatologically tested. Such a label primarily shows that the antiseptic has been subjected to various tests. However, you should also always look at the ingredients of the product.

Odour

The smell of the antiseptic is also influenced by the composition of the different ingredients. The perception of odours is very subjective and individual.

Generally, an antiseptic can either smell relatively neutral and mild or very penetrating. According to product reviews, customers have reported a chemical scent. Antiseptics with a high alcohol content have also often been reported to have a strong odour.

How an antiseptic smells has nothing to do with the quality or efficacy of the product. However, a neutral or pleasant smell can be an important purchase criterion.

Packaging

At first glance, the packaging has nothing to do with the product itself, but it can have a strong influence on the purchase decision.

Antiseptic is available in value packs and handy packaging. The packaging should always be robust and leak-proof.

On the one hand, there are handy and practical packs that are ideal for travelling and, on the other hand, very large packs that are called value packs. With these, you can usually save some money and buy a large quantity of the product at once.

The packaging of antiseptics should always be robust and airtight so that the antiseptic cannot accidentally leak. Ideally, it should also have a child-proof lock. Alternatively, you can store the antiseptic in a place that is inaccessible to children.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about antiseptics answered in detail

In the following sections, we have summarised all the important information on the topic of antiseptics in order to answer all your potential questions and to give you an understanding of the current state of science.

What is antiseptic and how does it work?

An antiseptic is a chemical substance that is mainly used in medicine to prevent sepsis as a result of wound infection.

Sepsis is caused by germs and damages the body's own organs and tissue in a life-threatening way.

Antiseptics have the task of killing, removing or rendering inactive various bacteria, viruses and fungi (1).

Antiseptikum

Antiseptics play a major role in medicine, protecting both patients and doctors. (Image source: Kreuz_und_Quer / pixabay)

However, antiseptics are also used in everyday use for wound cleansing and disinfection. The substance is said to have the following effects:

  • Bactericidal, bacteriostatic
  • Fungicide, fungistatic
  • Virucidal, virustatic
  • Sporicide

Antiseptics can be used for both internal and external application and in most cases possess all of the above properties.

Bactericidal, bacteriostatic

One property of the antiseptic is its bactericidal effect. The antiseptic can damage bacteria to such an extent that they are killed by at least 99 % and this within the first 4 hours after application (2, 3).

In addition, antiseptics can also have a bacteriostatic effect, which means that the bacteria are inhibited in their growth but not killed. Highly concentrated antiseptics with bacteriostatic properties can often also have bactericidal effects, while very low levels of bactericidal antiseptics can also have bacteriostatic effects (2).

Fungicide, fungistatic

Antiseptics can also act as fungicides, which kill various types of fungi. Fungicide literally means killing fungi and the process is called fungicidal (4).

As with bacteria, fungi can also be inhibited from growing and multiplying. An antiseptic with such capabilities, has a so-called fungistatic effect (5).

Virucidal, virustatic

Virucidal antiseptics can show a virus-killing effect by completely enveloping the viruses and preventing their infectivity. Antiseptics with virucidal capabilities are not used for internal application, but mostly as disinfectants (6).

An antiseptic with virucidal capabilities, also called a virostatic agent, can inhibit the multiplication of viruses without killing them. It is mainly used in viral infections where the immune system is unable to fight the virus on its own. Substances used medicinally against viruses have exclusively virustatic properties (7).

Sporicidal

Antiseptics can also kill the spores, i.e. the reproductive and survival forms of fungi, bacteria and protozoa, thus rendering them sterile. This property is called sporicidal. Sporicides can potentially stop germination by damaging the inner spore membrane (8).

What side effects can antiseptics have?

Of course, antiseptics can also cause side effects. The most dangerous effect antiseptic can have is cytotoxicity, which is quite high compared to antibiotics (9).

This effect can lead to a significant reduction in cell proliferation, i.e. the growth and multiplication of cells. This could also lead to possible tissue damage. However, this effect has only been investigated by a few studies (10).

Other possible side effects that may occur with the use of antiseptic are:

  • Itchy
  • Skin redness
  • Blistering
  • Allergic reactions

Antiseptics usually do not have serious side effects and are even considered safe for use on wounds (11) and in the mouth (12).

What types of antiseptic are there?

In general, there are three different types of antiseptics. These are separated by their dosage form. You can buy antiseptics in liquid form, as an ointment or gel.

Type Description
Liquid Liquid antiseptics can be used as a solution or spray. The biggest advantage of this type is that the agent takes effect quickly. Antiseptics in liquid form can also be individually dosed and mixed in different concentrations.
Ointment Ointment antiseptics are characterised by a high fat content and are therefore absorbed more slowly. They are very suitable for dry wounds and should rather not be used for weeping injuries, as the wound secretion may be accumulated due to the fat content. In this case, it is better to use liquid antiseptics.
Gel Antiseptics that are run as gels have a cooling effect. They have a high water content and are fat-free. Because of these properties, antiseptic gels are ideal for burns, insect bites and skin irritations resulting from allergic reactions.

Antiseptics in ointment and gel form have a limited shelf life, unlike the liquid alternative. It is important to bear this in mind when using antiseptics.

Antiseptikum

Liquid antiseptics in spray bottles are very easy to dispense and simple to use. (Image source: Squirrel_photos / pixabay)

Which dosage form of antiseptic is right for you depends on the intended use of the product.

How should antiseptic be dosed?

The dosage of an antiseptic depends on the area in which you want to use it. In the following list, you will find an overview of the application recommendations for different areas.

  • Wound: For both open and closed wounds, such as abrasions, cuts and lacerations, the affected areas should be treated with antiseptic immediately after the injury. You can either spray the wounds, rub them with gel or ointment or dab them with a solution. In most cases, a single application of antiseptic is enough. It can also be used until the wound disappears, but not for more than six days (13).
  • Skin: In order to disinfect the skin, antiseptics must act for different lengths of time according to the DGHM disinfectant list. The exposure time depends on the skin area. Antiseptics should act for about 15 seconds in areas with only a few sebaceous glands and for one minute in areas with many sebaceous glands. On joints and body cavities, the exposure time can range from one to ten minutes (14).
  • Nose: In the case of infections in the nasal cavity, antiseptics can eliminate the germs after only a few days if the product is applied two to three times a day. Even in difficult Staphylococcus aureus infections, significant improvements and almost complete cures were achieved within a six-month treatment with antiseptics (15, 16).
  • Vaginal area: Antiseptics can show initial improvements and exert their antiseptic effect as early as 30 minutes after application in the vaginal area (17). After about seven days, it is highly likely that most germs have been killed by the antiseptic and the treatment of the bacterial vaginal infection has already been successfully completed (18).
Antiseptikum
You should always clean wounds directly with antiseptic and protect them with a bandage or plaster to prevent infection. (Image source: Grizovskaya / 123rf)

If you are unsure about how to use antiseptic, you should seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

What are the alternatives to antiseptic?

If you don't want to use antiseptic for various reasons, we have summarised some alternatives in this section. The different options also have different effects, so you may need to choose several alternatives.

Alternative Description
Vinegar Vinegar is effective against mould, viruses and bacteria. The vinegar essence should contain at least 25% acetic acid. The mixture is suitable for household use as well as for cleaning wounds. You can clean surfaces with pure vinegar essence. For your laundry, mix the vinegar with water in a 1:4 ratio and let it soak for about 30 minutes. You can clean a wound with white vinegar to prevent infection.
Oxygen bleach This alternative is not suitable for wounds, but is suitable for laundry and surfaces. For cleaning textiles, add one to two tablespoons of oxygen bleach to the detergent and wash at 60°C or higher. For cleaning surfaces, you can also mix oxygen bleach with water in a ratio of 1:4.
Salt Salt is very good for disinfecting wounds and removing germs. To do this, you must first boil water and then pour in the salt. For 150 millilitres of water, you should use about one tablespoon of salt. Now you can either pour the lukewarm salt water directly over the wound or dab the wound with a cotton pad. Repeat this procedure several times a day until the wound is closed.
Onions Due to the substance quercetin contained in onions, they are excellent for disinfecting wounds. Thanks to the sulphur compound, onions also have a pain-relieving effect. All you have to do is chop the onions and place them on the wound.
Garlic Garlic is also ideal for cleaning wounds because of the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect of allicin. You can crush four to five cloves of garlic and mix them with a little honey. Then apply this mixture to the wound and wash it off after ten minutes.
Your own saliva If you are out and about and have nothing else to hand, you can also apply your own saliva to the wound. Your own saliva can have an antibacterial effect and disinfect minor injuries, such as a cut on your finger. However, this only works with your own saliva, as foreign saliva also contains foreign bacteria.

These alternatives are already available in most households and are also easy to obtain. You should make sure to choose the right option for the right purpose. This is the only way to ensure that the desired effect occurs.

Image source: Galitckaia / 123rf.com

References (18)

1. Kramer A, Assadian O, Exner M, Hübner N, Simon A. Krankenhaus- und Praxishygiene. Elsevier GmbH, München. 2012;2:73-91.
Source

2. Rheinbaben F, Köhnlein J, Naujox K, Werner S. Zur Wirksamkeit der Kombination von Xylometazolinhydrochlorid und Dexpanthenol gegen Bakterien, Hefen und Viren. 2017;39(2):36-39. doi:10.1016/j.khinf.2017.03.002.
Source

3. Grünewald K. Theorie der medizinischen Fußbehandlung, Ein Fachbuch für Podologie. Verlag Neuer Merkur GmbH, München. 2006;1:232-233.
Source

4. Salakdeh M. Der Einfluß topisch applizierter Antiseptika auf die Mikrozirkulation der gesunden Haut. Bergmannsheil Klinik, Bochum. 2005:10-12.
Source

5. Assmann H, Beckmann K, Bergmann G, Bohnenkamp H, Doerr R, Eppinger H, Grafe E, Hiller F, Katch G, Nonnenbruch W, Schittenhelm A, Schoen R, Siebeck R, Strahhelin R, Stepp W, Straub H, Stroebe F. Lehrbuch der inneren Medizin. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. 1939;4(1):71-74.
Source

6. Wood A, Payne D. The action of three antiseptics/disinfectants against enveloped and non-enveloped viruses. J Hosp Infect. 1998;38(4):283-295. doi:10.1016/s0195-6701(98)90077-9.
Source

7. Kampf G. Efficacy of ethanol against viruses in hand disinfection. J Hosp Infect. 2018;98(4):331-338. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2017.08.025.
Source

8. Shapiro MP, Setlow P. Mechanisms of Bacillus subtilis spore killing by and resistance to an acidic Fe-EDTA-iodide-ethanol formulation. J Appl Microbiol. 2006;100(4):746-753. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2672.2006.02838.x.
Source

9. Punjataewakupt A, Napavichayanun S, Aramwit P. The downside of antimicrobial agents for wound healing. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2019;38(1):39-54. doi:10.1007/s10096-018-3393-5.
Source

10. Hirsch T, Jacobsen F, Rittig A, Goertz O, Niederbichler A, Steinau H, Seipp H, Steinstraesser L. Vergleichende In-vitro-Studie zur Zytotoxizität klinisch eingesetzter Antiseptika. 2009;60(12):984-991.
Source

11. Daeschlein G. Antimicrobial and antiseptic strategies in wound management. Int Wound J. 2013;10 Suppl 1:9-14. doi:10.1111/iwj.12175.
Source

12. Osso D, Kanani N. Antiseptic mouth rinses: an update on comparative effectiveness, risks and recommendations. J Dent Hyg. 2013;87(1):10-18.
Source

13. Kramer A, Adrian V, Rudolph P, Wurster S, Lippert H. Explantationstest mit Haut und Peritoneum der neonaltalen Ratte als Voraussagetest zur Verträglichkeit lokaler Antiinfektiva für Wunden und Körperhöhlen. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. 1998;69:840-845.
Source

14. Borneff-Lipp M, Gebel J. Desinfektionsmittel-Liste der DGHM. mhp-Verlag GmbH, Wiesbaden. 2002:10.
Source

15. Steed L, Costello J, Lohia S, Jones T, Spannhake E, Nguyen S. Reduction of nasal Staphylococcus aureus carriage in health care professionals by treatment with a nonantibiotic, alcohol-based nasal antiseptic. 2014;42(8):841-846.
Source

16. Cernich C. Universal Preoperative Antiseptic Nasal and Skin Decolonization for Reduction in SSI and Associated Costs. 2020;48,(8):50.
Source

17. Enzelsberger H, Eppel W, Dorninger G, Wewalka G. Zur Effizienz von Verfahren für die präoperative Vaginalantiseptik. Geburtshilfe Und Frauenheilkunde. 1995;55:707-710. doi:10.1055/s-2007-1022319.
Source

18. Friese K, Neumann G, Siebert J, Harke H, Kirschner W. Vergleich zweier lokaler Antiseptika in der klinischen Anwendung bei bakteriell bedingten Vaginalinfektionen. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkunde. 2000;60(6):308-313. doi:10.1055/s-2000-9536.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Buchsektion
Kramer A, Assadian O, Exner M, Hübner N, Simon A. Krankenhaus- und Praxishygiene. Elsevier GmbH, München. 2012;2:73-91.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchung
Rheinbaben F, Köhnlein J, Naujox K, Werner S. Zur Wirksamkeit der Kombination von Xylometazolinhydrochlorid und Dexpanthenol gegen Bakterien, Hefen und Viren. 2017;39(2):36-39. doi:10.1016/j.khinf.2017.03.002.
Go to source
Buchsektion
Grünewald K. Theorie der medizinischen Fußbehandlung, Ein Fachbuch für Podologie. Verlag Neuer Merkur GmbH, München. 2006;1:232-233.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchung
Salakdeh M. Der Einfluß topisch applizierter Antiseptika auf die Mikrozirkulation der gesunden Haut. Bergmannsheil Klinik, Bochum. 2005:10-12.
Go to source
Buchsektion
Assmann H, Beckmann K, Bergmann G, Bohnenkamp H, Doerr R, Eppinger H, Grafe E, Hiller F, Katch G, Nonnenbruch W, Schittenhelm A, Schoen R, Siebeck R, Strahhelin R, Stepp W, Straub H, Stroebe F. Lehrbuch der inneren Medizin. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. 1939;4(1):71-74.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchung
Wood A, Payne D. The action of three antiseptics/disinfectants against enveloped and non-enveloped viruses. J Hosp Infect. 1998;38(4):283-295. doi:10.1016/s0195-6701(98)90077-9.
Go to source
Klinische Studie
Kampf G. Efficacy of ethanol against viruses in hand disinfection. J Hosp Infect. 2018;98(4):331-338. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2017.08.025.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchung
Shapiro MP, Setlow P. Mechanisms of Bacillus subtilis spore killing by and resistance to an acidic Fe-EDTA-iodide-ethanol formulation. J Appl Microbiol. 2006;100(4):746-753. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2672.2006.02838.x.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchung
Punjataewakupt A, Napavichayanun S, Aramwit P. The downside of antimicrobial agents for wound healing. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2019;38(1):39-54. doi:10.1007/s10096-018-3393-5.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchung
Hirsch T, Jacobsen F, Rittig A, Goertz O, Niederbichler A, Steinau H, Seipp H, Steinstraesser L. Vergleichende In-vitro-Studie zur Zytotoxizität klinisch eingesetzter Antiseptika. 2009;60(12):984-991.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchung
Daeschlein G. Antimicrobial and antiseptic strategies in wound management. Int Wound J. 2013;10 Suppl 1:9-14. doi:10.1111/iwj.12175.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchung
Osso D, Kanani N. Antiseptic mouth rinses: an update on comparative effectiveness, risks and recommendations. J Dent Hyg. 2013;87(1):10-18.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchung
Kramer A, Adrian V, Rudolph P, Wurster S, Lippert H. Explantationstest mit Haut und Peritoneum der neonaltalen Ratte als Voraussagetest zur Verträglichkeit lokaler Antiinfektiva für Wunden und Körperhöhlen. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. 1998;69:840-845.
Go to source
Richtlinien der DGHM
Borneff-Lipp M, Gebel J. Desinfektionsmittel-Liste der DGHM. mhp-Verlag GmbH, Wiesbaden. 2002:10.
Go to source
Klinische Studie
Steed L, Costello J, Lohia S, Jones T, Spannhake E, Nguyen S. Reduction of nasal Staphylococcus aureus carriage in health care professionals by treatment with a nonantibiotic, alcohol-based nasal antiseptic. 2014;42(8):841-846.
Go to source
Klinische Studie
Cernich C. Universal Preoperative Antiseptic Nasal and Skin Decolonization for Reduction in SSI and Associated Costs. 2020;48,(8):50.
Go to source
Klinische Studie
Enzelsberger H, Eppel W, Dorninger G, Wewalka G. Zur Effizienz von Verfahren für die präoperative Vaginalantiseptik. Geburtshilfe Und Frauenheilkunde. 1995;55:707-710. doi:10.1055/s-2007-1022319.
Go to source
Klinische Studie
Friese K, Neumann G, Siebert J, Harke H, Kirschner W. Vergleich zweier lokaler Antiseptika in der klinischen Anwendung bei bakteriell bedingten Vaginalinfektionen. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkunde. 2000;60(6):308-313. doi:10.1055/s-2000-9536.
Go to source
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