Antiseptics: Types And Uses

Antiseptics are chemicals for cleaning the skin and wounds. They can reduce the number of microorganisms living on the skin, in wounds, and mucous membranes. Different types of antiseptics vary in cost, effectiveness, use, and potential side effects.

There are several types of antiseptics. Some are safe to use at home, whereas others are only suitable for use in clinical or hospital settings.


Some common types of antiseptics include:

  • alcohols, such as isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol
  • quaternary ammonium compound
  • chlorhexidine and other diguanides, for use before operations
  • antibacterial dye to treat burns and wounds
  • peroxide and permanganate to disinfect the skin or to use as a mouthwash
  • halogenated phenol derivative, in soaps and solutions
  • quinolone derivative, which treats wounds and can be an ingredient in throat lozenges


Antiseptics have several potential uses. Some of the most common include:

  • preventing infections on the skin, particularly for cuts, scrapes, or minor burns
  • dry hand-washing, which healthcare workers may do between different procedures or patients
  • cleaning the skin before a medical procedure, such as a blood draw or surgery
  • treating throat infections with mouthwashes or lozenges
  • cleaning mucous membranes to treat infections or before using a catheter