What Is Chlorhexidine Soap?

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  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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Chlorhexidine soap is an antiseptic usually used before a person undergoes surgery or by health care professionals in wound cleaning, to minimize the risk of infection. Unlike its counterpart, povidone-iodine which is a dark orange-brown color, it does not stain the skin. It is available in various different formulations and strengths including the soap, solution and creams, which are used as an antiseptic for different indications. It is also used to sterilize sterile instruments and equipment. Chlorhexidine soap and other forms of chlorhexidine are known by different trade names in different countries, according to manufacturer.

In any surgery, the patient runs the risk of having bacteria introduced into the body via the surgical incision. Bacteria exist in even the most well kept hospital or medical center, so hygiene is of vital importance to prevent infection of the wound. This extends to both the patient and, most importantly, the hospital staff. Most hospitals have strict guidelines on hygiene procedures, especially hand hygiene, which includes regular hand washing.


There are numerous different types of products used for keeping the hands as clean as possible in the medical setting. These include chlorhexidine soap, alcohol rubs and surgical barriers, such as gloves. Which one, or combination, is used may differs between facilities, taking into account infection risk, cost and ease-of use. While chlorhexidine soap is available as bars or liquid soap, the liquid soap is often preferred, as it can remain more sterile when kept in a dispenser, as opposed to the bar, which lies open on the basin.

When undergoing surgery, the patient is advised to do a number of things to minimize the risk of infection during and after the procedure. The doctor's instructions should be followed precisely. This may include removal of the hair from the area of operation and bathing or showering with an antiseptic such as chlorhexidine soap. In many instances, showering is preferred over bathing. Once in the theater, further sterilization procedures will be carried out by the attending nurses.

After surgery, the incision will be closed up but there is still a risk of infection until the skin has healed fully. The surgeon will give instructions on wound cleaning or refer the patient to a specialized wound treatment center. These instructions, which may include the use of an antiseptic cream or soap, like chlorhexidine soap, should be followed closely to ensure the shortest healing time and minimize possible complications.


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