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What is Gauze?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Gauze is a type of thin fabric with a very open weave. It has a number of uses, ranging from the operating room to the theater, and a variety of types are manufactured to suit various needs. Many fabric supply stores carry gauze, and it is also available from drug stores and medical supply companies. Material designed for medical uses is very useful in a first aid kit, as it can be used to wrap wounds, staunch bleeding, and pad wounds before they are bandaged.

The word comes from the Arabic qazz, which means “raw silk.” In the first sense, gauze is a type of light, very airy fabric which can be used in garments and draperies. When it is worn, thicker fabrics are typically worn underneath, for modesty, or the gauze may be layered to obscure the details of the body underneath. In performances, the material is often used to create a scrim upon which shadows can be projected, creating more visual interest on the stage.

In the medical sense, gauze is a highly absorbent material, classically made from cotton, which is used to dress wounds and stop bleeding. In addition to cotton, it can also be made from silk and some synthetics, and medical versions are often saturated in an anti-bacterial solution to reduce the risk of infection. Some medical gauze is also treated with clotting agents, to help stop bleeding on wounds. It is often sold with surgical tape, which can be used to affix the material dressings to the body.

A wad can be used to apply pressure to a wound, or to pack a deep wound. Gauze pads are also used during surgical procedures to sop up blood and other fluids, and it is commonly integrated into wound dressings to allow air to circulate around the site, promoting rapid healing. In addition to sheets and pads, it is also possible to find gauze sponges for medical use. It may also be soaked in various substances and used to wrap burn victims, protecting their delicate skin and flesh from further injury.

The term is also used to refer to metal with a very fine metal mesh. This type of gauze is commonly used as a spark arrestor around open fires, as the mesh prevents sparks from flying through and igniting objects around the fire. It can also be used to create window screens, ensuring that insects and other creatures stay out while air continues to circulate.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By SarahSon — On Apr 28, 2012

I have a vintage gauze skirt which I love to wear in the summer time. The material is lightweight and has a casual look that is comfortable yet feminine.

The crinkled cotton look is one that I have always enjoyed wearing. I usually wear this gauze skirt with flat, comfortable shoes.

This is dressy enough to wear to a party, but casual enough to wear while I am out running errands.

By honeybees — On Apr 27, 2012

My dentist has used absorbent gauze to pack my mouth with after certain dental procedures. The gauze absorbs any blood and fluid in my mouth and helps keep my mouth dry. It is easy to remove and throw away after the procedure and I am on my way.

I had never thought about using gauze as a material for window screens. I love having my windows open when it isn't too hot or cold outside.

I also have a screened in porch where I can sit and enjoy the outdoors without fighting the bugs. It never occurred to me that gauze was used to make these window screens.

By Mykol — On Apr 26, 2012

We always keep gauze in our first aid kit. You never know when you are going to need this to wrap up a wound or stop bleeding.

I have even used stretch gauze when I have sprained my wrist. I fell on my wrist when we were skiing, and used the gauze in the first aid kit when nothing else was available.

Gauze is one of those materials that is used often in the medical field. I have had two abdominal surgeries, and gauze was placed over my incision each time.

I had to make sure and change the gauze every day as I was healing so it would not get infected. Because it does not have an adhesive back, it is not as uncomfortable to remove as a large band-aid is.

By Oceana — On Apr 26, 2012

My husband told me that he had to have a wound packed with gauze once. He had been bitten by a poisonous spider, and he had waited a week or so to go to a doctor.

By the time he did, the area was very infected. The doctor had to make an incision and squeeze hard and deep to get all the pus out, and then she had to scrape more out with a knife.

After she had done this, there was a big hole in his skin, so she stuffed it with gauze. When he returned to her to have the area repacked, he said he nearly vomited while she was removing the gauze. She had put so much of it in there that she seemed to be pulling an endless string of gauze from his leg!

By cloudel — On Apr 25, 2012

My dog had to wear a gauze bandage after she injured her paw pad. She stepped on something that had sliced deeply into it, and the blood would not stop flowing. She had to have stitches, and the vet told me the area needed to be bandaged for at least a week.

We had to change her bandage every day. We had a gauze roll that we would wrap around her paw, and the material was self-adhesive. This made things a lot easier, because we didn't have to fight with the dog while trying to mess with tape or buckles.

The gauze helped keep the area safe from infection. It also clotted any bleeding that might have occurred through the stitches.

By shell4life — On Apr 25, 2012

@kylee07drg – I love the airiness of gauze fabric. I haven't used it to make any clothing yet, but I did make some curtains out of it.

I prefer sheer curtains to thick drapes, because I like to let a lot of light into my home. The gauze curtains let the sun illuminate my house, but they provide just enough privacy to make it hard to see inside, unless you are standing right at the window.

I also love how the gauze curtains dance in the breeze when I have the windows open. If the breeze is strong, they will really fly, and it looks so magical to me.

By kylee07drg — On Apr 24, 2012

I have a white gauze blouse that I wear over tight-fitting dresses. The gauze is so transparent that it goes with just about anything, and since most of my summer and spring dresses are pastel colored, white is the perfect choice.

I have a lump of fat across my belly that looks very unappealing. Many of my dresses show this lump, and to avoid buying a whole new wardrobe to hide it, I bought the gauze cover-up instead.

It has a string so that I can tie it shut across my waist. I rarely leave it open, because tying it together is the best way to hide my fat.

By anon32245 — On May 18, 2009

What is crinkle cotton? How to make it?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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