Changing Dressings

Keeping a clean dressing on a wound should help it heal faster. It is not difficult for an individual to change their dressing once they know how long to wear each dressing, according to Cheryl Hutton, a wound, ostomy and continence nurse (WOC nurse) at CHC Solutions, Inc. 

Preparing the Supplies 

  • Clean the area where the dressing will be changed.
  • Gather the supplies:
    • Non-sterile gloves
    • Gauze sponges or pads
    • Sterile normal saline
    • Tape
    • Other dressings
    • Plastic trash bag
    • Gauze wrap or dressing
    • Scissors 

Removing the Old Dressing

  1. Wash hands with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand rub. 
  1. Put on gloves if they are recommended. 
  1. Slowly lift the corners or edges of the dressing or tape. If it sticks to the skin, dab the edges with an adhesive remover, a moistened gauze pad or a moistened paper towel. 
  1. Hold down the skin surrounding the bandaged area. Gently and slowly remove the tape. Lift the tape pulling it away from the skin.
  1. Lift the edges of the dressing toward the center of the wound. Then gently lift it from the wound. 
  1. If the dressing sticks to the wound, soak it with saline solution to help loosen it. Carefully discard the old dressing into a plastic trash bag and tie it closed. Put that bag into a second plastic bag and throw it away. 
  1. Remove the gloves and wash hands again. 

Cleaning the Wound

  1. Put on new gloves. 
  1. Place a towel under the wound. 
  1. Wet a gauze sponge or pad with saline or water. Gently clean the wound. 
    • Start at the center of the wound.
    • Dab in circles out to one inch past the edge of the wound.
    • Do not go from the outer edges of the wound back toward the center. This could spread germs into the wound.
    • Be sure to clean away any liquid draining from the wound.
    • Throw out the gauze pad and get a new one as often as necessary.
  1. Rinse the wound again with a new gauze pad to remove any loose debris not removed by the first cleaning. 
  1. Throw the cleaning materials into the plastic trash bag. 
  1.  Dry the skin surrounding the wound by patting it with a soft, clean towel. 
  1. Check the wound for redness, drainage, swelling or odor. 

Applying A New Dressing 

  1. Open the new dressing and remove it from the package. Touch only the corners of the dressing. 
  1. Carefully center the dressing over the wound. 
  1. Secure the dressing in place with tape. 
  1. Remove the gloves and wash your hands. 

As always, be sure to consult with your doctor on managing your wound care. If you have any additional questions, contact our WOC nurse at

*Disclaimer: Any health and wellness content presented is for general informational purposes only. Such content is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.