How To Clean and Bandage Diabetic Foot Wounds at Home

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Fri May 19 2023.

Bandages lined up.

How To Clean and Bandage Diabetic Foot Wounds at Home

Foot wounds are one of the most common side effects of diabetes, affecting between 15-25% of patients. Taking your medications, eating a healthy diet, and regularly exercising can help keep your diabetes in check. Still, it won’t necessarily prevent the formation of ulcers or other slow-healing wounds.

If you or your loved one has diabetic ulcers, keeping them clean and wrapped is crucial. Below is a step-by-step guide for cleaning and bandaging diabetic foot wounds, featuring tips from a podiatrist.

What You’ll Need

You need to have several items before cleaning diabetic foot wounds at home. 

Daniel Pledger, DPM, a Colorado-based podiatrist and the founder of ePodiatrists, recommends making a wound care first-aid kit that includes the following:

“The gauze and bandages should be sterile and come in a sealed package to prevent contamination,” Dr. Pledger said. “The antibacterial ointment or cream should contain either povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine gluconate, which is both effective at killing bacteria and preventing infection.”

Cleaning and Bandaging Diabetic Foot Wounds at Home 

Step 1: Wash Your Hands with Soap and Water

Make sure the water is warm and wash thoroughly, scrubbing your fingers, palms, and backs of your hands. 

Caregiver Tip

Singing the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice takes 20 seconds on average.

Step 2: Clean the wound

Use a sterile saline solution or clean water to rinse the wound and remove any debris or dirt. Flush the ulcer as many times as necessary.

“Caregivers should avoid using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean diabetic wounds, as they can be harsh and damage the surrounding tissue,” Dr. Pledger said.

Podiatrist Tip: “Gently pat the wound dry after cleaning it with a clean towel or washcloth,” Dr. Pledger said. “This can help remove any excess moisture and prevent bacteria from thriving in the damp environment.”

Step 3: Apply Antibacterial Ointment or Cream to the Wound

Squeeze a dime-sized dab of antibacterial ointment or cream onto the wound and carefully spread it out evenly. Make sure the ointment or cream extends to the wound’s borders, covering any skin that’s red, itchy, or irritated.

Step 4: Cover the Wound

Remove a sterile gauze pad from its package and carefully place it on top of the diabetic wound.

One of the most common wound-dressing mistakes that caregivers make is using non-sterile supplies to clean or dress the wound,” Dr. Pledger said. “This can introduce harmful bacteria and increase the risk of infection.”

Step 5: Cover the Gauze with a Bandage

Use a sterile bandage or wrap to hold the gauze in place. “Another common wound-dressing mistake is wrapping the bandage too tightly,” Dr. Pledger said. “If you aren’t careful, this can restrict blood flow to the affected area and cause further damage.”

After applying the bandage, ask your loved one if it feels too tight. Then, check their circulation. 

To do that, gently press your fingernail into the skin near the bandage, until it turns pale. The bandage is too tight if the color doesn’t return as soon as you remove your finger.

Step 6: Wash Your Hands Again

Once you’ve applied the new wound dressing and bandage, wash your hands with soap and water again to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Commonly Asked Questions

1) How Often Should I Change My Loved One’s Bandages?

Great question! “The frequency at which bandages should be changed depends on the severity of the wound and the amount of drainage present,” Dr. Pledger said. 

“As a general rule, bandages should be changed at least once a day, or more often if they become wet or soiled. It’s important to monitor the wounds for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or drainage, and seek medical attention if any of these symptoms occur.”

2) Should I See a Doctor About Diabetic Foot Wounds?

Most minor diabetic wounds improve with at-home treatments, but Dr. Pledger says you should seek professional help if your loved one’s wound is deep, large, or infected or doesn't show signs of healing within a few days.

“Other signs that medical attention may be necessary include increasing pain, redness or warmth around the wound, or the presence of pus or foul-smelling drainage,” said Dr. Pledger. “If you have any concerns about the wound or your loved one’s overall health, it’s best to err on the side of caution and seek medical advice.”

Takeaways

Effectively cleaning and bandaging diabetic foot wounds can be done in the comfort of a home with a few products and easy-to-follow steps. The biggest thing to remember is to keep your hands clean and use sterile bandages and gauze. Infections are a very real risk when it comes to open wounds; minimizing the chance of infection is essential. 

Need More Information?

Have questions about bandages, antibiotic ointments, or gauze? We’ll be happy to answer them. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to support@carewell.com to speak with our friendly and compassionate Caregiving Specialists.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.