How to Clean Road Rash

Three Parts:Assessing Your Road RashCleaning Your AbrasionKeeping Your Road Rash Clean

Road rash is a type of abrasion caused during an accident. It can occur from a fall from a bicycle, skates, skateboard, scooters, or motorcycle or while running or walking too quickly. The abrasions are received from the cement, asphalt, or hard surface you fall against. During the accident, the upper layers of skin come off, causing everything from shallow scrapes to deep wounds depending on the severity of the fall. If these are cleaned and treated properly, the road rash will heal without a problem.[1] If you experience road rash, you need to learn the proper protocol to clean it so it doesn’t get infected.

Part 1
Assessing Your Road Rash

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    Look at the depth of the wound. When you get road rash, you first need to decide how deep the wound goes. If you had a small fall, the road rash will likely be shallow and only affect the upper layer of skin. If you had a bad fall, your road rash may be more severe, extending into deeper muscle and bone tissue. Look at your wound and see how deep the scrapes go.
    • If it is shallow, you can clean it at home.
    • If you see underlying muscle or fat, or if it is deep enough you see bone, call emergency services immediately.[2]
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    Check how much it’s bleeding. One of the ways to tell how serious your road rash is is to see how much it bleeds. If your wound is gently bleeding, the abrasion isn’t too deep. If it is bleeding profusely, you should see your doctor right away.
    • If your road rash is gushing or squirting blood, call emergency services right away and apply firm constant pressure to the wound until help arrives.[3]
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    Determine how much of your body it covers. Your road rash may cover a little or a large area of your body. If your road rash only covers a small portion of your body, you can clean it at home without seeking medical help. If your abrasions take up large areas of your body, you need to see a doctor.
    • Large wounds can cause many different problems for your health if they get infected, which they have a higher likelihood to do since they cover so much of your body.
    • You should also contact a doctor if your road rash is on your face.[4]
    • A good estimate to know if your road rash is too large is the palm of your hand. If your wound is larger than the palm of your hand, see a doctor immediately.[5]
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    Monitor your health. When you fall hard enough to get road rash, you may have sustained a more severe injury than just the abrasion. Be mindful of any other injuries that might have occurred, especially if you hit your head.
    • Adrenaline may make other injuries take longer to appear. Head injuries may also develop if you hit your head in your fall. Just make sure you watch for any difference in your behavior or normal routine.[6]
    • Symptoms of concussion to watch for include temporary loss of consciousness, dizziness, amnesia, confusion, dazed feeling, nausea or vomiting, irritability, and sensitivity to light and sound.[7]
    • If you sustain a fall where you may have hit your head, you should have an adult stay with you so that you are not alone for more than 24 hours. You might not notice changes in your own behavior, but, if there are indications that your neurological condition might be worsening (such as changes in behavior), that adult should call 911.

Part 2
Cleaning Your Abrasion

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    Wash your hands. Before you touch your road rash, you need to wash your hands. Run your hands under fresh water in the sink. Add soap to your hands and lather them all over by rubbing them together. Keep rubbing for at least 20 seconds, being careful to clean around your fingernails, in between your fingers, and up to your elbows. Then rinse the soap from your hands and arms with more clean water.
    • Dry them off on a clean towel.[8]
    • If you have any road rash on or near your hands, avoid getting it wet until you can clean it out.
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    Stop your rash from bleeding. Before you can properly clean your road rash, you need to stop the wound from bleeding. If it is a very minor road rash, it may stop bleeding on its own. If it is a slightly deeper road rash, you will have to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Find a sterile bandage or clean cloth. Apply direct pressure to the wound with the cloth.
    • Elevate the wound as well to help stop the bleeding.[9]
    • If there are large pieces of debris in the wound, remove those gently before you apply pressure. You don't want to embed them deeper into your wound.
    • If the road rash takes longer than 10 minutes to stop bleeding, see your doctor as soon as you can.
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    Clean around the wound. In order to ensure that your road rash doesn't get dirtier than it is, you need to clean the area around your wound. This will make sure that germs do not get in your road rash from the skin around it. It will also help remove any blood from around the wound as well. To clean around it, use a soapy washcloth to clean the area around your rash. Instead of running your rash under water, rinse out the rag and wipe the soap off the surrounding area.
    • Make sure you do not get soap in your rash. It can cause it to get irritated. Instead, clean around the wound.[10]
    • You may need to cut away fabric around the rash or take off the clothing around it.
    • There's no need to use antibacterial soap, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or any other antiseptic to cleanse the area around the wound. These products can be irritating to the wound.
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    Rinse out your road rash. To help get the majority of the debris from the road out of your rash, you need to rinse the wound out to reduce the chance of infection. Place the area where you have road rash under a faucet and run clean water over it. If you can't get the area under a facet because of where it is, put clean water in a cup or bowl and pour it over the wound.[11]
    • If you have a facet with a sprayer attached, you can use it to help get the debris out. Just make sure the water pressure isn't too high. You can try using your shower head as well, as long as it isn't too strong.[12]
    • You can also fill your tub with water and sit in it to help rinse out your wound.
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    Remove remaining debris from your road rash. To make sure you road rash doesn't get infected or debris doesn't heal into your skin, you need to remove any remaining particles from your road rash. Take a pair of tweezers and sterilize them with rubbing alcohol or by leaving them in boiling water for a few minutes and then letting them cool. Use them to pick out any particles left in your road rash.
    • Be careful to not gauge your wound with the tweezers. If there is a piece of debris that you cannot get out with tweezers or water, you need to see your doctor to remove the debris.
    • Do not use peroxide, iodine, or other cleanser at this point. This will only irritate your skin since it was just injured.[13]
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    Apply ointment to your road rash. Once you have gotten any debris and rinsed out your road rash, you need to make sure it doesn't get infected. To help with this, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection and reduce the risk of scarring. This will also help keep the surface moist, which provides the best healing environment for your road rash.
    • Some ointments may cause negative reactions to a person's skin. To help avoid this reaction, apply ointment to a small test area before applying it to the wound.
    • If your skin reacts badly to the ointment, stop using it.[14]
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    Dress your road rash. To protect your road rash from the elements, you need to cover it with a sterile bandage. Take a sterile dressing and tape it over your wound. If your road rash is small, you may be able to find an adhesive bandage that is large enough to cover it or leave it exposed to the open air.[15]
    • Ensure that you don't attach bandage tape to the rash or let the adhesive bandage overlap with the rash.
    • If you develop a rash because of the adhesive tape, switch to paper tape. You can also use rolled gauze or an elastic bandage to hold the sterile dressing over the wound.
    • Dress your wound every day, or whenever the dressing becomes soiled.

Part 3
Keeping Your Road Rash Clean

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    Remove your dressing. In order to make sure your road rash stays clean, you need to change your dressing every day. This will cut down your chance of infection and help keep it from getting irritated more. Before you touch your wound, wash your hands to rid them of any germs or bacteria that might cause your road rash to get infected. Then, gently remove your dressing and discard the old bandage.
    • If your bandage gets wet or dirty, you should change it right away even if you already have that day. Dirty bandages may spread infection.[16]
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    Wash your road rash. You need to wash your rash every day with antibacterial soap. This will help prevent infection from getting into your wound. Use a clean wash cloth lathered with warm water and antibacterial soap to gently clean your rash. This will help clean off old antibiotic cream, scabs, and dead tissue as your rash heals.
    • Make sure you rinse your rash well after you clean it and dry it gently with a clean towel.
    • You can use your daily shower time to wash your road rash.[17]
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    Redress your rash. Once you have adequately cleaned and dried your road rash, you need to redress it. Apply a new layer of antibiotic cream, making sure it is enough to keep it wet enough between dressings. Then apply a clean bandage to cover your rash completely.[18]
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    Apply moisturizer to your healing road rash. Once your road rash has healed enough to scab over completely, you do not have to keep a bandage on it. You can still apply antibiotic cream to the rash to keep it from getting infected. In addition, as the scabbed area heals, you should apply moisturizer to it daily.
    • This will help regenerate the skin on and around your road rash.[19]
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    Watch for signs of infection. As you keep your road rash clean, you need to make sure you watch for signs of infection. You need to catch any infection as soon as you can to avoid larger health problems. If you notice signs of infection, go to your doctor immediately. The signs you should look for are:
    • Increased redness or swelling around your road rash
    • A foul smell coming from the rash
    • Noticeable drainage of pus around the wound
    • A fever
    • Chills
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Any red streaks starting at the wound
    • Muscle aches and pains, especially those far away from your road rash[20]


  • Ask your doctor if you should have a tetanus shot after you get road rash if you haven’t had one in the last 10 years. There may have been particles from the road in your body that could cause tetanus.[21]

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Skin Care