On some occasions you don´t have anything to desinfect wounds, for example during a (short) walk along the beach. If you cut yourself or have a an small wound that needs cleaning, would it be wise to clean it in the sea or better to leave it the way it is?

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    Clean water with salt added to it certainly is. But ocean water full of assorted organics? Maybe not. I would rinse off actual mud with it but otherwise wait and clean the wound at home. May 26, 2014 at 1:20

3 Answers 3


Seawater is not itself sterile, in fact, it has all kinds of organisms. Salt in a wound is likely to hurt, and saltwater won't be a particularly effective antiseptic.

With wound cleaning, it's always a question of trade-offs. It might be better to use less-than-sterile water to clean an extremely dirty wound if infection is otherwise inevitable. However, whenever possible you should only use clean water in a wound, so you don't introduce more possibilities for infection. If you do have to resort to salt water to get mud or large debris out of a wound, definitely rinse with any available clean water afterwards.

Your best bet is to use some purified water (such as from your water bottle) to rinse the wound, then clean it more thoroughly when you get to appropriate infrastructure to do so.

  • "Salt in a wound is likely to hurt" I can attest to this after falling in too many rock pools in Scotland... it REALLY stings!
    – Liath
    Nov 11, 2014 at 14:47

No, seawater cannot be considered antiseptic. At minimum, Staphylococcus, which is the cause of many serious infections and deaths every year, and one agent of necrotizing fasciitis, is "able to survive: ... High levels of salt" and may even be spread by seawater.

I recall reading (but am presently unable to cite) that parasites such as Cryptosporidium cysts can also survive in seawater.


Seawater, no. But clean salt water, yes.

Salt-water solution should be isotonic, i.e. same salt level as your body; ca ¼ teaspoon of sea-salt to 250 ml water.

I used it on my nose piercing and it was very effective. :)

  • Hi Sarah, and welcome at TGO! Thanks for your answer. Do you know if you used it primarily for cleaning or for desinfection? Nov 11, 2014 at 18:01
  • For folks in the USA that is about 1/4 to per cup.
    – Alcamtar
    Jan 29, 2018 at 15:15

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