Alcohol is probably the most popular of all cutaneous disinfectants. It is generally used in every country, not only in dressing wounds and in preoperative preparation of the surgeon's hands and the field of operation, but for a multitude of minor procedures, such as vaccinations, hypodermic injections and punctures of the skin for blood counts. Reasons for its popularity are obvious: It is relatively cheap and easy to obtain, it is pleasant to use and it "wets" the skin efficiently. An alcohol-soaked pledget can wipe away a certain amount of grease and dirt, and in universal experience its application seems capable of preventing infections from needle punctures and the like.
Laboratory tests, however, as reported in the literature, have on the whole shown alcohol to be but weakly bactericidal, and the prevailing conclusion of present day writers is that whatever efficiency it may have as a cutaneous disinfectant is due
PRICE PB. ETHYL ALCOHOL AS A GERMICIDE. Arch Surg. 1939;38(3):528–542. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1939.01200090135010
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.