How to Use Povidone Iodine (Betadine) as an Antiseptic

Antiseptics like povidone iodine have been used since ancient times to prevent infection and sterilize tools.

There is actually some controversy in the scientific community as to whether or not antiseptics work when used directly on skin wounds[1], but tradition, intuition, and the World Health Organization agree they are probably a good idea[3].

The reasoning against using antiseptics for wound care is that they will kill not only bacteria but cells as well. Since povidone iodine is only mildly cytotoxic[2], it can be used or disused for wound treatment based on personal preference. Despite their arguable effectivness in treating wounds, antiseptics are undeniably effective at cleaning tools and bandages used in wound care.

Besides being an antiseptic for wound care, povidone iodine can safely be used to purify water[4]. Povidone Iodine comes as a liquid or a wipe. For a compact first aid kit a few wipes or a small leak-proof bottle are the best options. A 50mL (1.5oz) alcohol shooter bottle is the perfect size and won't leak; just make sure to relabel it first. To use the wipes for water purification just place the wipe in the water.

Povidone Iodine for Water Purification:

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding povidone iodine for water purification, but according to the National Institute of Health (NIH) 10% povidone iodine can be mixed with water at a recommended ratio of .35 - .7 milliliters (7 - 14 drops) of iodine solution per liter of water. The amount depends on the temperature and cloudiness of the water with cold, cloudy water needing more iodine[4]. Don’t use iodine for water purification if you have a thyroid condition or are pregnant.

Iodine is not recommended for use as a water purifier for longer than several months because long-term risks have not been thoroughly researched. The NIH did note, however, that there were remarkably few reports of thyroid disorders despite iodine use, but cases of goiters have been linked to long-term iodine use for water purification[4].

How to Use Povidone Iodine:

  1. Antiseptic: Clean the wound with water as best you can. Use iodine-soaked gauze to gently rub the iodine into and around the cut. Smear some B&W ointment over the wound and wrap it in a clean bandage. More information on how to properly clean a wound can be found here.
  2. Water Purifier: Mix the correct amount of iodine in the unpurified water. Wait 15 min, and then wait an extra minute just to be sure.

Tips:

  1. After waiting for the iodine to disinfect the water, add a vitamin C tablet to remove any iodine taste.
  2. Povidone iodine kills more bacteria in warmer water or if given more time to work.
  3. One 2x1 inch iodine wipe contains about 10 drops of povidone iodine.

Summary:

  • Still unknown if antiseptics should be used directly on wounds
  • Listed as an essential antiseptic by the World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Purifies water for drinking
  • Do not use if pregnant or have a thyroid condition

Related Topics: 

Share this article

Recommended Products

Support our research ¡Just like us on Facebook!

Join the discussion

About Peter Oldani - Author of Inside First Aid

About the author

Peter Oldani graduated college with a B.S. in biomedical engineering, worked as an EMT to gain hands on experience in emergency medicine and completed active shooter training as part of New York State’s initiative to prepare civilian organizations for disaster response.