Updated August 2022
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Buying guide for best gauze

Accidents happen! Almost everyone owns a first aid kit or keeps a supply of medicines and materials on hand for the unexpected cut or scrape. Gauze is a staple in these kits, and it can be a lifesaver when it comes to wound care. Sometimes a little adhesive bandage just isn’t enough.

The good news about gauze is that there are numerous types to cover just about every type of physical wound, from scratches and cuts to more serious injuries that require surgery or stitches. Before running out to buy every variation of gauze you can find, it helps to learn about how each type of gauze is designed for a specific medical need.

There are features to consider, such as sterile or non-sterile, woven or nonwoven, and matching these to your needs will help you to choose the best gauze for your medicine cabinet.

a doctor applying gauze to a patient's hand
Wash your hands before and after applying or changing gauze.

How to buy the best gauze


Gauze is used to treat wounds and can be used for the following purposes in wound care:

Packing: Because gauze is such an absorbent material, it’s especially useful when packing wounds that are bleeding heavily.

Cleaning: Gauze is excellent for gently cleaning scrapes and cuts before treating and bandaging the wound.

Wrapping and bandaging: Gauze makes a good protective covering to aid in the healing process.


There are various types of gauze, and each is suited for a different need in wound treatment and maintenance:

Rolls: These are usually for wrapping wounds, but they can also be used for packing and cleaning. A roll is handy because you can cut the gauze to the size you need and fold it if necessary.

Pads and sponges: Gauze pads and sponges are essentially the same, with the only difference being the quantity per pack. Gauze pads are usually packaged individually, while gauze sponges come in packs of two or more.

Adhesive pads: Like adhesive bandages, these pads are made of gauze surrounded by a sticky adhesive surface. They’re convenient because you can apply them to the skin without having to secure them with medical tape.

Impregnated: These gauze dressings are saturated with various solutions and oils designed to prevent infection and promote healing. Common agents used on this type of gauze include petrolatum, hydrogel, and sodium chloride solutions. Impregnated gauze is designed to be used as a primary dressing, but because it is moist, it needs to be covered with a secondary dressing.

Hemostatic: Hemostatic gauze has been treated with a chemical agent designed to stop bleeding. Some types are completely soluble. This gauze is best used on severe wounds, such as those from gunshots or car accidents, where a high volume of blood is flowing.

Adhesive bandages vs. adhesive gauze

While adhesive bandages and adhesive gauze are very similar in design, they’re used for different types of wounds.

Adhesive bandages are ideal for small cuts and scrapes, blisters, sores, or blemishes.

Adhesive gauze is more appropriately used for larger open wounds that are bleeding more heavily. It is much bigger than most adhesive bandages. It’s also more durable and absorbent than the basic cotton pads found on adhesive bandages.

a vet applying gauze to a puppy
Depending on the severity of the wound, most gauze dressings should be left in place no longer than 24 hours at a time. For hygienic reasons and to prevent infection, fresh gauze should be applied as often as necessary.

Features to look for in gauze


Gauze is made of cotton, polyester, rayon, or poly-rayon blends. The fibers are pressed or woven and folded together to create an absorbent, multilayered material.


Gauze rolls are specified by length in inches and width in yards, commonly 3 or 4 inches wide and 2 to 3 yards long.

Gauze pads and sponges are usually square and measured in inches. The most common sizes are 2, 3, and 4 inches square.

Thickness (ply, or the number of layers) really only applies to gauze pads and sponges. For example, common gauze pads are 8 ply or 12 ply.

Woven vs. nonwoven

Woven gauze is a loose, more open weave of material that’s typically used as a secondary dressing on wounds. It can be cut, but the fibers can easily unravel or shed small pieces that can get stuck in the wound. Woven gauze is best used in conjunction with mesh or nonwoven gauze pads and sponges.

Nonwoven gauze has fibers that are pressed tightly together. It is more absorbent than woven gauze. This material is more durable and less likely to unravel or shed lint into the wound. Nonwoven gauze makes an ideal primary dressing because it can be placed directly on wounds.

Sterile vs. non-sterile

Sterile gauze comes as individually packaged gauze pads or sponges. Sterile gauze is best used for deeper, more severe wounds.

Non-sterile gauze comes in rolls or multipacks of pads or sponges. This gauze is suitable for light scratches or small cuts, as well as larger wounds that are already healing.

If you need to secure rolled gauze and don’t have any clips, pins, or tape, try tucking the end under the top layer. This is only a temporary fix until you can find something more reliable.


What else do I need when using gauze?

Medical or surgical tape

Unless you’re using an adhesive gauze pad, gauze won’t stay on a wound without a few additional accessories. Pressure-sensitive medical or surgical tape is helpful when securing gauze pads and sponges to the skin.

Bandage clips

Bandage clips or safety pins are commonly used to secure rolled gauze that’s wrapped around an arm or leg.

Antibiotic ointment

Applying an antiseptic or disinfectant ointment kills germs and helps prevent infection in some wounds. However, small cuts or scrapes may not need it. If you’re unsure, check with a medical professional.

Disposable gloves

It’s a good idea to wear disposable gloves when dressing a wound to prevent contamination and infection.

How much does gauze cost?


Gauze is made from common, inexpensive materials, so it’s highly affordable. The least expensive gauze costs about $2 to $8. In this price range, you can find gauze pads or sponges of varying sizes in packs up to 100. Non-sterile gauze is less expensive than sterile gauze. You’ll also find individual gauze rolls in this price bracket.


This gauze costs between $8 and $20. This range includes packs of up to 10 or 20 gauze rolls and larger volumes of gauze pads and sponges that can be either sterile or non-sterile. Adhesive gauze also falls in this price range.


The most expensive gauze costs $20 to $50. This range includes bulk quantities of 48 rolls or 75 to 120  pads or sponges. Depending on the manufacturer, these can be sterile or non-sterile and woven or nonwoven.

a hand wrapped in gauze
If the gauze sticks to the wound, try pouring a little lukewarm water on it and slowly peeling it off the skin. The water saturates the gauze and any dried fluids or scabs and helps prevent bleeding.


  • Wash your hands before applying gauze to a wound. You want your hands to be as clean as possible so that you avoid causing an infection. Wash your hands vigorously with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Secure the gauze firmly. But it shouldn’t be so tight that it’s uncomfortable. If gauze is taped or wrapped too tightly, it can impair circulation or stick uncomfortably to the wound and might soak into or be absorbed by the healing wound. You want the wound protected, not smothered.
  • Never reuse gauze. This product is designed to be used once and thrown away. Reusing gauze could cause infection.
a person wrapping gauze on a kid's knee
Store gauze in a cool, clean, dry place. Keep it in a plastic container or cloth bag inside a medicine cabinet or drawer so it doesn’t get dirty or dusty.


Q. What should I do if the gauze gets saturated?

A. That’s when it’s time to change the gauze. Responsibly dispose of the used gauze and replace it with some clean, fresh gauze.

Q. How do I keep gauze from sticking?

A. You can apply antibiotic cream or ointment or even petroleum jelly to the wound before application. You can also use impregnated gauze.

Q. Does gauze expire?

A. Most gauze boasts a shelf life of three to five years. Gauze has the potential to lose its sterile and absorbent qualities over time. However, this depends on the brand and how the gauze is stored.


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