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Overview
November 2010 Ratings

Few waterproof bandages make the cut

Last reviewed: November 2010
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Are you stuck on a bandage that sticks on you but lets your wound get wet? Water and other liquids can carry germs to cuts and scrapes, which can lead to infection. A waterproof bandage could block those bugs, but despite product claims such as "shields out water, dirt and germs," it's hard to find one.

We tested eight bandages labeled waterproof. (A ninth, Rite Aid Flexible Foam, is claimed to be water resistant.) We asked 33 panelists to wear each bandage on their fingers for 4 hours, washing their hands twice and flexing fingers hourly. Then we had the panelists dip their bandaged fingers into room-temperature coffee while flexing them for 15 to 20 seconds, and checked the pads for coffee stains.

All bandages stayed on much better than one with no waterproof claim, but only the Nexcare Clear and Band-Aid Clear kept water out more than 60 percent of the time. Nexcare leaked about one-fourth of the time and Band-Aid about 40 percent of the time, compared with more than 85 percent for lower-rated products. Other differences:

Ease of application and removal

Most bandages have a peel-apart wrapper; the Band-Aid Tough-Strips' wrapper requires ripping. When applying the Nexcare, you peel away a paper frame. Most of the bandages are rectangular and have adhesive strips with duct-tape-like fibers that sometimes stayed on skin when the bandage was removed. The Nexcare and Band-Aid Clear, basically oval-shaped, are clear, lack those fibers, and leave no adhesive. But it can be difficult to find the edge of a clear bandage when it's time for removal.

Gaps

Although all the products have adhesive encircling their pads, their edges didn't always stay stuck to skin. The Rite Aid and Curad bandages were especially likely to form gaps after our 4-hour test.

Comfort

Rite-Aid's foam strip is thicker and less flexible than others, so it was slightly less comfortable for panelists.

Bottom line

In wet, potentially dirty conditions, "it would be nice to use a waterproof bandage for a little bit of extra protection," says Rich O'Brien, M.D., a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians. The Nexcare and Band-Aid Clear bandages leaked least and cost less than many others. Neither is claimed to be latex-free. Whatever bandage you choose, clean the wound with soap and water and change the bandage daily and when it's soiled. Because no bandage is completely watertight, replace it after it gets really wet, even if it's still stuck on you.