What is Medical Gauze?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Gauze pads may offer wound protection.
Gauze pads may offer wound protection.

Medical gauze is a sterile fabric used to cover or wrap wounds. Usually made from woven cotton or synthetic fibers, it allows wounds to “breathe” while absorbing seeped fluids. In addition, it is less likely to stick to wounds than many other fabric types. Medical gauze is available in many different shapes and sizes. Additionally, some forms of gauze are dry, while others are saturated with antibacterial ointments, lubricants, or other healing agents.

Gauze is also available in roll form.
Gauze is also available in roll form.

Cotton has long been the chief material used in the manufacture of medical gauze. Its popularity is based largely on its breathability, its absorbency, and the fact that it does not tend to stick to wounds. Cotton medical gauze is generally woven from fine fibers. Its weave may be loose, allowing large amounts of air to penetrate the wound below it, or tight, keeping the wound well insulated from the environment. The choice between loose- or tight-weave gauze is generally dictated by the specific nature of a wound and its stage in the healing process.

Rolled gauze can be used to hold a medical gauze pad in place over a wound.
Rolled gauze can be used to hold a medical gauze pad in place over a wound.

In the 20th century, synthetic materials also became a popular choice for gauze manufacture. Often, synthetic gauze is not actually woven, but rather stamped to appear as though it has been woven. In many cases, its breathability, absorbency, and ability to resist sticking are equal or even superior to those of cotton.

There are many different shapes and sizes of medical gauze. It is generally available in large or small rolls, in strips, in small pads, and in large sheets which can be cut to fit a particular wound. Small packages of gauze can be purchased from a drugstore or pharmacy for individual use. It is also available in bulk quantities from medical supply retailers.

Some medical gauze is classified as dry. This kind of gauze has not been infused with any supplemental healing agents. It may be the best choice for a wound which is producing large amounts of discharge, as it can easily absorb this seepage.

Other types of medical gauze are treated with a supplemental healing agent such as petroleum jelly or antiseptic at the time of their manufacture. These healing agents can perform several functions. First of all, they can keep the wound moisturized. This in turn may prevent the gauze from adhering to the wound. Finally, some healing agents have antibacterial properties, which can help lower the risk of infection at the site of a wound.

Discussion Comments


@fBoyle-- If the cut is not bleeding any longer, then a sterile gauze roll will work fine. You can just wrap it around to keep it clean. If this type of gauze doesn't stay in place (if the cut is on a joint like the knee), then tube gauze will work better. You can wear it over the cut and it should stay in place.

If there is bleeding or discharge, then also get gauze pads to place directly over the cut. It will absorb all of that and keep the cut dry.

Make sure to see a doctor if things are looking bad though. There could be an infection.


I was biking yesterday and fell when the tire skidded on the soil. I got a bad cut on my knee from a rock. It's all cleaned up now but I'm worried about infection. I couldn't find a large enough band aid to cover it. I will go and buy some medical gauze, but what kind should I get? There are different kinds and I've never used them before. Which would be best for the kind of injury I have?


Sometimes cotton gauze does stick to wounds. This is not a problem with tightly woven gauze, but the loosely woven ones with individual threads do tend to stick to the wound. And so when it's time to change the dressing, the gauze pulls up scabs with it and causes bleeding again.

The best way to avoid it is to get a tight weave medical gauze. Some of them are actually labeled "non-stick" and that's helpful. If the wrong kind has been purchased, this issue can still be resolved with the use of some antibiotic ointment on the wound. This will also prevent gauze from sticking.

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    • Gauze pads may offer wound protection.
      By: Stocksnapper
      Gauze pads may offer wound protection.
    • Gauze is also available in roll form.
      By: Szabolcs Szekeres
      Gauze is also available in roll form.
    • Rolled gauze can be used to hold a medical gauze pad in place over a wound.
      By: casanowe
      Rolled gauze can be used to hold a medical gauze pad in place over a wound.