Cleaning your Skin Before your Surgery | Fox Chase Cancer Center (2023)

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Our skin has many types of germs or bacteria on it. Washing with soap and water helps remove them. Before surgery, it is important that you take an extra step to help get rid of germs. This lowers the risk of infection at the site of your surgery.
Please follow these steps to make sure your skin is as germ-free as possible.

Step 1: What You Need To Do

  • You will need to shower with a special soap called Hibiclens® 4%, also called chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG).
  • We will give you a bottle of Hibiclens® 4%, or you can buy it at most large drugstores, such as CVS®, Rite Aid® and Walgreens®. Please call your drugstore to make sure they have it in stock.

Step 2: Facts and Warnings about Hibiclens®

  • Read the “Drug Facts” on the bottle, but follow the skin cleaning directions on this sheet.
  • Do not use Hibiclens®if you are allergic to chlorhexidine gluconate or any other ingredients in it.
  • If you are allergic, or cannot wash with it for any other reason, use an anti-bacterial soap like Dial®instead.
  • Do not take a bath with Hibiclens®.
  • Do not use Hibiclens®on the head or face. Keep it out of your eyes, ears and mouth.
  • Do not use Hibiclens®in the genital area.
  • Do not swallow Hibiclens®.

Step 3: Before Using Hibiclens®

If there is time, start washing with Hibiclens® three days before your surgery. Wash in the shower each night using these instructions:

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  • You may take a shower with regular soap before using Hibiclens®.
  • Wash your hair with your normal shampoo, and rinse it well. Rinse any leftover shampoo from your skin.
  • Wash your face and genital (private) areas with regular soap and water only.
  • Rinse your body very well with warm water.
  • Turn off the water so you won’t rinse the Hibiclens® off too soon.

Step 4: How to UseHibiclens®

Remember: Follow these washing instructions each day for three days (if there is time) before your surgery.

  • Use one teaspoon (one capful) of Hibiclens® for each part of your body listed below:
  • Neck and chest
  • Legs and feet
  • Hands and arms
  • Back and rear
  • Stomach
  • Put Hibiclens®on your skin and rub it in gently for five minutes with a washcloth.
  • Turn the water back on and rinse very well with warm water.
  • Do not use your regular soap after using and rinsing Hibiclens®.
  • Pat yourself dry with a clean towel.
  • Do not use lotion, powders or perfumes on the areas cleaned with Hibiclens®.
  • Put on clean clothes.

If you have questions about washing with Hibiclens®before your surgery, call:

  • Pre-Admission Testing: 215-728-2566
    Monday–Friday, 7am–5pm
  • Main Operator: 215-728-6900
    Ask to speak with the Nursing Supervisor.
    After hours, weekends and holidays


What do they use to clean your skin before surgery? ›

IMPORTANT: You will need to shower with a special soap called chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG). A common brand name for this soap is Hibiclens, but any brand is acceptable. The soap comes in a liquid form and can be purchased at most pharmacies, or from the hospital's gift shop.

Do you wash your whole body with Hibiclens before surgery? ›

Skin must be prepped (washed) again at home on the morning of surgery. Use half of the "Hibiclens" bottle each time you shower. In the shower, wet skin and with a freshly clean wash cloth, apply cleansing solution liberally. Cover the entire body from the neck down.

Do I have to wash my hair with antibacterial soap before surgery? ›

Prevention of surgical wound infection is important to your recovery. One of the ways you can help prevent infection is by bathing/showering with an antimicrobial soap before your surgery. Bottles of antimicrobial soap (Hibiclens) soap should be purchased at your local pharmacy and does not require a prescription.

How many times should I wash with Hibiclens before surgery? ›

You will need to shower the night before and the morning of your surgery. Use half of the Hibiclens soap in your evening shower and the other half in your morning shower.

How do I prepare my skin for surgery? ›

Do not apply lotions, moisturizer, or makeup after prepping your skin. Do not shower or wash after prepping your skin. Be sure to wear clean pajamas to bed and sleep on clean sheets. On the morning of surgery, do not shower or bathe.

Do surgeons sterilize human skin prior to surgery? ›

Patients' skin at the operation site is routinely cleansed with antiseptic solutions in the operating theatre before surgical incisions are made. This skin cleansing with an antiseptic aims to reduce the microorganisms present on the skin and therefore reduce the risk that the surgical wound will become infected.


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