Reduced Waste, Partially Reusable Bandage for First-Aid

I have avoided the first-aid Band-Aid type bandages for years. Primarily because I am allergic to the adhesive. Also, if I didn’t really *need* one, I wanted to avoid the single use product.

Since I’m talking about first-aid in this post I am going to reiterate here what is in my disclosure statement. I am NOT a doctor and everything written here is my own opinion based on my personal research and experiences. Use your own judgement and consult your doctor with questions.

Note: I strongly believe that health and medical safety is important, and if using a single use bandage product was necessary to protect someone’s health I absolutely would without question.

I actually came up with this this reduced waste, partially reusable first-aid bandage after using a medically necessary bandage…and getting contact dermatitis from the adhesive.

"Reduced Waste, Partially Reusable Bandage for First-Aid" text over photo of a self-adhesive bandage with gauze

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The idea for a reusable bandage

After needing medical tape applied to my skin, which ultimately caused contact dermatitis (I was really glad I had this tea tree oil & glycerine remedy, because this was a particularly itchy case of it!), I was set on finding an alternative to adhesives on my skin. I remembered that once when I was a child, I saw a wrap bandage that was self-adhesive, rather than requiring those little metal clips to hold the end in place. I thought that maybe this type of self-adhesive bandage could replace the adhesive plastic or fabric strips of a first-aid bandage.

photo showing rectangular patch of contact dermatitis from medical tape
contact dermatitis from medical tape

I set off to a local drug store, and found 2 inch wide “self-grip athletic tape/bandage”. I was picturing something more like 3/4″ or 1″ wide, but I could work with this! I purchased the package took it home to start experimenting.

When I opened the package, I immediately noticed it smelled a little minty, like Bengay. Really weird, but didn’t bother me. I did not think to check out on regularly, but when I picked up the reusable bandage tape several weeks later almost all of the smell had dissipated.

I unrolled a section several feet long and carefully cut it in half lengthwise, so I had two-1 inch wide strips. These will be easier for me to use as bandages. I pre-cut some to length to wrap around fingers, hand, and arm. I left the rest on the roll to cut to length as needed.

self-adhesive bandage cut into 1" wide strips for first aid bandages, with bandage wrapped around thumb and another strip of self-adhesive bandage with gauze in the background

How do I use the Reduced Waste, Partially Reusable First-Aid Bandage?

I use the self-adhesive bandage in combination with cotton gauze and a 9:1 solution of fractionated coconut oil and tea tree oil or my tea tree oil stick.

If there is a wound to clean, I will properly clean that first. I use my bandage to cover wounds or to remind myself of an injury so I don’t keep re-injuring it.

The tea tree oil solution (either liquid, diluted with the coconut oil, or in solid form in my tea tree oil stick) is my antibacterial/antiviral/antifungal “cleaner” and I use that if there is an open wound to try to keep it clean.

The gauze is to provide a soft, non-sticky surface against the injured or tender skin. For most minor injuries I don’t worry about this being sterile because I have already applied tea tree oil (if there was a wound). I like 100% cotton because it is compostable, and if there is no blood on the gauze (or just a tiny drop), that is how I dispose of the gauze.

And of course, the self-adhesive bandage holds the gauze in place. I have found it works best to wrap and gently stretch the bandage to apply the desired amount of pressure along most of the length of the bandage, but then for the last 1-2″, do not stretch, just place over a section of the already wrapped bandage and press down. This will allow the bandage to stick best to itself.

roll of self-adhesive bandage, stack of gauze, 1" wide strip of bandage with folded gauze, and bandage wrapped around thumb

What do I do with the bandage when I am done using it?

Once I am done using the bandage, there are 2 parts to deal with: the self-adhesive bandage, and the gauze.

For the gauze, If I’m certain the gauze is 100% cotton, and if it is clean or only very lightly soiled, I put it in my backyard compost. If I had commercial compost facilities available (the kind that accepts meat scraps and bones), I would compost the 100% cotton gauze in the commercial facilities, even if it was more heavily soiled. If the gauze is not 100% cotton or if I am unsure, I dispose of it in the trash.

For the self-adhesive reusable bandage, I save it to reuse! If I only used it for a short time and it is clean, I just roll it up and store it with my other reusable bandages. If I wore the bandage longer, sweat when using it, got it dirty, or just think it might not be clean, I wash it before putting it away. To wash, I use my hands to rub castile soap and cool water into the bandage along the entire length. Then I rinse with cool water and pat dry with a towel. I hang to air dry completely, and once dry, loosely roll up and store with my other reusable bandage products. Eventually I expect that the bandage may lost its self-adhesiveness and will have to be disposed of in the trash. But so far I have used the same bandage at least 6 times and it does not seem to be any less sticky than the never-used portion.

1" wide strip of self-adhesive bandage with folded piece of gauze

Why I love this bandage

  • No adhesives = no contact dermatitis for me
  • The self-adhesive bandage will stretch a little – really handy when used over joints (I am forever injuring my fingers)
  • The bandage is breathable
  • The self-adhesive bandage won’t fall off it it gets wet
  • The bandage is reusable – except the gauze
  • The gauze part is compostable (if 100% cotton gauze is used)
  • Self-adhesive bandage comes in different colors – my store had beige, black, bright pink, and neon green. There are fun color options to for kids (and adults!)
roll of self-adhesive bandage, stack of gauze, reusable bandage with gauze pad folded on top

Some notes about the self-adhesive bandage

  • This bandage contains natural rubber LATEX so it is not suitable for people with latex allergies.
  • This specific bandage that I purchased is fairly thick. I need scissors to cut it, but it does hold up well to multiple uses and (hand) washings.
  • There are many self-adhesive bandage options available on Amazon, including 1″ wide varieties. I considered many, but have not found any yet that I think will be better than what I currently have. Several say they are very thin, can be torn by hand, etc., and I don’t think those will be reusable.

Have you ever tried an alternative to the standard Band-Aid? Please share your experiences, or any questions or comments, in the comments below!