I work with my hands a lot, and often with sharp tools ranging from flint to chainsaws. I still have all of my fingers and toes, but I nick myself frequently, and typically it’s in a situation that makes life difficult for plasters. Like the first day of camp, or on a beach, or on the first day of camp on a beach.

These are examples of the kit I keep to hand for when I accidentally cut myself.

As I’ve noted earlier with Medicine Tins, I do like my kits to have a degree of personality to them, so the ‘John Bull Mend-A-Tear’ kit is my very favourite.

Cuts & Grazes Tins
My ‘John Bull Mend-A-Tear’ kit (top) and my Toolbox kit (bottom)

Blister Pads

Hand tools and handles can produce blisters if used rigorously for the first time. Work may also involve switching to infrequently-used or otherwise ill-fitting footwear ranging from stiff boots to wobbly wellies. I’m prepared for that.


Colour for safety reasons, patterns for child emergencies (e.g. a boo-boo on a finger).

Plasters are something you can buy very cheaply from supermarkets and stores with the word ‘pound’ or ‘dollar’ in their name, though your mileage will vary. I have sensitive skin and work to get on with, so plasters that are only good in theory are no good to me. I always road-test my plasters for compatibility, adhesion and longevity by wearing one for a day, or for as long as it will last. I also have big hands and by extension large fingers, so even a simple wraparound operation for me usually involves one small plaster and one large; plasters do not stick to the skin for long if at all; you need a good amount of coverage for the area where the plaster is sticking to itself. So I pack accordingly.

Benzalkonium chloride*

(*this alternative exists because of the mercury content in Merbromin)

For small cuts and minor grazes, I dress with an antiseptic solution only. No plaster.

Over the years I’ve found that Mercurochrome is the best option for treating and covering small wounds. It has protective and antibacterial properties long after application, keeping out all sorts of nasties wanting to get into your wound, and eradicating an impressive degree of bacterial nasties that are already in there. It also greatly reduces stinging in cuts where a lot of nerve endings are involved. This stuff is magnificent for sealing cuts in and around fingernails where plasters would suffer to hang on and keep atmosphere at bay. It’s also invaluable in environments like beaches where plasters are as useful as a chocolate teapot.

I’ve also noticed that small cuts treated this way seal and heal faster than plaster; I don’t recommend it as the sole treatment when infection has already set in, but I have applied this too late to an infected wound already swelling red and seen it settle down and heal normally within days.

Use of Mercurochrome is a personal choice I’ve made that I do not impose on others, that’s why the alternative is there if I am in the presence of someone who cuts themselves and they have no access to kit of their own.

(You would be surprised how many people go outside their homes giving NO thought to what they might do if they suddenly spring a leak.)

You should only apply these solutions once bleeding has stopped. Young people or those with deeper cuts should stop what they are doing, apply pressure to the wound, seek immediate first aid in the form of a decent cleansing and dressing, and then rest for a little bit while they think very carefully about not accidentally cutting themselves again.

I store and dispense/apply Mercurochrome from the same small bottle with a ‘dropper’ lid (easily obtainable from ebay). Because I only ever use it on small cuts, it’s more than enough to apply as a line of highly visible dye from the end of the dropper. I can gently coax more Mercurochrome out with the dropper bulb if necessary, or even pump my dropper empty back into the bottle if I only need a trace of Mercurochrome to dot a light graze or seal a single puncture.

Benzalkonium chloride is stored in a simple plastic 5ml vial with a screw top (also easily obtainable from ebay) and applied lightly with a cotton bud. Unlike Mercurochrome, it will elevate the sensitivity of your nerve endings upon application to a noticeable degree, resulting in a short-term stinging sensation. It will pass and you will cope. No-one’s ever died on me. I offered you the Mercurochrome and you said ‘no’. (etc.)

Antiseptic Hand Moisturiser

Vaseline Intensive Care and Neutrogena both produce a series of quality alternatives, and I do not recommend skimping on this option. A quality hand cream should only require a dab to provide soothing relief to an entire hand that has been lightly grazed, traumatised by ‘rope burn’, or repeatedly punctured by thorns, just to give a few examples. A 5ml vial will require cotton buds to scoop. 10ml squeeze tubes are also widely available, but too bulky for my tastes; use a small syringe to fill.


Mini eyebrow tweezers: tiny, but accurate and sturdy.

Cotton Buds / Cotton Pads

You can use textured/stitched cotton make-up removal pads to clean up messy wounds and stem bleeding, but I stock regular ones because I might need them to start a fire. Usually, if I ever need one of these to stem bleeding, I am leaking enough fluid for me to not have to worry about bits of cotton sticking to my skin. Given that my kits exist to apply an antiseptic seal and keep a wound out of trouble while a job is finished or proper first aid can be administered (if necessary), I’m pretty lax about sterility and just leave cotton components loose in my tins, keeping it fresh like hay.