A simple trick for keeping Band-Aids and other adhesive bandages on, even if you're active and/or sweating!

Keeping Band-Aids On

Almost as soon as we moved aboard Que Tal, Dave and I had problems keeping any sort of adhesive bandage on.  Band-Aids, butterflies, Steri-Strips, mole skin, and adhesive tape just came off in a matter of minutes (if we were lucky, hours).  We had to come up with a solution!

A simple trick for keeping Band-Aids and other adhesive bandages on, even if you're active and/or sweating!One evening at a dock party, I was asking a more experienced cruiser if they knew of any way to keep Band-Aids on, and the woman behind me overheard my question and gave me the answer I was seeking:  tincture of benzoin!

She was an anesthesiologist and told me that when doctors use butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips in place of stitches, they always swab the skin where they want the bandage to stick with tincture of benzoin.  While I don’t remember her name — her boat was Long Tall Sally — she even had an extra bottle that she was willing to give us.

Tincture of benzoin works wonders.  I have no idea why it’s not widely known, but I’m doing my part to spread the word.  Seems to me that it should be in everyone’s first aid kit — shore dwellers as well as boaters!

It’s simple to use.  I found a Q-Tip to be the best applicator if the bottle doesn’t come with one, and just dipped it in the bottle then wiped it where the bandage should stick.  Let it dry just a few seconds — about as long as it takes to pick up the Band-Aid and take it out of its wrapper — and then put the bandage on.

Now, before putting the cap back on, wipe the threads well.  If you leave some of the liquid on the threads, it will do just as good a job of keeping the cap on as you want it to do with the Band-Aid.  I’ve had to use pliers to get the cap off when I neglected this step!  (UPDATE:  A reader left this tip in the comments:  put a tiny bit of Vaseline on the bottle threads and it won’t stick.)

A bottle will last for several years — I think we had that original bottle for 7 years!  And then, I only replaced it because I couldn’t get all the dried gunk off the threads and it was really hard to open the bottle.

While bandages stick much better, it’s not like you’re applying them with the medical equivalent of 5200 — it won’t be a problem to get them off when you need to.  I’ve also learned that in general, the “flexible fabric” bandages tend to stick better than the “plasticky” ones, although the tincture of benzoin helps them considerably.

Many U.S. pharmacies carry tincture of benzoin, but you often have to ask for it.  We never could find it in Mexico or Central America.  We now live in a small rural town in the US, and two of four pharmacies in town carry it.

NOTE:  Tincture of benzoin (also called compound tincture of benzoin) is NOT the same thing as Betadine™, tincture of iodine or other antiseptics.

In researching this article, I discovered that REI now sells tincture of benzoin specifically as an “adhesive for bandages” (link to REI’s tincture of benzoin).  Not only is theirs a little pricy, but it also has a flip-top lid (as do some for sale elsewhere).  I HATE those on a boat as they motion of the boat always seems to pop them open — leaving a big mess and nothing in the bottle when you need it.  Look for a screw-on cap instead.

You can also buy tincture of benzoin already on swabs and packed in individual foil pouches.  I have not used these, but they seem like they’d be handy for taking with you on hikes, and you wouldn’t have to worry that you won’t be able to open the bottle, but they are pricier per use than a bottle.  Even in foil pouches, it’s a good idea to store them in a Ziploc bag as they can dry out.

If you can’t get tincture of benzoin locally — or just don’t want to deal with running from one pharmacy to another — the best source I’ve found is Amazon:

They also sell tincture of benzoin as a spray, but I’m afraid that the spray nozzle would quickly clog.  Admittedly, I haven’t tried using a spray bottle, so it may be okay.

Here’s hoping you won’t need Band-Aids too often . . . but if you do, at least you’ll know how to keep them on!

A simple trick for keeping Band-Aids and other adhesive bandages on, even if you're active and/or sweating!

I'd like to know about...

Explore more

Want weekly tidbits of cruising information? Sign up for The Boat Galley's free weekly newsletter. You'll get the newest articles and podcasts as well as a few relevant older articles that you may have missed.

Do you find The Boat Galley useful? You can support the site when you buy from Amazon by using the links on this site or clicking below. No extra cost for you!

68 Comments
  • Jan
    Posted at 19 August 2011 Reply

    We add some Johnson & Johnson Waterproof First Aid Tape over our bandaid to keep it in place. It works great (has to be the waterproof version though) but we’ll try the tincture of benzoin! Thanks for the tip! Cheers! Jan

  • Waterwoman
    Posted at 22 August 2011 Reply

    Thanks for the tip Carolyn, I will look for it at my local drugstores.

  • Diane Dashevsky
    Posted at 23 August 2011 Reply

    You can also use a small piece of “Vet Wrap”. Just wrap it around a small piece of gauze pad or right over a bandaid…it sticks to itself as it is stretched…stays on in water…ALL of my medicine cabinets have a roll both at home and on the boat. You can get your Vet to get you a larger roll or purchase it in a pet specialty store. 3M makes the ones the Vet uses and Brampton makes the smaller rolls you can get in retail stores. Comes in a variety of colors and prints.

  • Andrea Dollins on Facebook
    Posted at 17 January 2012 Reply

    Great info!!..never even heard of this stuff..will be getting some!..thanks!!

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 17 January 2012 Reply

    Almost no one has . . . and it’s one of the most useful things ANYWHERE — including a boat!

  • Patrick House
    Posted at 17 January 2012 Reply

    I found out by experience that tincture of benzoin also is an excellent cure for a certain type of foot fungus that defies the usual treatments. While not classic athletes foot, it is odiferous. Seems it cuts off the air the aerobic bacteria need to thrive. Just coating the bottom of the foot and/or between the toes for about a week does the trick. After treating my feet this way, I haven’t had it come back for years.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 17 January 2012 Reply

      Interesting . . . I knew it was also used for bed sores, too.

      -Carolyn

  • Relinda Ted Broom on Facebook
    Posted at 17 January 2012 Reply

    just got a box of the swabs off Amazon (along with several other first aid supplies) the stuff is also good for covering cancer sores ect. Learned about it years ago hanging out in E.R.s..

  • Diane Dashevsky
    Posted at 06 February 2012 Reply

    PS to the Vet Wrap: If you are unlucky enough to get one of those OMG injuries (ie a line or sheet ripping off a big chunk of skin from your finger), the most recent medical advise is to use an antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin), cover it and KEEP IT MOIST. The moisture helps the healing and skin regeneration process. When this happened to me, I put Neosporin on the injury, covered it with a small gauze pad, then held it in place with a small piece of Pet Wrap (same as VetWrap) The Pet Wrap held the bandage on – keeping it clean – but allowed moisture in – since it is not waterproof. Finger healed well and I didn’t need a dr or hospital visit! If your injury is severe enough to require medical attention, this is a good way to “self treat” until you can get to medical services.

  • Jim Cooke
    Posted at 16 June 2012 Reply

    The tape works with varying degrees of suitability, depending on the area of the body, in my experience. The benzoin just works! Great post, and I am also a paid anesthesiologist!
    The wrap is also known as Co-Ban.

  • Linda Miller
    Posted at 17 September 2013 Reply

    I could have used this last week on the boat. Thank you!

  • Dan Thomas
    Posted at 17 September 2013 Reply

    We use this in the EMS field to keep cardiac electrodes on sweaty / clammy skin. Keeping those electrodes on can be the difference between life and death. So yes it works. You can also wipe the area with rubbing alcohol to dry it. Also don’t buy cheap bandaids, they just don’t stick as well due to less sticky glue used.

  • Merrie Bergmann
    Posted at 21 February 2014 Reply

    Great information — thank you!

  • macaire
    Posted at 21 February 2014 Reply

    It is best if you let the benzoin air dry until it is tacky to the touch then apply your bandage. The “vet wrap” for humans is called Coban. Coban is a self adherent, waterproof roll sold in most drug stores.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 21 February 2014 Reply

      By the time I get the Band-Aid out of it’s wrapper, the benzoin has dried to the tacky point. I’ve just recently seen Coban in pharmacies, and at least in mine, it’s right by the other bandages.

  • Brenda Daum
    Posted at 22 February 2014 Reply

    Sheryl if you or anyone needs or wants pharmacy/staying healthy aboard/tropic mosquito born disease prevention questions answered I humbly am happy to assist in any way I legally can! I’m more than happy to help a friend and sailor!

  • Carolyn Shearlock
    Posted at 22 February 2014 Reply

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Craig Stewart
    Posted at 22 February 2014 Reply

    great tip…thanks

  • Craig Stewart
    Posted at 22 February 2014 Reply

    I work on the J&J Band-Aid business as one of my clients 🙂

  • Elisabeth Irish Stephenson
    Posted at 22 February 2014 Reply

    buy COBAN

  • Carolyn Shearlock
    Posted at 22 February 2014 Reply

    A reader sent me an email with the following:

    Hi Carolyn, I just read your article on “Keeping Band-Aids on” and I can’t wait to try some of this Benzoin Tincture for myself. I’ve got a suggestion about the sticky cap problem. I’m a contractor and have worked with a lot of cans of glue. After years of storage, I can open a used can of glue with two fingers and still find the glue liquid. After opening a new can of glue, I apply a little plumber’s grease (Vaseline) on the threads of the can. This prevents the glue from sticking to the metal and seals the can at the same time. As for the Benzoin stuff, I think Vaseline or some greasy antiseptic ointment would do the same to prevent seizure of the cap.

  • Michael Moen
    Posted at 25 February 2014 Reply

    Surgeons have been using Benzoin for years. My favorite application was after a Cesarean when I’d close the skin with sub-cuticular nylon, apply Benzoin and steri-strips, and tie the ends of the nylon together in a loop. After a couple days, if the wound looked ok, I’d snip the nylon near the skin and pull it out one side. The natural cutaneous nerve fiber injury made the incision numb already, and patients were amazed that I was correct, “This won’t hurt a bit.”

  • TT
    Posted at 11 March 2014 Reply

    When In Mexico, ask for “Tintura de Benjui”. Its the same thing.

  • Susan Parker
    Posted at 05 June 2014 Reply

    Once you purchase Benzoin, try a small dab on your skin. My husband had a severe allergic reaction and ended up at the dermatologist.

    • Alex
      Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

      I agree! Better to find out early on healthy skin than later on an already injured area. I did not know what it was, but this is probably it, my husband had a terrible reaction to a bandage of steri-strips and the clear second skin layer, that had been put on with “glue”. Mystery solved now, I did not know what it was, and this had to be it. It was terrible itchy red and swollen and we had to get it off the next day and lots of hydrocortisone. Plus finding another way to cover his incision with it inflamed. I will get some for myself and company though. But definitely test first.

  • Erica
    Posted at 13 August 2014 Reply

    Can someone tell me how it works? Is it super sticky? Is it also an antiseptic?
    Thanks

  • Love Sail Social Network And Online Dating
    Posted at 13 August 2014 Reply

    Great tip, going to try this.

  • catherine cornish
    Posted at 13 August 2014 Reply

    Good timing. My husband had a catfish barb stuck in his palm. 1 tetanus shot, 3 shots antibiotics, oral antibiotics for 10 days and topical antibiotic on the wound (which needs a band aid) 10 days we have tried to keep the wound covered. Even the super strong flexible durable strength bandaids won’t stay on completely. He goes around with it flapping over the wound. Top tip for catfish barbs…..soak wound in warm fresh water (add betadine if u have it) for 90 mins. Hotter the better to draw out toxins. Gives relief to the injured one. Works for sea urchins too.

  • Claudia Smyth Gilpin
    Posted at 13 August 2014 Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful article & solution. Both on boRd & ashore!

  • Lucie Gagne
    Posted at 13 August 2014 Reply

    Thanks!

  • Kenneth Arnold
    Posted at 13 August 2014 Reply

    “Water Block Plus” (brand name) band aids!! they stay ON!! 🙂

  • Cyndy Carter
    Posted at 14 August 2014 Reply

    if you can find it *Compound* tinc of benzoin works better. Just don’t get it on the cut, burn, blister. It burns like fire and when you take the bandaid off it rips the cut back open. Another great use is to put it on a blister. Forms a callous that lasts for years. (lessons learned in the Army) If you can stand the pain, you can put it on a blister that has already popped. I also put it on intact skin once a day for several days *before* I know I am going to do something that will cause a blister. I did this on my feet to get them toughened up before a 14 mile hike in new boots when I had no time to break in the boots – not a single blister. In the Army when I was young and tough, we would use a syringe to empty out a blister and then inject benzoin into the blister. We called it “hell-fire” and I saw grown men cry but it worked. Next day, no more blister. Another thing to use it for is to hold Steri-strips on when you use them instead of stitches.

  • Beverly Severinghaus
    Posted at 14 August 2014 Reply

    Right on target Cyndy!

  • Susan Parker
    Posted at 14 August 2014 Reply

    My husband’s glasses kept sliding down his nose so I thought we’d give this stuff a try. As it turned out, he is is allergic and ended up at the dermatologist’s office. So, I suggest you try this on a very small area to see if you have reaction.

  • Lee Durrell
    Posted at 16 November 2014 Reply

    So, will this stuff work all day long to keep a band aid on someone who has problems with excessive sweating? (Embarrassing, but I still need to use band aids without them sliding off!)

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 16 November 2014 Reply

      I’d think so. I sweat a lot, swim and more and they stay on.

  • Lee Durrell
    Posted at 16 November 2014 Reply

    Awesome… I think I’m going to buy some and give it a shot. It seems like it would be a whole lot easier for me to do that than the whole gauze, roll, and tape routine…

  • Joyce Neifeld
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    Hey Desiree Lerro ever heard of this ?

  • Chrystal Lakeway Henthorne
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    I ordered from Amazon….thanks this is timely information with all the winterizing we are doing to 2 boats.

  • Alexandra Bentley
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    Epoxy or 5200 are the duct tape of the sea. Lol

  • Anne Ellingsen
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    Going to give it a whirl

  • Linda L Finney-Blazsek
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    Going to get some and put in our first aid kit on our sailboat and in our home too!

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    This was helpful.

  • Sheila Seward Gilstrap
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    Getting some to put in my kayak hatch!

  • Lucie Gagne
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    While I was home in Canada I checked every pharmacy ( drug store) and no one had heard of it…I will check Amazon.

  • Mary Camryka
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    Thanks for sharing

  • Lisa
    Posted at 21 January 2015 Reply

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I have been struggling for years trying to keep band aids on. I have been dealing with “boils” and it is NOT fun. I have tried waterproof band aids for my underarms to no avail. Even when I have gone to the Doctors about my situation….they have no idea what I could try to keep the band aids on?!?!?! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! I had to go to Amazon to purchase. I did a test to make sure I wasn’t allergic and no problems. I used for the first time yesterday. The band aids were much more secured and held all day until I put fresh ones on. I also had no problems with the band aids coming off. I am so happy and now perhaps I will get some relief because the band aids are secured and doing their job. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! I will let other’s know and I will now keep this in my first aid kit. Have a Great Day!!! Happy Sailing!!!!

  • Amy
    Posted at 21 May 2015 Reply

    How long is this supposed to help the band aid stay on?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 22 May 2015 Reply

      I’ve had a Band-Aid stay on up to a week with it — usually I’m changing it anyway before then, but a few times I’ve gone that long.

  • Take to the sea
    Posted at 07 January 2016 Reply

    So are you suggesting that it’s not good practice to just wrap the band-aid with several layers of electrical tape?

  • Susan Lynn
    Posted at 07 January 2016 Reply

    Carolyn, You come up with the most useful info. Thank You so much. (And hello to our little Paz.)

  • Sussie
    Posted at 07 January 2016 Reply

    Model building trick used to use back in the day . . . if you add baking soda to super glue it has an immediate chemical reaction and hardens. I use it often on the tips of my fingers where they crack. Can smooth the edge with a file and cover so I don’t catch the edge. Cant recall the scientific name but super glue os also an antistetic; i pick up multiple tubes at the dollar store. Next time at pharmacy definitely adding your TofB to my list! Thanks for sharing!

  • Meri Virtanen Faulkner
    Posted at 07 January 2016 Reply

    We just bought some Nexcare waterproof bandages (a 3M product) and we’re shocked how well they stay on – even in the tropics. I wish I had read your post years ago about the benzoin tincture.

  • Glenda Neild
    Posted at 07 January 2016 Reply

    Most surgical nurses would know this. It is used for exactly that reason, helps stick the bandaid style plasters on.

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 22 September 2016 Reply

    I keep forgetting to get that stuff!

  • Christine Dumaine Springfield
    Posted at 23 September 2016 Reply

    As a paramedic we did not carry this on the truck due to the likelihood of allergic responses. To make sure electrodes stuck on a bad heart patient I would use deodorant in a pinch. Wipe or spray it on and then wipe to “dry” the area. Then add the sticky stuff. Worked on the truck. I’m not allergic to benzoin and do keep it on the boat though.

    • Christine Dumaine Springfield
      Posted at 23 September 2016 Reply

      Coband is awesome. Brand name stuff is much better than generic.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 23 September 2016 Reply

      Thanks for the info. I’ve heard of a few people being allergic, but didn’t realize that it was very widespread. So I guess “test it” is the way to go!

  • David Lake
    Posted at 23 September 2016 Reply

    duct tape!!!!!

  • Nicolas Simon
    Posted at 23 September 2016 Reply

    Susan Shaw Simon

  • Dave Skolnick
    Posted at 23 September 2016 Reply

    Heat shrink. <- this is a joke. Don't do it.

  • Gwendolyn
    Posted at 23 September 2016 Reply

    Thank you, Carolyn! DH (dear husband) has the hardest time keeping on a band aid. I buy the most water proof style I can find and will add T of B to the list 🙂

Post A Comment