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Dakin’s Solutions: A Century of Revolutionary Wound Care

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 presented a significant challenge to the medical community: The urgent need for an effective, affordable, accessible, and non-irritating wound management solution. 

During this war-torn period, soldiers’ wounds often became severely infected, leading to life-threatening complications. Unfortunately, the available antiseptic solutions at the time were known to cause irritation and damage to viable tissue. As a result, even survivable wounds were left untreated, leading to countless fatalities that could have been avoided with the right wound care solution. 

In the midst of this growing medical crisis, two individuals stepped forward to address the pressing need for a solution that could effectively combat infection without harming the surrounding tissue. The collaboration between Drs. Alexis Carrel and Henry Dakin, and their development of the “antiseptic utopia,” saved thousands of soldiers during the war—and led to the highly effective sodium hypochlorite solution still used around the world today. 

The history of sodium hypochlorite

Sodium hypochlorite, the key ingredient in Dakin’s wound care solution, has a rich history that spans centuries. In 1789, residents in Javelle, France began using ‌sodium hypochlorite as a lightening solution for bleaching cotton. At the time, it was known as Eau de Javelle, and its medical uses were not yet apparent. 

In the early 1900s, Henry Dakin and his research partner, Maurice Daufresne of Paris, were tasked with the job of finding an antiseptic that could be used to aid wartime medical recovery efforts. They tested over 200 antiseptic solutions, and sodium hypochlorite was one of them. That marks the first time the powerful compound was used for medical purposes. 

While sodium hypochlorite immediately stood out as the most promising antiseptic solution Dakin and Daufresne studied, there was one significant obstacle to overcome. On its own, sodium hypochlorite created skin irritations, due to the formation of free alkali. They knew they needed a buffer that could counteract the irritations without compromising the solution’s powerful germicidal action. 

Over the course of many experiments, the pair settled on a specific combination of sodium hypochlorite combined with boric acid. And the first Dakin’s Solution was born. 

Once the germicidal solution had been perfected, the team was tasked with producing it on a scale large enough to meet the demands of ongoing war efforts. This feat was accomplished through the innovative electrolysis of seawater on a large hospital ship. Not only did this revolutionary process allow for the creation of the sodium hypochlorite solution at scale, it also enabled soldiers to utilize Dakin’s Solution as a disinfectant and deodorant, further highlighting the versatility and efficacy of the product.

Sodium hypochlorite is still utilized today—in a modern form

The sodium hypochlorite solution developed by Dakin and Daufresne during WWI was a significant milestone in wound care. That discovery alone was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of soldiers—and thousands of wounded individuals since. 

Although Dakin’s Solution has stood the test of time, there are notable differences between the wound care solution Henry Dakin initially developed and the variations used in hospitals, wound treatment centers, and homes worldwide today. 

While the original Dakin’s Solution was buffered with boric acid, our modern wound care solutions use sodium bicarbonate and sodium hydroxide to maintain the potency of the treatment without irritating the surrounding tissue. 

Another significant difference is that our modern Dakin’s Solutions are available in four different strengths, with two of them specifically designed to have no inhibition on wound healing. Plus, Dakin’s Wound Cleanser, Wound Cleanser Pro, and Half Strength solutions have a two-year shelf life—so medical professionals and at-home users can benefit from Dakin’s proven-safe solutions for longer. 

Dakin’s SolutionⓇ Full Strength (Sodium Hypochlorite 0.50%) has a one-year shelf life.

Dakin’s Solution is over 100 years in the making, and still going strong 

Today, Century Pharmaceuticals is the only commercial manufacturer of Dakin’s wound care solutions in the United States—underscoring our commitment to quality, accessibility, and simplified wound care. 

To learn more about our cost-effective and safe wound cleansers—and order Dakin’s Solution for your patients or yourself, Get Dakin’s Here. Have questions about our affordable wound care products? Contact our team.

To order Dakin’s for your patients or yourself:

Have questions about our line of wound care products? Contact our team.