A woman applying a steri-strip to the arm of another person. Share on Pinterest

Steri-Strips are thin adhesive bandages often used by surgeons as a backup to dissolvable stitches or after regular stitches are removed.

They’re also available for purchase in local pharmacies for self-care. You can use them to help close shallow cuts or wounds, but it’s important to seek medical treatment for severe injuries.

Steri-Strips are also called butterfly stitches or butterfly bandages when they are thin in the middle and have two wide, sticky areas at each end, like the wings of a butterfly. But not all Steri-Strips look like this. The type most commonly used by surgeons are straight, thin strips.

If you’re not sure how to take care of Steri-Strips, or how to apply them or remove them, this article will walk you through all the details you need to know.

Steri-Strips are typically used for cuts or wounds that aren’t too severe, or for minor surgery.

They help seal wounds by pulling the two sides of the skin together without making any contact with the actual wound. This reduces the chance of introducing any bacteria or other substances into the cut.

Steri-Strips are sometimes a better option than regular stitches because they don’t need to be sewn into the skin and can be easily removed when the wound heals.

When considering whether to use Steri-Strips to close a wound, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are the edges of the wound straight? Steri-Strips are best for shallow cuts that have straight, clean edges.
  • Is the bleeding light and manageable? Use a sterile cloth to put pressure on the cut for at least 5 minutes. Don’t use Steri-Strips if the cut is still bleeding after 5 minutes.
  • Is the wound less than a 1/2 inch in length? Steri-Strips aren’t recommended for cuts that are a 1/2 inch or longer.
  • Is it in an area where the skin doesn’t move a lot? Steri-strips may not work well on joints or other areas where it may have trouble staying in place.

Typically, your doctor or surgeon will apply Steri-Strips after surgery or treatment for an injury. But you may need to apply them at home if you can’t get medical care right away.

Steps to applying a Steri-Strip

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and gentle, unscented soap.
  2. Wash out the wound to get rid of dirt or bacteria. Use cool, clean water and gentle, unscented soap.
  3. Pat the area completely dry with a clean cloth or towel.
  4. Use your fingers to gently push the two sides of the wound together as far as you comfortably can.
  5. Put each half of the Steri-Strip over the two sides of the cut so that it holds the wound together. Start with one side, then pull the other half over to help close the wound. Stick the second half of the Steri-Strip on the other side of the wound. Don’t apply it in the same direction as the cut.
  6. Repeat these steps for as many Steri-Strips as you need to completely close the wound. Each Steri-Strip should be about 1/8 inches away from the next one.
  7. Put another bandage along the ends of the Steri-Strips on each side of the wound to help hold down the sticky edges of each strip.

Once a Steri-Strip has been applied to a wound, it’s important to take good care of it.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO make sure the wound and the surrounding skin stays clean.
  • DO make sure the Steri-Strip area is kept dry for at least 24 to 48 hours; be sure to take special care when bathing or showering.
  • DO trim away any edges of the Steri-Strip that come loose. Use a pair of scissors to do this.
  • DO inspect the wound every day to make sure there’s no sign of infection.
  • DON’T pull on the loose ends of a Steri-Strip. This can cause the wound to reopen.
  • DON’T rub or pick at the area, as this could introduce bacteria or open the wound up again.

If a doctor or surgeon applied Steri-Strips to your wound, you can simply wait for the strips fall off when they’re ready.

If you applied Steri-Strips to your own minor wound and it has healed, here’s how to safely remove the strips:

Steps to removing a Steri-Strip

  1. Make a solution consisting of equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Soak the Steri-Strip area in this solution to loosen the adhesive’s grip on your skin.
  3. Gently pull the Steri-Strip off. Don’t pull too hard if it’s not lifting off easily, as this could rip off skin or open the cut again.

Seek immediate medical attention if a wound:

  • won’t stop bleeding after 10 minutes of applying pressure
  • was caused by something unclean or rusty
  • is too deep or long to be covered by Steri-Strips
  • causes intense pain
  • is filled with dirt that you can’t clean out
  • is in a joint you can’t move — this may mean a nerve, muscle, or tendon has been injured

Also be sure to keep a close eye on the wound once a Steri-Strip has been applied. Get medical care right away if you notice the wound:

  • won’t stop bleeding
  • becomes red, swollen, or filled with pus
  • becomes more painful

Steri-Strips are often a good backup or alternative to regular stitches if a wound isn’t too deep or severe.

But, like stitches or other types of wound closures, they need to be applied and removed correctly. You also need to pay careful attention to them while they’re helping a wound to heal.

It’s also important to keep an eye on your wound and to get care if doesn’t stop bleeding, or shows signs of infection.