Cochrane researchers have found that using boiled or drinkable tap water to clean wounds will not increase the rate of infection.
However, there is no evidence that it lowers infection rates or increases healing rate over leaving the wound alone.
Many studies show that using chemical-containing antiseptic might slow wound healing.
Many people suggest saline (salt solution) instead, but others believe that this will wash away growth promoters and infection-fighting white blood cells.
Some recommend using drinkable tap water, or boiled water as an alternative to saline.
The researchers considered data from eleven trials that compared rates of infection and healing in wounds when treated with various cleansing regimes.
They found that in adults, wounds cleansed with tap water had significantly fewer infections than those cleansed with saline.
No difference was found between wounds cleansed with tap water and those that received no cleaning.
In a case where a broken bone had punctured the skin, there was no significant difference between cleansing with saline, distilled water or boiled water.
"The decision to use tap water to cleanse wounds should take into account the quality of water, nature of wounds and the patient's general condition," said lead author Ritin Fernandez who works in the Centre for Applied Nursing Research in Liverpool BC, Australia.
The study appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library.