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Waterproof bandages actually leak a lot, test finds

When it comes to keeping out water and germs, no waterproof bandage performs perfectly, a new test by Consumer Reports finds.

Out of eight brands of bandages labeled waterproof and one labeled water-resistant, none was water-tight and only two prevented leaking more than 60 percent of the time, the agency reported Tuesday.

Consumer Reports staffers asked 33 panelists to test nine popular brands by wearing each bandage on their fingers for four hours. The panelists washed their hands at least twice and flexed their fingers hourly. At the end of the time, they dipped their bandaged fingers into room-temperature coffee and then checked the pads for coffee stains.

"We needed something that would stain the bandages and food dye would stain people’s fingers," Consumer Reports spokeswoman Linda Zebian explained in an e-mail. "After some brainstorming, they thought of coffee. Then they tried it, and it worked."

Seven of the nine types of bandages tested earned poor ratings for leak protection, allowing coffee to seep through more than 85 percent of the time. Only two brands made strong showings: Nexcare Clear bandages, at a cost of 12 cents a bandage, and Band-Aid Clear/Transparent Water Block Plus, at a cost of 11 cents a bandage.

Nexcare leaked about 25 percent of the time and Band-Aid leaked about 40 percent of the time, the test found.

Other brands performed badly. Curad Flexible Athletic Strip and Rite-Aid Flexible Foam were especially likely to form gaps along the edges of the bandage by the end of the four-hour test, Consumer Reports said in a release.

Because none of the bandages was water-tight, medical experts recommend replacing bandages when they get wet. All wounds should be washed with soap and water and bandages should be changed daily or when soiled. More information about the bandage test is available in the November issue of Consumer Reports or online at