Pepper spray, a widely used self-defense tool, contains powerful chemical irritants that can cause temporary discomfort and distress. Whether you accidentally come into contact with pepper spray or need to assist someone who has been affected, knowing how to properly decontaminate and alleviate the effects of pepper spray is essential. In this article, we explore practical steps for safely getting rid of pepper spray and providing relief.

Understanding Pepper Spray Effects

Pepper spray contains active compounds derived from chili peppers. When sprayed, it causes an intense burning sensation, involuntary eye closure, and respiratory discomfort. The effects can be particularly distressing, but they are temporary and typically subside within hours.

Immediate Steps for Decontamination

If you or someone else has been exposed to pepper spray, follow these steps for immediate decontamination:

  1. Move to Fresh Air: If possible, move to an area with fresh air to reduce exposure to the irritants.
  2. Keep Eyes Open: While it may be uncomfortable, try to keep your eyes open to help flush out the irritants.
  3. Blink Frequently: Blinking helps distribute tears, which can aid in flushing out the pepper spray.
  4. Avoid Touching Affected Areas: Refrain from touching your face, as this can spread the irritants to other areas.
  5. Remove Contaminated Clothing: If pepper spray has come into contact with clothing, remove it carefully to prevent further exposure.

Water and Soap Solution

One effective method to alleviate the effects of pepper spray is to wash the affected areas with a water and soap solution. Follow these steps:

  1. Flush with Water: Use cool water to flush the affected areas, such as the face and skin.
  2. Gently Cleanse: Gently cleanse the skin with a mild soap to help remove the residual pepper spray residue.
  3. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse the skin thoroughly with water to ensure all traces of the irritant are removed.

Milk or Dairy Products

Milk and dairy products can provide relief from the burning sensation caused by pepper spray. Here's how to use them:

  1. Milk or Dairy Soak: Soak a cloth or cotton pads in cold milk or dairy products like yogurt or sour cream.
  2. Apply to Affected Areas: Gently apply the soaked cloth or pads to the affected skin. The cool temperature and fat content in dairy can help neutralize the irritants.

Oils and Barrier Creams

Certain oils and barrier creams can create a protective layer that helps alleviate discomfort:

  1. Vegetable Oil or Olive Oil: Apply a small amount of vegetable oil or olive oil to the affected areas. These oils can help dissolve the capsaicin, the active component in pepper spray.
  2. Barrier Creams: Barrier creams, such as petroleum jelly or diaper rash cream, can provide a protective barrier on the skin and reduce the intensity of the burning sensation.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

When dealing with pepper spray exposure, it's important to avoid these mistakes:

  • Rubbing the Eyes: Rubbing the eyes can worsen the irritation. Instead, gently rinse with water.
  • Using Hot Water: Avoid using hot water, as it can intensify the effects of pepper spray. Stick to cool or room temperature water.
  • Applying Pressure: Applying pressure to the affected areas can release more irritants. Instead, focus on gentle rinsing.

Seeking Medical Attention

In severe cases or if symptoms persist, seek medical attention. Medical professionals can provide appropriate care and assess any potential complications.


While pepper spray can cause discomfort, following proper decontamination steps can help alleviate its effects. Quick and effective response is key to minimizing the discomfort and allowing the body to naturally recover. By knowing how to properly decontaminate and provide relief, you can effectively manage the aftermath of pepper spray exposure and ensure a swift recovery.