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TCP is a mild antiseptic liquid for home use. The name is an abbreviation of the original active ingredient, Trichlorophenylmethyliodsalycil; it's easy to see why a slightly catchier acronym was used for marketing the product!
It was first produced way back in 1918, after over 100 years to establish itself as a reliable and effective product it's understandable that it is now indispensible in many household medicine cabinets. In the 1950's the Trichlorophenylmethyliodsalycil was replaced by a dilute solution of phenol and halogenated phenols. For those of us who are a bit rusty on our chemistry, phenols are chemical compounds that often occur naturally in plants, but most of those used for medicinal and industrial purposes are synthetic. One of the simplest groups of phenols is benzendiols, because they have germicidal properties they are frequently used in formulating disinfectants. There is currently some debate around whether Benzene derivatives are carcinogenic, so this may be of concern to some people. At present any adverse impact of high levels of these phenols on humans has not been conclusively proved or disproved. My personal view is that such a small, dilute, amount of this compound is used in products like TCP (0.175% phenols and 0.68% halogenated phenols) that any possible risk would be miniscule and certainly won't cause me to stop using it. These fears seem to be related to heavy industrial use, not the tiny amounts applied infrequently by users of over the counter medications like TCP. Halogenated phenols are active against all pathogenic micro-organisms, and because of their simple chemical structure they are unlikely to encourage the evolution of resistant strains of these micro-organisms (this is a concern with some medications e.g. certain antibiotics). TCP was originally manufactured by the US company Pfizer, but the brand was acquired in 2004 and is now manufactured by the French company Laboratoires Chemineau. It is licensed to Chefaro, a subsidiary of Omega Pharma who now distributes TCP in the UK.
TCP antiseptic liquid is available in a variety of sizes, 50ml, 100ml and 200ml. I have also previously purchased a miniature 20ml bottle, which appears to have been discontinued now; this is a pity because it was ideal for travel first aid kits etc. The bottles are made of dark amber glass, through which the liquid contents can be seen. This is great because I can easily tell when I am running low and need to buy some more. The liquid itself is yellow in colour, but the most distinctive thing about this product is the smell. Of course, I couldn't write a review about TCP without mentioning the smell! For me, it's a really evocative fragrance; it reminds me of being a small child climbing trees in my grandparents' garden. I would always come back in the house with scrapped knees, or splinters in my hands, and my grandmother would treat these minor injuries with TCP. It is a very pungent aroma, instantly recognisable as medicinal, and I think it is a cross between the smell of hospitals, and cleaning cupboards. Personally I find it a very comforting smell, but I know many people find it unpleasant. One of the disadvantages of the smell, even for me and I like it, is the pervasiveness and endurance, if only someone could create an eau de parfum that lasted as long. I find that when I've used TCP the smell is easily detectable for up to 24 hours on me, and for a good few hours in the house. The smaller bottles have tamper-evident caps, and the largest size has a child-proof cap. The manufacturers tell us that the product lasts for 36 months after opening, however, I have often had a bottle on the go for several years and I have still found it to be effective. I'm sure the active ingredients do degrade over time and as a result it probably does become less effective with time, but not noticeably so in my opinion. I should mention though, the label cautions us not to use the product after the expiry date printed on the label on the back of the bottle. In addition to the active ingredients TCP contains glycerol, concentrated phosphoric acid, quinoline yellow colouring (E104), and the main ingredient is purified water.
TCP is recommended for a variety of uses, including sore throats, mouth ulcers, cuts, grazes, pimples, bites and stings. The label on the back of the bottle has a 'peel back' instruction on the top left hand corner. When this is peeled back it reveals another label underneath with the usual warnings e.g. keep out of the reach of children, and full instructions for the various uses e.g. for sore throats dilute with 5 parts water and gargle twice a day. I tend to use TCP undiluted on a cotton wool pad, which I apply directly to the cut or spot. I find it does sting a little, far more so than other similar products, but I quite like this as it makes me feel it is working - almost as though it's burning away all those nasty little microscopic bugs that could cause infection. When I was a child my grandmother, and my mother, would dilute some TCP in a small bowl of very hot water which I would soak my hand or finger in for a few minutes to remove stubborn splinters, after soaking they were easily removed. After a week at Glastonbury Festival, and after several showers on my return home to remove the obvious dirt and grime, I like to soak in a hot bath with a few drops of TCP. This is quite a departure from my regular fragrant bubble baths, but on a purely psychological level, it makes me feel thoroughly clean, I just have to make sure I don't meet anyone until the TCP smell has faded.
I think TCP is excellent value; it lasts for ages as only a small amount is needed, and it is very reasonably priced. The cost varies depending on where you shop, TCP is available from most chemists and supermarkets, but from Amazon at the moment 50ml costs £1.56, 100ml is £2.09 and 200ml is £3.09. It is a great basic essential with a multitude of uses, and I wouldn't be without it. I always have a bottle in the house, and always take a small one on holidays and trips - just in case. It is available in the original liquid formulation, as a cream, and now also as a spray in small handbag sized bottles as well. The only thing I could think of to improve TCP in any way would be for them to bring out individually wrapped TCP wipes. To me it really is a magic potion, an extremely effective antiseptic with so many uses, I'd be lost without it in the cupboard.