OBJECTIVE: To determine toxicity indexes of commercially available skin, wound, and skin/wound cleansers on in vitro fibroblasts and keratinocytes. DESIGN: Seventeen cleansers and 3 liquid bath soaps were evaluated for cytotoxic effect on human infant dermal fibroblasts and epidermal keratinocytes. Both skin cell types were exposed to serial 10-fold dilutions of each cleanser until treated cell viability was comparable to untreated controls. RESULTS: The experimental design allowed calculation of relative toxicity indexes ranging from 0 to 100,000. Shur-Clens, SAF-Clens, and saline were found to be the least toxic to fibroblasts (toxicity index 0); Dial Antibacterial Soap and Ivory Liqui-Gel were the most toxic (toxicity index 100,000). Biolex, Shur-Clens, and Techni-Care were the least toxic to keratinocytes (toxicity index 0); hydrogen peroxide, modified Dakin's solution, and povidone (10%) were found to be the most toxic (toxicity index 100,000). CONCLUSIONS: Successful cutaneous tissue repair depends on the viability of the principal cell types involved (fibroblasts and keratinocytes). Toxicity indexes provide helpful guidelines for subsequent in vivo evaluations and clinical applications. The study findings also suggest that judicious use of these supposedly innocuous agents should be considered in a clinical setting.