Bougies are susceptible to becoming contaminated before or during use. Chlorhexidine wipes may have a residual antibacterial effect, potentially minimising bacterial transmission after bougie use or storage. We evaluated the decontaminant and antibacterial effectiveness of 70% alcohol/2% chlorhexidine wipes in laboratory, clinical and accelerated ageing studies, and conducted a telephone survey of normal practice. In the laboratory tests, chlorhexidine wipes were completely effective against Escherichia coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and prevented recontamination for 24 h. Clinical introduction of chlorhexidine wipes reduced bougie contamination from 33% to 0%. Following 150 cleaning episodes, there was no physical or functional damage to the bougies. Eight out of nine hospitals in the East of England Health Region use re-usable bougies. We recommend that following decontamination, bougies should be wiped with 70% alcohol/2% chlorhexidine wipes, to retain antimicrobial activity during handling.