The word debridement comes from the French word "débrider", which means to remove extra fluid. In medicine, debridement is the cleaning or scraping away of dead cells and contaminated tissue out of a wound. This can be done with a scalpel, spoon or other instrument, and is called surgical debridement. It can also be done with a chemical made of particular proteins (enzymes), or it can be done "mechanically".

"Mechanical" or physical debridement can be done with a special dressing. Excess wound fluid, cells, and germs stick to the dressing and are removed whenever the dressing is changed. Mechanical cleaning of a wound can also be done under the shower: the flow of water can remove germs and dead cells. Using wound-cleaning substances like hydrogen peroxide or moist dressings is another form of mechanical debridement.

An old type of debridement that is coming more into use again is "biological" debridement, done with sterile maggots.

The term debridement is also used for the surgical removal of stitches after a wound has healed.