Wound dressings containing silver as antimicrobial agents are available in various forms and formulations; however, little is understood concerning their comparative efficacy as antimicrobial agents. Eight commercially available silver-containing dressings, Acticoat 7, Acticoat Moisture Control, Acticoat Absorbent, Silvercel, Aquacel Ag, Contreet F, Urgotol SSD and Actisorb, were tested to determine their comparative antimicrobial effectiveness in vitro and compared against three commercially available topical antimicrobial creams, a non treatment control, and a topical silver-containing antimicrobial gel, Silvasorb. Zone of inhibition and quantitative testing was performed by standard methods using Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptococcus faecalis and Staphylococcus aureus. Results showed all silver dressings and topical antimicrobials displayed antimicrobial activity. Silver-containing dressings with the highest concentrations of silver exhibited the strongest bacterial inhibitive properties. Concreet F and the Acticoat dressings tended to have greater antimicrobial activity than did the others. Topical antimicrobial creams, including silver sulfadiazine, Sulfamylon and gentamicin sulfate, and the topical antimicrobial gel Silvasorb exhibited superior bacterial inhibition and bactericidal properties, essentially eliminating all bacterial growth at 24 hours. Silver-containing dressings are likely to provide a barrier to and treatment for infection; however, their bactericidal and bacteriostatic properties are inferior to commonly used topical antimicrobial agents.