After it dries, Zylactin looks horrible, even worse than the actual breakout, but the painful tingling goes away almost immediately. Once the gel has dried, you can touch the infected area (because that's what we humans do) and it won't make it worse. If I catch it early, my cold sore can be gone in three days.
When rubbing alcohol is not available, I use soap and water, but that is a last resort. Rubbing alcohol is the best preparation prior to applying Zylactin.
Minor irritations and canker sores will heal much more quickly if you apply Zylactin or Orabase according to the manufacturer't directions. You can purchase it over the counter at most pharmacies and convenient stores.