Be Careful What You Clean Your Piercings With!!

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How to Clean a Body Piercing

Body piercings are a wonderful form of self-expression that can alter your style in fresh, cool ways. Just like ear piercings, they require regular cleaning to promote healing and prevent infection.


  1. Avoid touching on or around a piercing for at least 24 hours after you get it.Even after those 24 hours are over, you should always wash your hands before touching your piercing. Foreign substances like dirt and hand oil can aggravate the healing process and eventually lead to infection. In fact, you should avoid touching your piercing at all times except cleaning.
  2. Know the signs of normal healing.While it's good to be extra cautious, knowing the signs of normal healing will help ease your mind about infection and will keep you from over-cleaning your new piercing. Here are a couple of symptoms that are part of the normal healing process:
    • Bleeding, swelling, tenderness, and bruising. Small amounts of bleeding and localized swelling are expected right after you get a new piercing. These can often also lead to tenderness and bruising. While these four things are normal in moderation, call your piercer if they are excessive or if the bleeding and bruising continue for more than a week after you get your new piercing (Be aware that genital piercings may bleed freely for the first few days).
    • Itching and discoloration. Itching is common in any healing process, partly because of new skin growth. Discoloration can often be caused by a whitish-yellow fluid secreted from the piercing. This is called lymph and is nothing to be worried about. However, if you start to notice pus around the piercing you should call your piercer immediately.
  3. Choose your approved aftercare routine.Most professional piercers recommend sea salt soaks once or twice a day for several weeks after the piercing.If you find the method you are using is starting to irritate the skin around the piercing, ask your piercer about other methods.
    • The saline soak will be easier with some piercings than with others. For lobes, just submerge the piercing in a cup of warm salt water. For belly button piercings, quickly flip a small cup of saline solution upside down over the piercing to create a vacuum for the piecing to soak in. For most other piercings, it's effective to saturate clean gauze or paper towels with the solution and then apply to the piercing.
    • Make sure the solution gets all the way IN the piercing, not just around it. Though you don't want to rotate the jewelry, you do want to get close enough to the jewelry to ensure the saline solution is getting all the way in the hole. Otherwise, you risk infection inside the piercing.
    • Use a pressurized can of saline solution. This can be used instead of or in addition to the saline soak; ask your piercer for the benefits of each. Blairex is the most common pressurized saline solution out there and can be purchased from any drug stores, like Walgreens or Rite Aid.
    • Some people choose to wash the piercing with warm water and a gentle soap as well. If you decide to do this, soap no more than one to two times a day. The best way to use soap to clean your piercing is in the shower: use a pearl sized squirt of mild soap and gently clean the piercing. Rinse the soap off after 15 to 30 seconds.
    • Avoid harmful techniques and products. There are some cleaning techniques that should be avoided, even if they sound like a good idea to you.
      • Over-cleaning. Believe it or not, youcanover-clean your piercing. Limit your cleaning routine to twice a day to avoid irritation and dryness.
      • Harsh soaps and anti-bacterial products. Dial, Betadine, Hibiclens, and hydrogen peroxide can all damage your healing cells and dry out the piercing, encouraging crusty buildup. Rubbing alcohol should be avoided for the same reason.
      • Ointments. Healing ointments restrict necessary airflow and will delay the healing process of your piercing.
  4. Get rid of crusties.A clear, yellowish fluid (lymph) will come out of the piercing as part of the healing process. Without daily cleanings, this fluid will crust around the piercing, creating unnecessary tension. Be sure to gently clean these off periodically by soaking a towel or Q-Tip in the saline solution and gently rubbing the area.Neverforce the crusties off.
    • If you use a Q-Tip or cotton bud, make sure it is fully saturated, and there are no loose fibers to get caught in your piercing. If you do get fibers in your piercing, remove them immediately to avoid irritation. Avoid using cotton balls. Never remove crusties with your fingers—unnecessary touching can lead to infection.
  5. Shower to help clean your piercing.Showering can also help - direct water stream can help to loosen crusties/remove dirt. Be careful with surrounding area, and talk to your piercer about what kind of soap and shampoo to use in the shower.
    • Avoid taking baths for the first few weeks after getting your piercing. Baths and bathtubs tend to harbor bacteria that can get trapped in your piercing and cause infection. If you must take a bath, clean the tub well before you get in. Rinse and clean your piercing when you get out.
  6. Mitigate trauma to the area.Never touch or play with your piercing outside of cleaning it. Avoid friction/rough play, oral contact, and contact with other's bodily fluids. If a body piercing, wear loose-fitting clothing over it until healed. If on the ears, wear hair in a way that it will not get caught on the piercing.
  7. Keep away from dirty bodies of water.Lakes, pools, hot tubs, and other possibly harmful bodies of water should be avoided until your piercing is healed. Like bath tubs, these harbor bacteria that can encourage infections in your piercing. If you have to swim, find a waterproof bandage such as Nexcare Clean Seals.
  8. Be patient.Remember that piercings heal from the outside in. Therefore, a piercing may seem healed before it is. Removing or changing the jewelry can cause tearing inside the piercing, forcing you to restart the healing process.
    • Never force your jewelry. If you fail to clean every day, smelly secretions may build up inside the piercing, making it hard to move the jewelry. Instead of forcing it, which may cause inner breakage of the healed skin, continue cleaning until you can easily remove the piercing.
  9. Sleep on clean bedding.Be extra vigilant about changing your sheets and pillowcases. Always wear clean and breathable clothing when you sleep. Allowing airflow will help bring oxygen to the piercing, thus helping the wound heal healthily and quickly.
  10. Stay healthy.As with any wound, the healing process will happen faster if your body isn't working to fight other problems or infections. Thus, keeping yourself and your body happy and healthy will help keep your piercing happy and healthy.
    • Exercise. With some exceptions, exercise is fine during the healing process. Be sure to clean any sweat that may accumulate in the piercing, and listen to your body.
    • Avoid excessive recreational drug use. This includes nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine.
    • Avoid stress. Too much stress in your life will also cause stress on your body, slowing the healing process.
  11. Be on the lookout for signs of an infection.Expect your healed piercing to seem healthy and happy every day, unless it was bumped or pulled on or has had some accident. If you experience pain, swelling, or discharge it is important to contact your piercer or you will be at risk or losing your piercing or causing damage to your body.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    How can I overclean a piercing?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You can over clean a piercing by using too much salt in the water, as this will dry the skin out and irritate the piercing. You can also over clean by doing it too often, as this will break the new skin and restart the healing process. It's like a scab, if you pick at it, the cut will reopen.
  • Question
    Is my piercing infected if it is a little red and sore?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Not necessarily. Being red and sore for the first couple of weeks after getting a piercing is perfectly normal. If the piercing starts discharging green or yellow liquid, however, then you have an infection and should consult a doctor.
  • Question
    I've had a cartilage piercing for about seven to eight months. I just opened it and found a medium amount of hair at the end of the earring. Now, my cartilage is swollen and bleeding. What should I do?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Hot sea salt soaks, use 1/4 tablespoon of non-iodized salt (do not use regular table salt, only use non-idolized salt or natural sea salt.) And one cup (8oz.) of warm-hot water and just lay your ear in the water for minutes.
  • Question
    Can I use an antibacterial hand soap to clean my piercing?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    This would not be a good idea. Use the saline solution that you got when you first got your piercing. If you must use soap, use a gentle formula. Hand soap, especially antibacterial, is very drying and could cause more problems.
  • Question
    How do I clean a clitoral hood piercing?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Just do a saline soak. You can make your own or but saline solution at the drug store. Also buy gauze pads it apply the solution to the piercing and do that twice a day for 15 minutes.
  • Question
    Is there a way to change the piercing without restarting the healing process?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Keep the piercing in for a couple of months before trying to change it. Otherwise there is always a risk that you will have to restart the healing process.
  • Question
    What if my piercing has a little bump around it?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    This will happen to to certain people. It is just your skin growing over the piercing, trying to reject it. The skin will eventually go back to normal.
  • Question
    I want to do fake body piercings. Would there still be any swelling afterward?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Not really. Clip-ons can make things a bit sore, but likely only for a few hours at most.
  • Question
    What should I do if my nose piercing is infected?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Schedule an appointment with a doctor. Don't take the piercing out if it's new.
  • Question
    Can I put something on my piercing if it is itchy?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Itching means it's healing, unless it's oozing green puss. If it is, then call your piercer and see what you should do to clean it. Applying tea tree oil should help with the itching.
Unanswered Questions
  • How can you clean cheek piercings?or avoid getting them infected?
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Short Video: How to Clean a Body Piercing

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In order to help your body piercing heal, avoid touching the piercing for 24 hours after getting it. Though some bleeding, bruising, and swelling should be expected, call your piercer if the symptoms get worse or last for a long time. For a few weeks after getting it, clean your piercing twice a day using gauze soaked in a sea salt solution. As the piercing heals, clean off crusted areas with a Q-tip dipped in the sea salt solution.

  • It is possible to over-clean piercings and irritate the skin. Three times a day is more than enough for most people.
  • Use the T-shirt trick to keep your pillow clean for ear and facial piercings. Place a large, clean T-shirt over your pillow. Turn it nightly. Thus, one clean T-shirt will provide for clean sleeping surfaces.
  • If you cannot purchase saline solution, make your own. Soak piercing with warm water and non-iodized sea salt,(Sea salt without iodine, this is usually added as a supplement. Your piercer should give you some, but it's also available in most grocery stores). No more than a pinch per 8 ounces of water; stronger mixtures can dry out a new piercing.
  • Take care of navel piercings. Wear loose fitting clothing. Not only will it be less painful than tight clothing, but it will also mitigate trauma to the area and allow for proper ventilation.
    • Consider placing an eye patch. If you must wear tight clothing, look at a pharmacy for a hard, venter eye patch. You can secure this under nylon stockings or an Ace bandage to protect the piercing from friction with your clothes.
  • Never twist your jewelry. Flesh sticking to jewelry is normal during initial piercing, and twisting causes the flesh to become torn and forcefully separated from jewelry, causing trauma and a possibly extended healing time to accommodate for trauma.
  • Avoid beauty and cosmetic care products. This includes cosmetics, lotions, sprays, etc.
  • When the piercing is new, it will probably feel sore from time to time. Try making a cold compress with a paper towel or gauze pad soaked in cold saline to help ease soreness.
  • Check back with your piercer if you are concerned about anything. They should be happy to hear from you!
  • Care for oral piercings. Oral piercings have a specific cleaning routine that must be followed that is slightly different than that of other piercings. Some of the most important things to remember are:
    • Avoid smoking. This will irritate the skin. It can also cause buildup in and around the piercing, increasing the chance of infection.
    • Use mouthwash with no alcohol in it. This should be used 2 to 3 times a day, especially after eating (and smoking if you cannot stop). For extra rinses, use sea salt and water or brush your teeth.
    • Avoid beer and alcohol. These can lead to bacterial infections and irritation in your mouth. You should be okay to drink hard alcohols after two weeks, but continue avoiding beer until your piercing has healed.
  • Avoid hanging charms from your piercing until healed.
  • If you can find it, Hot Topic and Spencer's has a saline salt spray called "H2Ocean." It's a tall, thin bottle, and it works like magic.


  • If your piercing becomes severely infected, DO NOT take it out. Contact your piercer as soon as possible. Taking the jewelry out will close off the only exit route the infection has.
  • Do not use alcohol or Hydrogen Peroxide on a piercing to clean it. Both will dry out the skin around it.
  • If you experience excess swelling, pain or your piercing starts to ooze a green/gray or smelly discharge, visit your piercer as soon as possible.
  • Make sure you know what is appropriate for your specific piercing. Aftercare and healing time varies for different piercings, although there are some general principles that apply to all piercings.

Things You'll Need

  • Saline solution; Blairex
  • Sea salt

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