Body Piercings: Cleaning and Healing

General Care for Body Piercings

  • Always wash hands thoroughly before contact with the piercing.
  • Do not use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. (Both slow the healing of pierced areas by drying and killing new healthy cells.)
  • Do not use bacitracin or other ointments. (Ointments attempt to heal the skin & may slow oxygen transport to the tissue).
  • Use salt soaks for best care/cleaning of ring or stud and loosening dry material on the skin (¼ teaspoon of sea salt or teaspoon of table salt dissolved in 8oz of warm water).
  • To clean the surrounding skin, use mild antiseptic products such as benzalkonium chloride, (Bactine, any liquid antibacterial soap - avoid perfumed products). Dilute 50/50 with water, if soap is too harsh.
  • Twice a day saturate a cotton swab or Q-Tip with the cleaning solution, apply to the pierced area, and let soak for a few minutes.
  • Remove any dried matter.
  • Rotate the jewelry while the area is wet.

Ear Piercings of the Pinna (above the lobe) 

  • Because of decreased vascularization in the upper pinna of the ear, it will take longer than the ear lobe to heal, generally between 12-16 weeks.
  • It is important to not irritate the ear, it is recommended that you sleep on the non-pieced side (or sleep on your back if both ears are pierced). Use the un-pierced ear when talking on the telephone (or earphones if both are pierced).

Pierced Belly Buttons or Nipples 

  • Pierced belly buttons heal in 6-12 months, and pierced nipples heal in 6-8 weeks.
  • Options for cleaning the area with salt water soaks: Make a suction seal between the cup and belly button by leaning over the cup, then lie down on a towel, and lie on your back, the cup should be sealed to the abdomen. Soak the area for at least 10 minutes. Rinse with plain water. Dry the area thoroughly after soaking. 
  • OR, Clean the area with salt water-soaked cotton swabs or Q-tips. Soak the area for at least 10 minutes. Rinse with plain water. Dry the area thoroughly after soaking. 
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing (Clear, pink, or slightly bloody discharge is normal for several days after piercing). 

Nose Piercings 

  • Do not remove the stud for 8 weeks. Healing may take 12-24 weeks, depending on the location of the piercing.
  • Avoid touching the stud unnecessarily.
  • Nose piercings can close within hours, so never leave the piercing without jewelry.
  • The special nose stud is designed to be worn with the stem pointing up the nose. This is not normally uncomfortable. If it irritates, move the stud slightly until a comfortable position is found. 

Tongue, Cheek, and Lip Piercings 

  • Healing time 6-8 weeks.
  • No oral contact of any kind for 6 weeks (no wet kissing or oral sex).
  • Suck on ice or popsicles for the first 24-48 hours to minimize swelling and pain.
  • Reduce intake of warm beverages, hot or spicy foods, tobacco, alcohol, and anything irritating to your mouth.
  • Rinse with mouthwash for 30-60 seconds after consumption of anything other than water. If Listerine is too harsh it may be diluted, or use a teaspoon sea salt to an 8oz glass of water.
  • Use Gly-Oxide/Peroxyl twice daily following the instructions on the bottle: 5 drops on top, 5 drops underneath; let foam and spit. (This is very important.) Afterward, you may rinse with water or salt water. 

Tongue Piercings 

  • The size of the stud is important in the healing process. It is best to use a post ¼ inch longer than the thickness of your tongue. When the swelling has improved, the post can be downsized to a slightly shorter but still roomy length. After 6-8 weeks you can wear a stud the length of the piercing. 

Cheek and Lip Piercings 

  • The outer opening of the piercing is best treated using liquid antibacterial soap or Bactine. If the liquid soap is too harsh it may be diluted 50/50 with water (avoid perfumed products). Apply liberally with a cotton swab or Q-tip. Rotate the jewelry only after the area is moist and dry material has been loosened or removed.
  • Clean 2-3 times daily.
  • Continue the above care regimen for 6-8 weeks.   

Genital Piercings

  • Avoid sexual contact until the piercing is fully healed, from 6-10 weeks. 
  • To clean use warm water with a cleansing agent or antibacterial soap. (ie, Phisoderm, Bactine, or liquid antibacterial soaps such as Dial, Lever 2000, or Softsoap) and avoid perfumed products. Dilute 50/50 with water if irritation occurs.
  • Leave the cleanser on the skin for 3 minutes; lather and work the ring back and forth through the piercing half a dozen times. 
  • Remove any dried matter from the surface of the ring and around the opening of the piercing before turning the ring or stud. 
  • Rinse under running water or use a peri-cleanse bottle (available over the counter in most drug stores); it has a squirt top which is ideal for rinsing the area.
  • Urine may irritate the area but usually does not cause infection. 
  • Keep the new piercing clean.
  • Never touch it with dirty hands.
  • During sexual contact, use barriers (condoms, dams, etc.) to keep saliva and other body fluids out of your piercing (avoid sex for 6 to 10 weeks after piercing).