Body Piercings: Cleaning and Healing

General Care for Body Piercings

  • Always wash hands thoroughly before contact with piercing.
  • Do not use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. (Both slow the healing of pierced area 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 area with salt water soaks: Make a suction seal between cup and belly button by leaning over cup, then lie down on a towel, lie on your back, cup should be sealed to abdomen. Soak the area for at least 10 minutes. Rinse with plain water. Dry the area thoroughly after soaks.
  • 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 causes irritation, 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 of 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).