What To Use To Clean Piercings

Once you figure out what kind of piercing you want, do some research on piercing studios. Here’s a brief checklist of what to look for:

How to Clean a New Piercing

Whether you’re thinking about adding a new piercing or just got one, you’ll need to know the proper care instructions. Keeping your new piercing clean and cared for lessens your risk for infection or other complications.

Caring for Your Piercing

No matter what type of piercing you get, the same best practices apply:

  • Wash your hands before touching your piercing for any reason.
  • Clean the piercing with either a saline solution, a fragrance-free antimicrobial soap, or both once or twice per day.
  • Rinse any soap from the piercing.
  • Gently dry the piercing with a clean, disposable paper towel or tissue. Avoid drying with cloth since it may carry germs or catch on the jewelry.

In order to keep piercings clean throughout the day, steer clear of:

  • Touching the piercing unless necessary
  • Contact with bodily fluid including saliva
  • Contact with open water, including lakes, rivers, pools, and hot tubs. Showers are better than baths since bathtubs can hold onto bacteria.
  • All makeup or beauty items including lotions, sprays, and powders.
  • Antibacterial ointments, as they can prevent the piercing from getting the air it needs to heal.

If you decide you don’t want your piercing, you can take out the jewelry. But this can interfere with the healing process. If you do take out your jewelry, be sure to keep cleaning the wound daily until it’s fully healed. ‌

Tips for sleeping. If you have an ear or facial piercing, put your pillow into a clean t-shirt, changing the side of the shirt from back to front and inside to out daily. This gives you a clean surface for your piercing. For body piercings, go for loose, comfortable clothes at night.

Caring for Ear Piercings

Earlobe piercings are the most common type of piercing. It’s typically a less risky part of your body to get pierced.

What to expect. When you first get your ears pierced you may see some bleeding, bruising, redness, or experience mild soreness. You may also experience itching and see white-yellow fluid ooze from the wound or crust on the jewelry. This is a normal part of the healing process and isn’t pus.

Caring for Children’s Ear Piercings

Getting your child’s ears pierced is pretty common, even for babies less than a year old. Some doctors suggest waiting until your child is 8 or older to keep the risk of infection down. Younger children are more likely to touch their earrings and less likely to always have clean hands. ‌

Concerns. Aside from infection, there’s little risk in piercing your child’s ears. You’ll just need to keep them clean and take good care of them. Common complications you should look for include:

  • Allergy to metals or piercing material
  • Accidentally swallowing the piercing
  • Rejection of the piercing‌

When your child gets their ears pierced, you’ll want to choose a gold post if possible. This lessens the chance of an allergic reaction. Other metals can cause irritation and itchiness. This can cause your child to touch their ears more frequently.

Caring for Cartilage Piercings

Cartilage piercings have become popular. But they’re riskier. Common cartilage piercings are along the upper ear and the septum, the inside of the nose. You may have more bleeding when you get your cartilage pierced.

Concerns. It’s especially important to clean cartilage piercings because infections can turn into necrosis, or tissue death, in your cartilage wall. This is more common in your nose because of the mucus inside that can attract staphylococcus bacteria.

To prevent these complications, stick to a steady cleaning routine. You should also avoid getting your septum pierced if you have a cold or allergies.

Caring for Oral Piercings

What to expect. When getting your tongue pierced, you should be ready for it to swell. This happens in the beginning, but your tongue also heals quickly.

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Cleaning tips. To keep your tongue or cheek piercing clean, you should use an antimicrobial or antibacterial alcohol-free mouthwash.

As your oral piercing heals, rinse your mouth about 4 to 5 times a day. Swish the cleaning solution around for 30 to 60 seconds. You should do this after meals and at bedtime especially.

Concerns with eating. When you eat, slowly chew small bites of food. For a tongue piercing, try to keep your tongue level as you chew. With a cheek or lip piercing, you’ll want to avoid opening your mouth too wide. Avoid spicy, salty, acidic, or hot foods and beverages in the beginning. Cold foods and beverages can be good to eat, and they can help keep your swelling down.

Caring for Body Piercings

Common body piercings include:

What to expect. When you get a body piercing, you can expect light bleeding, swelling and some bruising. You may be sensitive to touch.‌‌

Concerns with exercise. You can exercise while you’re healing from your new piercing. Just make sure you clean it afterward to get rid of any sweat buildup.

Piercing Complications

Some possible new piercing risks include the following:

Allergic reactions. In some cases, you may be allergic to the metal of the jewelry stud. Nickel is a common material that causes allergic reactions.

Infections. When bacteria or dirt gets into your piercing, you may get an infection. Your piercing or surrounding area will be red, painful, swell, and have a pus-like discharge.‌

Oral problems. Tongue or cheek piercings can cause problems when you accidentally bite down on your new piercing. You could chip your teeth or hurt your gums. Since tongue swelling is common after the piercing, you may have trouble chewing and swallowing.

Bloodborne diseases. If you don’t get your piercing done at a shop with a good reputation, you could get an infection from contaminated piercing tools. These include hepatitis B and C, tetanus, and HIV.

Show Sources

‌American Academy of Pediatrics: “Avoiding Infection After Ear Piercing.”

American Family Physician: “Complications of Body Piercing.”


‌Center for Young Women’s Health: “Body Piercing.”

‌Mayo Clinic: “Piercings: How to prevent complications.”

Pediatrics in Review: “Ear Piercing.”

‌Seattle Children’s Hospital: “Ear Piercing Symptoms.”

Top 10 Tips for Cleaning an Ear Piercing

how to clean ear piercing

Ear piercings are one of the most common types of piercings. Their possible locations include the earlobe, the curve of cartilage at the top of the ear, and the folds just outside the ear canal.

Although they’re very popular and relatively safe, you still need to treat your piercing with care and attention to avoid any complications.

This article will focus on top tips for cleaning an ear piercing and signs to watch out for that may indicate an infection. And if you’re not sure whether you’re ready for a piercing (or exactly where to get it), we’ll help you with that, too.

The first thing you should consider is where to place your piercing.

Here are some popular options:

  • Earlobe. This is the go-to ear piercing spot at the bottom of your ear. This piercing is easy to clean and take care of, and it heals much faster than other ear piercings.
  • Helix. This is the curvy tissue at the very top of the ear. It falls into second place after the lobe piercing in popularity. It heals a little more slowly than a lobe piercing but is still easy to keep clean.
  • Tragus. Right above your earlobe, this harder section of your ear is on the edge of your face and right in front of your ear canal. It’s not as common as the lobe or helix for piercing, and it’s a little more difficult to take care of. There’s some anecdotal evidence that a tragus piercing may have benefits for those with anxiety and migraine.

Once you figure out what kind of piercing you want, do some research on piercing studios. Here’s a brief checklist of what to look for:

  • Are there licensed piercers on staff? They should be certified by the Association of Professional Piercers.
  • Is the shop reputable? Do they have good reviews on Yelp or other sites? Do they specialize in piercings? Avoid retail stores that offer piercings, as they may not be clean, safe, or even licensed. You may want to look at tattoo shops, too. Many of them have licensed piercers and are highly regulated by state and local health agencies.
  • Do the piercers take proper safety precautions? Do they wash their hands, wear a new pair of medical-grade gloves for each piercing, and use new, sterile needles for each piercing?
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Now that you’ve gotten your piercing, it’s important to take care of it. The first few weeks are crucial to making sure it heals properly. Here are our top 10 tips for cleaning an ear piercing to avoid infection.

Top 10 tips for cleaning an ear piercing

  1. Clean your piercing when you do other regular hygiene habits. Clean it when you brush your teeth or take a shower to give yourself a gentle reminder every day.
  2. Wash your hands. Wash with warm water and gentle soap before you touch your piercing to avoid introducing bacteria to the area.
  3. Clean with a clean cotton pad or swab dipped in salt solution. You can make this solution by mixing 1 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Use this around the pierced area a few times a day to remove any bacteria.
  4. Dab (don’t wipe) the piercing. Dry with a clean towel or tissue so you don’t damage the tissue while it’s healing.
  5. Avoid using perfumed soaps. Clean the skin around the piercing with a mild antiseptic soap and water.
  6. Clean the pierced area whenever you take the piercing out. This includes when you put it back in, too. Bacteria can quickly get on jewelry when you expose it to the air or set it on a surface like a counter or table.
  7. Don’t clean your piercing in the bathroom. This is especially true of public ones. Even the cleanest home bathrooms usually have high concentrations of bacteria.
  8. Don’t lie on the pierced area for long periods of time. Sleeping or lying down on your piercing can trap moisture or bacteria in the area, increasing your risk for infection.
  9. Don’t get any hair or body products in the piercing area. Be careful when you use shampoo, soap, gel, pomade, hairspray, or other products that can get near the piercing and irritate the tissue.
  10. Watch out for any abnormal or discolored discharge. See your piercer or doctor right away if you notice any unusual discharge as it might be a sign of an infection.

Earlobe piercings are the quickest to heal. They typically take about 1 to 2 months to fully heal.

Cartilage piercings elsewhere on your ear will take longer to heal. It may take up to 6 months or even 1 year before a helix or tragus piercing is fully healed.

While your piercing is still healing, don’t take your jewelry out for an extended period. Doing so may cause the hole to close.

The answer to this question is different for everyone. It all depends on how fast you heal and what kind of piercing you got.

If you’re unsure whether you’re ready to change out your jewelry, ask your piercer about a month or two after you got your piercing. They can examine the area and give you a definitive answer.

The typical symptoms of an infected piercing include the following:

  • aching or throbbing pain in and around the piercing
  • swelling
  • redness
  • itching
  • burning
  • abnormal yellowish or whitish discharge

See your doctor right away if you think your piercing is infected.

Ear piercings are a very common piercing. You still need to take good and consistent care of them to make sure you avoid infection, tissue damage, or losing the piercing altogether.

Last medically reviewed on May 10, 2021

How we reviewed this article:

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Becoming an APP member. (n.d.).
  • Body piercings: Cleaning and healing. (n.d.).
  • Caring for pierced ears: Tips from dermatologists [Press release]. (2014).
  • Ear and face piercing aftercare. (2013).
  • Infected piercings. (2020).
  • Picking your piercer. (2020).

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

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Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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