How to Clean a New Piercing

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 27, 2021

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. 

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.”

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