Body Piercing

How to Clean a New Ear Piercing

If you recently got a new ear piercing, you’re probably excited to be able to switch out your piercing stud for new styles. Before you can do that, you need to properly clean and care for your new piercing in order to avoid infection. While you need to be patient and devoted to the task of cleaning your piercing, the process is thankfully quite simple.

Part One of Three:
Protecting Your Ears While Getting Them Pierced

  1. Choose a clean, professional place to have your ears pierced. Health professionals strongly advise that you never pierce your ears yourself at home. Instead, you ought to find a place where trained professionals will do it for you. While there’s no guarantee that you won’t later get an infection, starting by going to a clean place will help ensure that your ears will heal properly.
    • There is no federal regulation of the piercing industry, and many states don’t have legislation on the topic, so you’ll want to research and visit different shops and parlors in person so that you can check for cleanliness and learn about how experienced the piercers are.[
  2. Get reviews of the parlors you have in mind. If you’ve never had a piercing before, a great way to find a safe place is to survey your friends for personal recommendations. Ask them what the procedure was like and if they had any difficulty cleaning their piercings or if they later got infections.
    • You should also study their piercings: do you like how the piercings were placed?
    • Besides seeing what your friends recommend, you can also go online to look for reviews of the shops you are thinking about going to for your piercing.
  3. Make sure that the piercing equipment and earring(s) are sterilized. When you’re on your scouting mission to find the best place to have your ears pierced, stick around and watch other people as they are pierced, and also interview the staff. Make sure that all of the equipment that will be used, and also the jewelry, is sterilized beforehand.[
    • Experts recommend that you look for an autoclave at the shop, which is a sterilizing machine.[
  4. Verify that only fresh, disposable needles are used. Health experts also recommend that you avoid piercing parlors where needles are reused, even if they are supposedly sterilized between uses. [
    • If the shop you are visiting uses a piercing gun, then it should be a gun meant for just one-time use or which has sterilized disposable cassettes.
    • These are sometimes referred to as “encapsulated guns”. The sterile stud is sealed inside, which means that there is less chance that bacteria will be introduced to your ear.
  5. Take extra precautions if you are having your ear cartilage pierced. While you always want to choose the safest, cleanest place possible when you’re getting a piercing, you should be extra vigilant if you want your cartilage pierced. Because cartilage doesn’t have its own blood supply, it can take longer to heal, [ and it can also be much harder to effectively treat an infection should one develop.[
    • Health professionals firmly recommend that only fresh needles or encapsulated guns be used to pierce your cartilage.[
  6. Make sure the piercer takes proper safety precautions. Only let someone pierce your ears if they begin by washing their hands thoroughly or using hand sanitizer. They should also wear gloves, and properly clean and sterilize your ear before piercing it.[
    • Don’t be afraid to get up out of the chair if you any of these steps are skipped.Advertisement

Part Two of Three:
Cleaning Your New Piercing

  1. Clean the surrounding skin and your hands with a mild anti-bacterial soap or wash.Before you clean your new piercing directly, it’s important that your hands and your entire ear are clean so that you don’t introduce dirt or bacteria into your wound.[
    • Choose a mild soap, and avoid any cleansers with perfumes, which can irritate your sensitive skin.
  2. Use a simple saline solution to clean your piercing. Medical professionals recommend that you use a saline (salt) solution for cleaning. It’s quite simple to prepare one yourself:
    • Mix either ¼ teaspoon of sea salt or 1 teaspoon of table salt with 8 ounces of warm water [
  3. Apply the saline solution with clean, disposable cotton two times a day. Instead of reusing washcloths, you should dip gauze, a cotton ball, or a cotton-tipped ear swab in your saline solution each time you clean your piercing. Then, gently apply the saline solution all around your piercing.
  4. Gently wiggle the piercing back and forth. In order to get the saline solution throughout the entire piercing, many experts recommend that you carefully move your piercing back and forth as you clean it.
  5. Take care not to over-clean your piercing. Washing your new piercing more than twice a day could lead to irritation, which can extend the healing process longer than necessary.[
  6. Avoid using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on your piercing. While you might think that alcohol or peroxide will sterilize your piercing, both of these can actually slow the healing process by over-drying your wound and killing healthy skin cells.[
  7. Refrain from applying additional medicine to your piercing. Experts also tell us to not use any ointments or antibiotic creams unless directed to by a physician for an infection. These too can be counter-productive to the healing process as they can slow the flow of oxygen to your wound.[
    • Because they are so sticky, they can also trap dirt and bacteria, potentially setting you up for further trouble.Advertisement

Part Three of Three:
Continuing to Care for Your Piercing

  1. Keep your piercing as dry as possible. Particularly when your piercing is fresh (for at least the first three days), you should keep it as dry as possible. While it will of course be wet when you apply your saline solution, you want to allow your piercing to dry out quickly.
  2. Shower carefully. If you don’t need to wash your hair, try wearing a shower cap when you shower or bath. If you do wash your hair, do your very best to keep the shampoo and water away from your ears.
    • Don’t think that letting the shampoo wash over your ears will be sufficient for cleaning your piercings. If anything, the ingredients in your body wash or shampoo can further irritate your piercing.
  3. Skip the swimming pool. You should also look for other forms of exercise besides swimming while you wait for your new piercing to heal. Stay away from public pools and hot tubs, or if you really want or need to visit them, then it goes without saying that you shouldn’t dunk your head!
  4. Allow only clean materials to touch your piercing. Besides making sure that your hands and cleansing materials are sterile, you should carefully wash all of your bedding, hats, and scarves that may come into contact with your new piercing.
    • You may even want to wear your hair pulled back from your piercing for a while.
  5. Treat your piercing gently. If you only have one ear pierced, you’ll probably find it more comfortable to sleep on the opposite side, and your ear may heal more quickly as a result.
    • If both of your ears are pierced, then try to sleep on your back and avoid doing anything that will put pressure on the piercings.
  6. Adjust your phone habits. You’ll also want to be careful when you talk on the phone to not put pressure on your ear and to not bring your phone (which can harbor quite a lot of dirt and bacteria) into direct contact with your piercing.
    • Consider using the speaker-phone function for a while!
  7. Be on the lookout for signs of infection. Even if you follow all of the above steps religiously, you could develop an infection. Be sure to get to your doctor at the early signs of an infection.
    • If your ear or the surrounding skin is red or swollen, you may have an infection developing.
    • An infected ear may also produce a green or yellow discharge, and may be extra tender to the touch.
    • Similarly, if your ear is warm to the touch or if you develop a fever, your new piercing may be infected, in which case you should definitely seek medical attention.
  8. Leave your earring in if you suspect an infection. While you might be tempted to immediately remove your piercing if you think you have an infection, it’s best to wait until you’ve seen a doctor.
    • If you take the earring out too early, it could begin to heal over and trap the infection inside the wound.[
    • This can lead to the formation of an abscess, which can be serious and painful to care for.[
  9. Talk to your doctor about stronger antibiotics for a cartilage infection. Your cartilage piercing may be more likely to become infected, and if it does, it will probably be more difficult to treat than a regular piercing. This is because the cartilage doesn’t have its own blood supply, and it’s therefore harder for your prescribed antibiotics to do their work.[
    • Talk to your doctor about what is being prescribed for your infection; a stronger drug is often needed.
  10. Rule out a metal allergy. If your ear doesn’t seem infected, but is uncomfortable, itchy, or slightly swollen, you may have a sensitivity or allergy to the metal used in your piecing. Many people are allergic to nickel, cobalt, and/or white gold.
    • The best choices for a new piercing are surgical-grade stainless steel, titanium, or 14 or 18 carat gold.
    • Niobium is also recommended as being a good choice for a new piercing.
  11. Be patient. Even with careful cleaning and no infection, an ear piercing can take a while to heal. If you pierced your earlobe, you should plan on waiting 4 to 6 weeks for it to heal completely.
    • If you pierced your pinna (the area above the lobe of your ear), it can take up to 12 to 16 weeks to heal.
  12. Keep your piercing stud in until your ear is fully healed. If you take out your piercing before the wound has fully healed, the hole(s) can begin to close over. Thus, you should leave them in, even to sleep, until the piercing has healed completely.
  13. Give your ears a break once they have healed. Once your new piercing has healed, though, it’s generally a good idea to take your piercings out on occasion, especially when you sleep.
  14. Continue to keep it clean. Make it part of your routine to wipe down your earrings with rubbing alcohol when you take them out, and again before you put them (or a different pair) in again. This simple step will help ensure that your ears are healthy and that you can enjoy experimenting with fun and different accessories.

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