How Long Should You Keep a New Tattoo Wrapped For?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on May 26, 2023
    Last Updated: May 26, 2023

Experiencing the thrill of getting a new tattoo is always a rewarding adventure. However, it’s easy to forget that the journey doesn’t end there—aftercare is equally as crucial.

One integral aspect of this post-tattoo care is understanding the proper use of tattoo wrapping. The duration in which you keep the wrap in place can significantly impact the healing process. Therefore, knowing precisely when and for how long to keep your tattoo covered is key to ensuring effective aftercare.

What is a Tattoo Wrap?

A tattoo wrap is the material placed over your fresh ink to keep it clean and covered. The main purpose is to ensure your tattoo is better protected against any knocks, bumps, and bacteria.

Once your tattoo is finished, your artist will disinfect the area by wiping it with mild soap or an antibacterial ointment. This process ensures the skin is completely sterile and free from harmful germs and bacteria that can cause to the open wound.

Once the artist is happy with the area’s cleanliness, they will wrap the tattoo with one of a variety of materials, depending on the artist’s personal preferences.

As the skin was thoroughly cleaned before the wrap was added, the wrap itself will now act as a shield, keeping out any bacteria while your tattoo is healing and vulnerable to infection.

What Materials Are Used for Tattoo Wrapping

There are typically two main materials used for tattoo wrapping: plastic wrap and cloth bandages. Each has its own merits and factors that might influence the duration the wrap should stay in place.

Plastic Wrap

Plastic wrap, or cling film, is a commonly used material for tattoo wrapping. It’s often preferred for its transparency, allowing for easy monitoring of the tattoo without unwrapping, and it is efficient at keeping out bacteria. However, it’s also impermeable, so it can trap excess moisture and heat if left on for too long. This environment could potentially encourage bacterial growth, contrary to its original purpose of infection prevention.

Cloth Bandages

Cloth bandages, on the other hand, are breathable, allowing for some air circulation around the tattoo while still providing a level of protection against bacteria and debris. As cloth bandages can absorb excess fluid from the tattoo, they minimize the risk of creating an overly moist environment. This absorbency can lead to the bandage sticking to the tattoo, though, and it should be removed carefully to prevent damage.

It’s important to note that the choice of material doesn’t dictate the wrapping duration.

Cloth Tattoo Wrap
A Cloth Bandage Covering A New Tattoo

How Long Should a New Tattoo Be Wrapped For?

This is where many people start to get confused, caused by the fact that there are so many different opinions surrounding the most optimal time in which to keep a tattoo wrapped for. What may help to alleviate some confusion is to understand the rationale behind the wrapping.

As already mentioned, the main goal of having your new ink wrapped and covered is to help keep harmful germs and bacteria out of your healing skin. These germs can pose a serious infection risk; not only to your tattoo but also to your general health.

Generally speaking, the wrap is there to keep your ink germ-free up until the point where you’re able to clean the area yourself.

Once you’re home from the studio, there’s no reason why you cannot remove the wrapping as long as you’re able to immediately clean the tattoo with soapy, lukewarm water before applying a suitable healing lotion to the area.

The initial wash not only helps to keep the area bacteria-free but also assists in removing any blood or plasma that may have dried and stuck to the skin since the wrap has been in place. The moisturizing cream helps soothe, hydrate and nourish the area to promote healing.

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However, it’s generally advisable to wait for at least a couple of hours after leaving the studio before taking the wrapping off. This lets the area settle down a bit and allows some of the blood around the tattoo to disperse (which may also help to reduce swelling and tenderness).

Don’t get worried if you see a site like this – bleeding under the wrap is completely normal

Another reason for the wrapping is to help prevent direct contact with anything that you may accidentally rub up against or knock into, especially if the tattoo is on an exposed area, such as the forearm, shoulder or foot.

These knocks and bumps can not only be painful, but they can also aid in transferring germs and bacteria to the skin if you come into contact with anything unsanitary.

What Happens If You Leave a Tattoo Wrap on for Too Long?

Leaving a tattoo wrap on for an extended period can lead to a number of complications, which is why it’s so important to adhere to recommended timelines for removal. Let’s delve into why this is.

Leaving the wrap on for too long can create an environment that’s excessively moist, especially in the case of plastic wraps, which are not breathable. If left too long, the moisture can encourage unwanted bacterial growth, increasing the risk of infection.

On the other hand, cloth bandages that have absorbed a lot of fluid from the tattoo can stick to the skin if left on for too long. Removing a bandage that’s stuck to the tattoo can cause trauma to the area, potentially leading to damage to the tattoo itself.

Should You Sleep in Your Tattoo Wrap?

Some people prefer to sleep in their wrapping for the first night, and some artists recommend this, too.

This is especially true if the tattoo is in an area that is highly likely to come into contact with your bedsheets, which can expose the area to bacteria and can also cause the sheets to become stuck to the skin due to the drying/hardening of leaked blood and plasma.

At the end of the day, you should trust the advice that your tattoo artist gives you, as they know you and your tattoo better than anybody else.

If your artist advises that you can remove your wrapping in an hour, go ahead. Alternatively, if your artist suggests that you keep it on until the next day, I would suggest taking their professional opinion as long as they’re reputable and experienced.

If in doubt, get in touch with your artist/studio.

Can I Shower While My Tattoo Is Wrapped?

While it is possible to shower with a wrapped tattoo, it’s crucial to err on the side of caution. If your tattoo is wrapped in plastic wrap, water can get trapped under the wrap, creating an overly moist environment, which could increase the risk of bacterial growth and infection. Therefore, it’s generally recommended to avoid showering until after you’ve removed the wrap, typically after a few hours post-tattoo.

If you absolutely must shower before removing the wrap, try to keep the wrapped tattoo as dry as possible. Avoid direct water stream on the tattoo and definitely refrain from soaking it in a bath. It’s also important to remember that after you do remove the wrap, clean the tattoo gently with mild soap and pat it dry – don’t rub it.

Should I Avoid Exercising or Physical Activity While My Tattoo Is Wrapped?

Yes, it is advisable to avoid vigorous exercising or physical activity while your tattoo is wrapped, and even for a few days after getting your tattoo. Physical activities can cause excessive sweating, and sweat can accumulate between the wrap and your skin, which could lead to irritation or infection.

The tattooed area should ideally be kept clean, dry, and exposed to as little irritation as possible. This means you may need to modify your exercise routine, especially if the tattoo is in an area that could be impacted by the activity. Remember, a new tattoo is essentially a wound, and giving it ample time to heal properly is key for ensuring its longevity and vibrancy. Always follow the specific aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist.

Can You Re-Wrap Your New Tattoo Once the Initial Wrap Has Been Removed?

Manually re-wrapping your tattoo once the initial wrapping has been taken off is generally discouraged by most tattooing professionals.

No matter where you are when you wrap the tattoo yourself, you’re never likely to be in an environment as sterile as the tattoo studio, and this means you’re at a much greater risk of contracting an infection and disrupting the rest of your initial tattoo care period.

If lack of care leads to a secondary wrap being poorly applied to a new tattoo that hasn’t been properly disinfected, there is a high chance that bacteria will end up becoming trapped between the skin and the wrapping material.

This scenario is dangerous, as the warm, sweaty and humid environment underneath the wrap will be the perfect breeding ground for germs to multiply and move into the open wound. It won’t take long for bacteria to cause symptoms of infection below the wrap, including oozing and smelliness. Therefore, it’s always best to resist wrapping a new tattoo yourself without the help of a professional.

Once your tattoo has been removed from the wrapping, you should do your utmost to ensure the area comes into contact with as little bacteria as possible until the area has grown a new layer of protective skin over the wound.

Another reason not to keep re-wrapping your tattoo is that your skin needs to breathe in order to heal efficiently. Without clean, oxygenated air, your skin will struggle to obtain all of the requirements it needs to regenerate and repair itself successfully.

However, there are special second skin tattoo wraps available should you absolutely need to re-wrap your tattoo at some point during the healing process.


Be careful exposing your tattoo in common work locations such as building sites, restaurant kitchens, and other recreational areas such as gyms and public changing rooms. These places harbor millions of harmful bacteria, so always ensure you’re extremely careful when revealing your tattoo underneath your clothing.


While there is no definitive answer as to exactly how long you should keep a new tattoo wrapped and covered, you should carefully listen to your artist’s opinion and follow the advice as best as possible. Always contact them for help if you forget what to do or require assistance with your tattoo.

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