Cleaning An Ear Piercing: Simply & Effectively

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 15, 2018
    Last Updated: November 28, 2020

Ear piercings are an awesome way to express your personality and sense of style. With the wide variety of piercing types that are available, you have seemingly limitless choices when it comes to what piercings you should get. However, no matter what type of piercing you get, cleaning your ear piercing will be a vital part of the overall healing process.

Why Cleaning Is So Important

Cleaning your new ear piercing regularly is absolutely vital. Your piercing must be allowed to heal properly, which can take anywhere from weeks to months depending on the area where you get it done. The only way your piercing will heal properly is if you keep it clean at all times throughout the aftercare phase.

Failing to keep your piercing clean can mean infections, which will ultimately make it take even longer for your piercing to heal. Complications from infected piercings are no fun at all, so trust us when we tell you that you have to make every effort to maintain your cleaning regimen.

How To Clean Your Ear Piercing

1. Give it a Rest

First things first – do not attempt to clean your piercing right away when you get home. In fact, don’t touch your piercing or the area around it for the first 24 hours after you’ve had your piercing done. The area will still likely be painful, and you need to let the piercing settle down a bit.

2. Get Cleaning

Most of the time, your ear piercer will recommend sea salt soaks to keep your piercings clean. This can be very easy, as you can simply dip your lobe piercing in a cup of warm salt water (dissolve ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt into 1 cup of warm water) or the solution provided by your ear piercer.

The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan, but it’s also completely alcohol and additive-free. The solution works well on all skin types including sensitive skin, and it comes in a generously-sized mist-spraying bottle for easy application. When using it from the very start of the healing process, the spray helps to decrease healing times and aims to eliminate any lingering pain or soreness.​

Of course, if you have a cartilage piercing, it will be a little more difficult to do. Some ear piercers will recommend that you use a Q-tip or other cotton swab to probe the area around your piercing gently after dipping it into your approved cleaning solution.

You’ll also need to be aware that cleaning industrial piercings and other variations with multiple wounds will be a bit more important, as there are more areas for bacteria to enter.

Make note that you should never use harsh soaps or anti-bacterial products to clean your ear piercings. You should also avoid using healing ointments, which can actually impair airflow to the area and increase healing times.

3. Be Careful

While cleaning, you’re likely to occasionally notice crusty, clear, yellowish fluids come out of your piercing. This is completely normal. Don’t use your fingers to remove the crust. Instead, try to get them out using a cotton swab in a gentle sweeping motion.

In addition to your cleaning regimen, you have to make sure that your daily habits aren’t putting your piercing’s healing at risk. Keep your hands clean if you must touch anywhere around the area of your piercing. Do what you must to prevent dirt and oils from getting near the area, too.

Overall, avoid letting anything come in contact with your piercing whenever possible. This not only means your hands but anything else, too. For ear piercings, this may mean trying to sleep on the other side of your head from where your new piercing is.

Just in case, make sure your pillow and pillowcase are clean since they’ll probably come in contact with your ear piercing.

4. Expect (Some) Discomfort

Another important thing to note is not to be alarmed if you notice swelling, tenderness, or bruising early on in the healing process. This is normal when you’ve just had a piercing done, although you definitely shouldn’t be experiencing it weeks later. If this is the case, see a doctor as you could have an infection.

5. Don’t Twist

One more thing that you should know: Don’t follow the outdated advice that you should “twist” your starter jewelry regularly to avoid it somehow getting stuck in your piercing. This advice has long been given by inexperienced piercers at mall stores, but it can actually end up irritating your piercing.

Also, if you twist your jewelry, bacteria and crusty secretions that normally would work their way out of your piercing will instead get stuck inside. This can obviously lead to an infection in no time. If your jewelry feels “stuck,” it’s likely due to swelling, which will gradually decrease throughout the healing process.

A Quick Reference

  1. Wash your hands. Wash with lukewarm water and soap before touching your piercing to avoid transferring bacteria to the area.
  2. Clean with a clean cotton swab or pad, dipped in salt solution. Use this around the piercing area 2-4 times a day to remove any bacteria.
  3. Dab the piercing. Dab the area with a clean towel so you don’t damage the wound while it’s healing. Wiping instead of dabbing can cause further damage.

How Often Should You Clean An Ear Piercing?

While some piercers may advise you to clean your piercing twice, others may advise you to do so as many as three or four times per day.

It is worth saying that you can clean a piercing too often. In fact, this is sometimes a problem that people encounter when they get their first-ever ear piercing. In the effort to keep the piercing as clean as possible, many well-intentioned people will actually clean their piercing too much and irritate/inflame the area.

When Can I Stop Cleaning My Ear Piercing?

The general time frame for earlobe piercings to completely heal is about six weeks. Cartilage piercings take a little bit longer, with most estimates coming out to about twelve weeks.

There are a couple of things to consider with these estimates, of course. One thing to remember is that the time frames presented here are defined according to the scenario that you have not had any infections or setbacks during the healing process and that your underlying health is excellent. If infections or bad inflammation occur, healing times can take a little longer, and cleaning infected ear piercings can be a little more involved/painful.  Some underlying health conditions may also significantly delay healing.

It’s also worth noting that piercing wounds heal from the inside-out, meaning that while your ear may look nice and healed from the outside, it could still be regenerating in the middle. If in doubt, ask your piercer.

How To Clean Your Ear Piercing Jewelry

Fortunately, keeping your jewelry clean is much easier than taking care of a new piercing. To sterilize your ear piercing jewelry, simply let it soak in rubbing alcohol for several minutes before putting it in your ear.

Alternatively, a quick warm water rinse will also work wonders and keep your jewelry looking nice and sparkly.


Hopefully, you now understand the importance of cleaning your ear piercing during the healing process.

Sometimes it may seem like a pain to have to interrupt your day to undergo your cleaning regimen. It’s also pretty easy to forget to do it entirely.

However, it’s 100% necessary to keep your cleaning program going if you want your piercing to heal perfectly and look the way you always wanted it to.

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