How To Clean An Infected Tattoo

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 12, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

An infected tattoo is more common than you realize, so there’s no need to worry. The skin has gone through trauma and needs your diligence to help it recover. Sure, the symptoms can be troublesome, but with these tips, you should feel better in no time.

Clean an infected tattoo using these steps:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water
  • Wash the infected area with a gentle soap or antiseptic cleanser
  • Rinse the area
  • Dry very carefully but thoroughly
  • Remain vigilant and track whether the infection is getting better or worse
  • Repeat this process daily

Why Do Tattoos Become Infected?

There are many ways a tattoo can become infected. It’s an open wound, so any exposure to germs and bacteria can potentially lead to infection.

Unsterile Equipment

The equipment in a tattoo parlor must be kept sterilized at all times to prevent the spread of infection. If the equipment used isn’t cleaned properly, then it may cause an infection. For example, if the needles aren’t sterilized correctly, any bacteria present on them can be transferred into your body. 

It’s common for people to jump to conclusions and blame their tattoo artist. While the artist could be at fault, this isn’t always the case. It could be something you’ve done without even realizing it.

Aftercare as a Contributing Factor

It can’t be stressed just how important it is to look after a new tattoo correctly. It’s an open wound, so any bacteria that comes into contact with it can cause an infection. The risk of catching an infection can be minimized by carefully following the aftercare instructions. Something as small as washing your hands can make a big difference. 

Unfortunately, no matter how careful you’ve been, tattoos still get infected. 

Warning Signs That Your Tattoo Is Infected

When a tattoo becomes infected, there are some common symptoms that’ll develop. These may be mild at first and easy to ignore. Over time, though, they’ll become more noticeable. This is your body’s way of telling you something’s wrong. These symptoms may include:

  • The area feeling hot to the touch 
  • Itching
  • Growing rash
  • Bleeding from scabs
  • Blistering
  • Pain around the tattoo site

As the infection progresses, the symptoms will develop into:

  • Pimples becoming boils
  • Pus
  • Red lines appearing in the area
  • Continuous bleeding
  • Swelling of lymph nodes
  • High temperature
  • Shaking 

Common Types of Infection

Staphylococcal Bacteria

This bacteria is a frequent cause of tattoo infections. It can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus

This is a category of Staphylococcal bacteria. It’s resistant to antibiotics, making it slightly more challenging to cure. It’s vital that you see a doctor so you can be advised about treatment.

Nontuberculous Mycobacteria

This infection is caused by contaminated ink used in tattoos. It’ll appear in the early stages as patches or bumps on the tattoo area.s

How to Clean an Infected Tattoo

If you catch an infection at the onset, it’s possible to treat it before it develops into something more serious. Keeping a tattoo clean is one of the most beneficial ways to combat an infection. Perform the cleansing steps below 2-3 times a day until the infection is gone and the tattoo has fully healed.

1. Remove and Dispose of the Bandage if There Is One

It’s essential to dispose of the old bandage immediately into a trash can. You definitely don’t want to be letting your tattoo come into contact with infected dressing.

2. Wash Your Hands With Soap and Water

You’re about to touch a wound, so you’ll want to make sure your hands are spotless. Otherwise, you risk transferring more bacteria to the area. 

3. Wash the Area With Soap and Rinse With Water

The soap should be gentle and unscented. Wash the area around the tattoo gently, as well as the tattoo itself. Wash any remaining soap away afterwards with lukewarm water.

Stay away from anything too abrasive when cleaning the area. A rough cloth will only serve to irritate the area further. It’ll also be painful for you. If possible, just use your hands.

Everything should be kept clean to maximize your chance of recovery.

4. Dry the Area Thoroughly

  1. Make sure you use a clean towel to dry the area. A paper towel is perfect. Make sure to pat the area dry, and do not rub.
  2. Try to avoid rigorously drying the infected area as this will be painful and cause irritation
  3. Allow it to air dry for a few minutes if not completely dry

5. Add a Moisturizing Lotion

Add a small amount of tattoo moisturizing lotion to the area unless instructed otherwise by either your tattoo artist or a doctor. This will help to ensure the skin is kept moisturized and well-nourished.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.

Seek Help If Required

There are many ways a tattoo can become infected, but it’s almost impossible to know exactly where an infection might’ve come from.

If your tattoo has become infected and doesn’t look like it will respond to standard aftercare practices, it’s advised that you seek medical attention promptly. Consulting a professional as soon as possible will help to calm worries and ensure that the infection gets better instead of getting worse.

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