Should Cleaning a Piercing Feel Painful?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 22, 2023
    Last Updated: April 7, 2023

Cleaning a piercing is an essential part of the aftercare process to prevent infections and promote healing. However, many people wonder if it’s normal for cleaning a piercing to hurt. Let’s take a closer look.

Should Cleaning a Piercing Feel Painful?

Cleaning a fresh piercing can be uncomfortable, but it should not be excessively painful. The pain is usually caused by the sensitivity of the area, especially if it’s a new piercing that is still healing.

How Long Will Cleaning Be Uncomfortable For?

While it’s normal to experience some discomfort while cleaning a new piercing, this discomfort should subside as the piercing heals. The length of time that cleaning will be uncomfortable can vary depending on the location of the piercing and how well you take care of it.

On average, it can take up to several weeks for a new piercing to heal. During this time, you may experience some discomfort, redness, and swelling. As the piercing begins to heal, the area may become less sensitive, and cleaning should become less uncomfortable.

However, it’s essential to remember that everyone’s body heals differently, and some people may experience discomfort for longer periods. It’s important to be patient and gentle when cleaning the piercing to avoid prolonging the healing process.

To promote healing and reduce discomfort, continue to follow the aftercare instructions provided by your piercer, even after the initial healing period. Proper cleaning and maintenance can help keep the piercing healthy and comfortable.

Why Does Cleaning a Piercing Hurt?

When you get a new piercing, the body perceives it as a wound and immediately begins the process of healing. During the healing process, the body sends an increased blood flow to the area, which helps to promote the growth of new tissue and fight off infections. This increased blood flow also means that the area can be more sensitive and prone to pain.

Additionally, new piercings can cause trauma to the skin and create tiny tears or abrasions. These tiny wounds can be especially painful when you first start cleaning the piercing because they can be irritated by the cleaning solution or saltwater.

The type of piercing can also affect how much it hurts to clean. For example, cartilage piercings tend to be more painful because the cartilage is less flexible than skin and has a smaller blood supply, making it harder for the piercing to heal.

While it’s normal to feel some discomfort during the healing process, excessive pain or other symptoms could be a sign of an infection. If you experience severe pain, swelling, or discharge, it’s important to seek medical attention to ensure your piercing is healing correctly.

Infected Cartilage Piercing
Infected cartilage piercing

Should I Stop Cleaning My Piercing If It’s Hurting?

Experiencing some discomfort while cleaning a new piercing is normal, but it’s essential to distinguish between normal discomfort and excessive pain. If cleaning your piercing is causing severe pain or making it difficult to complete the cleaning process, you may wonder if it’s best to stop cleaning the piercing altogether.

However, it’s crucial to continue cleaning your piercing even if it hurts, as failing to clean the piercing can increase the risk of infection and prolong the healing process. In some cases, stopping cleaning a piercing altogether can even lead to the piercing being rejected by the body.

Instead of stopping cleaning your piercing altogether, it’s best to try to minimize the discomfort you’re experiencing by making some adjustments to your cleaning routine. For example, you could try soaking the piercing in warm water before cleaning to help loosen any debris and make the cleaning process more comfortable. Additionally, you could try switching to a different cleaning solution or aftercare spray that is less irritating.

If you’re still experiencing significant discomfort despite these adjustments, it’s essential to speak with your piercer or a medical professional to determine if there is an underlying issue, such as an infection, that needs to be addressed. They may be able to provide additional guidance on how to make the cleaning process more comfortable or suggest alternative aftercare techniques.

How to Clean a Piercing With Limited Discomfort

To minimize pain while cleaning a piercing, it’s essential to follow the aftercare instructions provided by your piercer carefully. Here are some tips to help you clean your piercing without pain:

  1. Wash your hands before touching the piercing to avoid transferring bacteria to the area.
  2. Use a saline solution or piercing aftercare spray recommended by your piercer to clean the piercing. Avoid using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as these can dry out the skin and delay healing.
  3. Soak the piercing in warm water for a few minutes to help loosen any crust or debris before cleaning.
  4. Gently clean the piercing with a cotton swab or a clean, soft cloth. Avoid using a rough cloth or scrubbing the piercing, as this can cause further irritation.
  5. Rinse the piercing with warm water and pat it dry with a clean towel.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While some discomfort and redness are normal during the healing process, excessive pain or other symptoms could be a sign of an infection. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention:

  • Excessive pain or swelling
  • Redness that spreads beyond the piercing site
  • Discharge that is yellow or green
  • Fever or chills


Cleaning a piercing may be uncomfortable, but it should not be excessively painful. By following the aftercare instructions provided by your piercer and taking steps to minimize discomfort, you can keep your piercing clean and healthy.

If you experience any unusual symptoms or excessive pain, seek medical attention to avoid complications.

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