When Can I Stop Washing My New Tattoo With Soap?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 21, 2019
    Last Updated: March 12, 2022

You should never stop washing your new tattoo with soap. After the tattoo has healed, you should continue to wash it just as you would any other piece of skin on your body. That being said, you can definitely ease up on your tattoo cleansing routine as soon as the area has fully healed.

This is the point in which germs and bacteria will no longer be able to successfully infiltrate the wound.

As part of the healing process, you can stop washing your tattoo with soap after:

  • The tattooed area has completely finished scabbing and peeling
  • Your artist has confirmed it’s ok to do so
  • Your doctor has advised you to stop

The First Wash — Clearing the Junk Away!

The first wash of your tattoo is almost as an unpleasant feeling as getting the tattoo itself, but it’s necessary. The film wrap your artist places over the tattoo creates a bacteria-free environment, but only while the area remains covered.

A bit of blood under the wrap is completely normal

This means the area must be washed as soon as the film is removed to protect against the bacteria, which will immediately be attracted to the fresh tattoo. That reason is not the only for wanting to wash your new tattoo straight away.

Blood, Plasma, and Ink — Oh My!

While the tattoo’s covered, it’ll leak excess ink, blood, and plasma. This can be referred to as tattoo ‘junk,’ and it’s a natural part of the tattoo healing­­ — even if it looks a bit scary. This needs to be cleaned off immediately as well, but don’t be alarmed if your tattoo continues to leak for a bit!

General Rules for Tattoo Cleanliness

Cleaning your new tattoo for the first time — not going to lie — will hurt a bit. The steps below are a general idea of how to best wash your tattoo for the first time, and for every time after that during the aftercare process:

  1. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap — they’re an instant portal of germs to your tattoo
  2. Wet the area by cupping water, but don’t waterlog it — doing so could cause ink loss
  3. Gently add soap to the tattoo using swirling motions with your fingers
  4. Rinse the soap off without holding it under the water (again, cupping water is best)
  5. The tattoo then needs to be patted dry (not rubbed), with a clean towel

Most Important Part — the Soap

When cleaning your tattoo for the first time, and every time after during the healing process, not just any soap will do. Your artist may have a personal recommendation for a brand of soap to use, but generally, non-scented antibacterial soap is best. We reveal our favorite tattoo soaps here.

Infection fighting and preservation of the tattoo is the entire goal of the aftercare process. This is why antibacterial soap is one of the most important things for the health of the tattoo.

Aftercare After the Initial Wash

The same process listed above is the same routine that will need to be carried out over the length of the healing process. Again, your artist will have a specific aftercare routine, which should be given to you after the tattoo. This is important to keep in mind because they know from experience how their work heals the best.

Lotion Will Be Your Best Friend

After washing the tattoo, you’ll need to apply some sort of unscented moisturizer or ointment to assist in the healing process. These will usually contain vitamins and hydrating properties, which help treat abrasions and keep the skin supple.

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.

It’s important to not let the skin get too dry, as this can prompt the area to crack and bleed if left unattended. This can cause some of the ink to be lost as the skin dries and flakes off. Alcohol wipes and other products containing alcohol can really irritate and dry out the skin so avoid them completely until the wound has completely healed.

A tattoo that has become so dry that the scabs have cracked and begun to bleed

Dry tattoos are also itchy and painful, which will make you want to scratch it. Scratching a tattoo can lead to scarring and prolong the healing process. 

Repeat Until Fully Healed

A new tattoo can take up to six weeks to heal fully. This initial aftercare routine should last between 14 days and one month. Take into account your tattoo and what it looks and feels like — not all tattoos heal at the same speed. Generally, smaller tattoos heal at a faster rate than larger ones. This is because the wound and the area of abrasion is smaller, and has been damaged less. 

Other factors that can affect the rate of healing are placement and specific colors put into the tattoo. Heavier colors, such as reds, will take longer to heal because of how deeply they need to be placed in the skin to retain their luster.

Tattoos that are in more mobile areas of the body will also take longer to heal than those that are in more non-mobile areas, such as the hands, wrists, and feet. These areas are never given the chance to rest properly, which will increase the healing time. If the time it takes a tattoo to heal is extended, so is the time you’ll need to use soap on that area. 

Your new tattoo will also begin to scab over and peel during this time. It’s crucial not to pick at the tattoo’s scabs for multiple reasons:

  • Runs the possibility of scarring 
  • Prolongs the healing time of the tattoo
  • Can take the ink of the tattoo out with the skin, which will lead to touch-ups

During this part of the healing process, you still need to continue the same routine with antibacterial soap, as listed above. The only difference at this time is that you’ll need to take extra care to not rip any of the scabs off the area.

Every Body and Tattoo is Different

Your artist will know the best aftercare routine for their work, and you know your body. If you feel more comfortable washing your tattoo with soap for a little longer than necessary, it won’t cause any problems. 

As long as the basic guidelines above are followed for the initial wash and during the healing process, your tattoo should be radiant for years to come with no complications. Every tattoo’s healing time is as individual as the person it’s placed on, so don’t be too stressed on timelines for washing your tattoo with soap — enjoy your new ink!

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