This article is from the Piercing FAQ, by Anne Greenblatt with numerous contributions by others.
Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap before touching
your piercing or jewelry.
The piercing should be cleaned twice a day while it is healing.
Over-cleaning can irritate the piercing; do not clean more often
unless the piercing has been exposed to dirt, sweat, or bodily
fluids. Saline solution may be used to remove dried discharge between
Antiseptic solutions containing benzalkonium or benzethonium chloride
are often suggested for cleaning ear and facial piercings. Remove
dried discharge using a cottonswab and hot water or the antiseptic
solution before rotating the jewelry; do not use your fingernails. The
disinfectant should be applied liberally to both entrances using a
cotton swab while rotating the jewelry. Rinsing the piercing under
running water is suggested to remove bacteria and antiseptic
residues. If the skin around the piercing becomes red, dry and chapped
Liquid antimicrobial skin cleansers and antibacterial soaps are
suggested by most piercers. The shower provides the best place to
adequately lather and rinse piercings. Remove any dried discharge from
the jewelry using a cottonswab and hot water before rotating the
jewelry; do not use your fingernails. Apply the soap around the
piercing and work it into a lather while rotating the jewelry for at
least 15 seconds. Rinse the piercing, jewelry and the surrounding area
thoroughly under running water. While rinsing rotate the jewelry
Use a clean cotton swab each time you apply soap to prevent
contaminating the bottle.
Do not use a washcloth or sponge to clean your piercing. Cloths and
sponges trap and collect bacteria and mildew.
Dry the piercing using a tissue or cotton swabs.
Rinse your piercing and jewelry thoroughly with water after showering
or bathing to remove soap residues.
Soaking the piercing in warm salt water or using a warm salt water
compress helps remove dried discharge and lymph secretions, relieve
itching, and increase circulation to the piercing. Use 1/4 teaspoon
sea salt or table salt per 8 ounces of water. Table salt and sea salt
are both sodium chloride and essentially the same; table salt simply
contains ingredients to alter the taste and improve flow in
cooking. Epsom salt is hydrated magnesium sulfate and should not be
used. Soaking 10 to 15 minutes once or twice a day is suggested. The
tub or container used for soaking should be disinfected using a
household disinfectant or bleach solution. If more than one piercing
requires soaking, disposable cups should be used. There is no need to
clean your piercing after soaking in salt water; however, soaking
should not replace cleaning.
Do not allow your piercing to come in contact with cosmetics, lotions,
and perfumes which can cause extreme irritation. When using har spray
cover your piercings with your hand or a tissue.
The most frequent causes of infection are touching the piercing or the
jewelry with unwashed hands or contact with unclean items such as
clothing, bedding or hair. Do not wear hatbands or bandannas over ear
and eyebrow piercings. In the case of ear piercings use the opposite
ear for telephones or place a clean tissue between the ear and the
Do not allow your piercing to come into contact with saliva (of others
and your own) or another person's bodily fluids.
Swimming in public pools, spas and hot-tubs may risk infection as one
can never be sure of the quality of sanitation and the risk of
exposure to bacteria is too great. Although some people have
experienced no ill-effects from swimming in natural bodies of water,
exposure to dirt, bacteria or other microorganisms could adversely
affect the piercing or cause an infection.
Laundry detergents containing stain-fighting enzymes should not be
used to wash clothing which is in direct contact with the
piercing. The enzymes can impede healing.
After the healing process is complete you should continue to clean
your piercing once a day as part of your bathing or showering routine
to prevent accumulation of dirt and dead skin cells.