Like all piercings, it’s important to keep the one in your belly button clean to avoid infection. But how should you do it properly?
Here, we take a look at exactly how to clean a belly button ring, and how often to do it. We’ll take you through the process step by step, so you can be sure your piercing will stay germ-free.
Read on to keep your belly button healthy!
How often to clean your belly button piercing
It’s very important to clean your belly button piercing while it’s healing. That means cleaning it one to two times a day for four to six weeks.
You should also make sure you clean your piercing after sweating. Sweat can irritate the wound, as well as washing in other dirt, so clean it away promptly.
Whilst regular cleaning is important, however, it’s also important not to over-clean your piercing. Washing it more often than twice a day risks stripping your skin of its natural oils. That can mean dry, flaky skin and a sore belly button.
1. Cleaning belly button piercing with soap and water
You won’t need any expensive chemical preparations here. Water and a mild soap will do the job perfectly. Look for soap designed for sensitive skin, and avoid anything that’s heavily fragranced.
The simplest way to wash your piercing is to do it whilst showering. To begin with, make sure your belly button and the surrounding skin is thoroughly wet. Cup your palm beneath your piercing, so that the water collects there and fills up your belly button.
Then lather the soap in your other hand and apply the lather around your belly button. Finally, rinse the lather away.
2. Cleaning belly button piercing with saline solution
Another option is to use saline solution to clean your piercing. You can either buy this at a pharmacy or make it yourself.
Making it yourself is very easy. Just add a teaspoon of table or sea salt to half a cup of boiled water. Don’t use any other kind of salt! Sir it in, then let the water cool. When it’s tepid, transfer it to a clean paper cup or medicine cup.
Lie down on your back so that your belly button is flat. Now place the lower rim of the cup beneath your belly button and flip it upside down quickly. You want the cup upside down over your belly button, so that the water is soaking your skin.
Hold the cup firmly in place to prevent the water from running out. You may want to lie on a towel to prevent spills onto the surface around your body.
Stay there for between ten and fifteen minutes. When the time is up, rinse your belly button thoroughly using clean, fresh water. Finally, dry it with a tissue or paper towel. Avoid fabric towels, as they may harbor germs.
3. Using lavender oil to Clean belly button piercing
Lavender oil isn’t a substitute for cleaning your piercing, but it can be used alongside soap and water. It’s particularly good at reducing inflammation and speeding up the healing process.
Make sure you buy lavender oil that’s medicinal grade. You need to avoid any impurities that might cause irritation to your piercing.
Apply it after you’ve washed your belly button. Make sure your hands are clean, then add a couple of drops of oil to a cotton bud. Use this to gently swap the area around your piercing, then wipe off any excess using a tissue.
There’s no need to apply lavender oil after every wash, but it can be soothing now and again.
4. Cleaning any crusted secretions
Crusted secretions may not sound pleasant, but they’re a completely normal part of your wound healing. Just clean them gently from your skin when they appear.
To do this, you’ll need warm water and a cotton bud. Soak the cotton bud in the water and gently soak the crust. Then use the cotton bud to wipe it from your skin. However tempting it is, don’t pick at the crust! Doing so is a sure-fire rout to infection.
Make sure you clean away any encrustation promptly. If you leave it to build up, it can stick your ring to your skin. Then, when your ring moves, it will pull at the piercing and slow up the healing process.
5. What Not to Use
As important as knowing how to clean your piercing is knowing what substances to steer clear of. Many washes and ointments that work well for other wounds are not suitable for a piercing.
Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol, for example, will dry out your skin and cause irritation. They will also prevent healthy new skin cells growing inside the piercing. That will mean your belly button takes longer to heal.
You should also avoid antibacterial lotions. While hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol dry out your skin, these create the opposite problem – a wound that’s too moist. The moisture creates a barrier that prevents oxygen reaching the skin. Again, your piercing will take longer to heal as a result.
And finally, if you’re making your own saline solution, don’t use anything other than sea or table salt. Epsom salts, kosher salt or iodized salt are all absolute no-nos. They will irritate your piercing and make the healing process slower.
6. Other tips to avoid infection
Whilst cleaning is a key part of aftercare for a piercing, it’s not the only thing to pay attention to. You also want to make sure that your belly button ring moves as little as possible during the healing process. There are two main ways to achieve that.
The first is to wear loose clothing. Avoid anything with a seam or fastening that sits on top of your belly button. Spend as much time as possible in loosely tied bathrobes, loose fitting lounge wear and floaty dresses! When will you have such a good excuse again?!
Conversely, avoid panty hose, Lycra, or anything with elastane. Those fabrics will hug your body, preventing air from reaching your wound and risking your piercing getting tangled up. A belly button ring caught in your clothing can be very painful, and will slow down healing.
The second thing is to avoid touching your belly button ring for the first three to four weeks after piercing. In fact, keep your hand away from your piercing altogether, except when you’re cleaning it. That will minimize the risk of you transferring dirt or bacteria to the wound.
It’s a good idea to check with your piercer that your belly button ring is ready to be removed. That will usually not be the case for at least six weeks. Check first, and you’ll avoid the risk of infection, or of your piercing closing up before you’ve changed your jewelry.
7. What to do if your piercing becomes infected
If you follow these tips, you’re very unlikely to have a problem with your belly button piercing becoming infected. But in the unlikely event that that happens, here’s how to deal with it.
If you experience chills or a fever, don’t wait – see your doctor straight away. If, however, you have other symptoms you can take action yourself. Look out for bloody or green pus, excessive swelling and redness, or a piercing that hurts when touched.
Begin by trying to draw out the infection from the affected area. Take a fresh, clean cotton washcloth and soak it in warm water. Then wring it out and hold it against your piercing. Keep it in place for three minutes, then rinse the area in plenty of clean water.
Next, dry the area thoroughly using a tissue or paper towel, and apply a thin layer of antibacterial cream. Repeat three or four times a day. If things aren’t looking better after the first 24 hours, see your doctor.
And whatever you do, don’t take out your belly button ring. This might be counter-intuitive, but the presence of the ring will make it easier to reach and treat the infection.
If you remove it, and the hole closes up, an untreated infection can still be there beneath your skin. And that can be much more difficult to put right.
So in summary …
Take the time to keep your belly button clean and your piercing will heal quickly and safely. Keep it simple, using a saline solution or mild soap and water. Cleaning your belly button twice a day will keep things hygienic, whilst avoiding drying out your skin.
Steer clear of other chemicals unless you develop an infection. You can, however, use lavender oil occasionally after washing your piercing. That will reduce inflammation and soothe the skin.
Avoid tight clothing and moving your piercing to make sure everything heals as quickly as possible.
If you find that, despite your best efforts, your belly button becomes infected, take action straight away. If you have chills or a fever, consult your doctor immediately. If your belly button issues green or bloody pus, is excessively red or swollen, or becomes very painful, you can take your own steps first.
Press a warm compress to the affected area, dry it, then apply antibacterial lotion. Do so three to four times a day, and assess again after the first 24 hours.
If there’s no sign of improvement, get yourself to the doctor. They’ll be able to offer more effective treatment – but leave in your belly button ring. That will make their job far easier.