How to Clean a New Tattoo

A new tattoo of four birds flying on a woman's back.

There are times in a person’s life when one yearns for something more. This desire could be many things, such as a new pet, a collection of some sort, or maybe some significant piece of artwork that speaks to you as an individual. Sometimes, people choose a new tattoo. Like any new thing you might bring home, you want to give it the best possible chance at a good, long life. You’ve put in the time, the money, and the pain – now you need to learn how to clean a new tattoo and care for it. Below you’ll find out how to keep a tattoo clean, prevent infection and keep your treasure looking bold and vibrant as a testament against time.

Cleaning your New Tattoo

    1. tattoo bandageDo not remove the bandage right away. A new tattoo should be treated like a fresh wound, despite its organized decoration. Leave the bandage on for at least two hours; it will absorb fluids from your fresh flesh wound. If you got this tattoo at night, leave the bandage on until morning. Always follow your tattooist’s specific directions, as they will know if your tattoo needs any special care.
    2. garbage can full of paperTake the bandage off and discard. If it is stuck to your skin, use water to dampen the bandage in order to remove it. If your bandage fell off while you were sleeping and now your shirt is stuck to your fresh design, allow water to run over the shirt at the affected area. This will let you peel off the shirt without much incident. Avoid infections by not touching your tattoo.
    3. soap suds on handClean a new tattoo with soap. Wash your hands and then use your fingers to gently apply antibacterial or antimicrobial soap to clean the new tattoo. Wash away any ointment residue, blood or plasma (stuff that will form scabs). Again, be gentle with the washing–this is just a fancy wound.
  1. roll of paper towels width=Dab at the new tattoo. Do not rub. Paper towels are okay to use, but certainly not soiled or nasty cloth towels already found in your bathroom. Let the area air-dry for a few minutes. If fluids continue to flow, just keep lightly dabbing at the area until the leakage stops.
  2. bottle of kiss my face moisturizerUse unscented lotion to keep it moist. The most important idea here is to use a lotion that is fragrance-free. It will actually help heal your new tattoo sooner to apply a small amount of unscented lotion frequently throughout the day. Basically whenever the tat feels dry and tight, hydrate it with the lotion. Continue this for 1-2 weeks.
  3. person swimmingKeep it dry and avoid direct sunlight. Though it sounds contradictory, to promote healing, your tattoo needs to maintain hydration and have oxygen allowed to the area. The tattoo shouldn’t remain covered up unless by necessary clothing. Another big no-no is to allow the tattoo to get waterlogged. Avoid swimming, taking a bath if the area will be submerged, and direct water streams while in the shower. Do not use sunscreen until after the tattoo has healed. At that point, it will help to keep it from fading.

Newer Tattoo Considerations

Many tattoo artists (or know-it-all friends) will recommend using A&D ointment, Neosporin, or other products. These are excellent if there is an infection present, but they have no healing value outside of that. In the past, Vaseline and petroleum-based products were accepted, but these tend to clog up the wound, promote scabbing, and hinder oxygen penetration. The whole idea of using non-petroleum- based, fragrance-free lotion is to prevent the wound from scabbing as much as possible, though some is unavoidable. Scabs from this fresh wound will contain ink that you will lose. Allow any flakes or dried material to fall away freely—do not pick at it! Most tattoos should be nearly healed by the second or third week. Keep in mind that your tattoo artist will know more about your specific tattoo, so their instructions should be a primary consideration.

New Tattoo Care Aids

Bottle of CurelCurél. Although the debate over A&D ointment and lotion will continue, I personally recommend fragrance-free Curél lotion. As mentioned before, it is alcohol-free and non-petroleum based. Therefore this won’t clog pores and will allow necessary oxygen to promote healing while keeping the tattoo hydrated. Just make sure it is fragrance-free; you don’t want to put perfume into an open wound.

squeeze bottle of beyond coastal sunscreenNatural sunscreen. Once your tattoo is fully healed and you are ready to flash this baby off, don’t forget the sunscreen! You should still protect yourself from the sun, especially to maintain your tattoo’s luster. Beyond Coastal Natural Sunscreen is a true spectrum UVB/UVA blocker. Using a natural product like this ensures that chemicals aren’t seeping into your skin or into water. You can find Beyond Coastal sunscreen at Amazon in a variety of sizes.