Home » How to Clean a Tattoo? | Properly Care for Fresh and New Ones

How to Clean a Tattoo? | Properly Care for Fresh and New Ones

Bam!! You’ve just gotten inked with the tattoo you’ve always wanted. The session went fantastic. No complaints. Now, you need to know what to do next.

Many newbie enthusiasts take their body art — tattoos in particular — for granted, knowing it’s a permanent form of art and so nothing can go wrong with it.

Did you know that keeping your tattoo clean will keep it vibrant looking for a much more extended period? Of course, the trick is to know exactly how to clean a tattoo — fresh and new ones. But, of course, that’s the purview of this article, so you’d want to stick around!

The point is to keep your fresh, new tattoo clean. It should be devoid of dirt and bacteria as that can enter the wounded skin and cause irritation, or worse, an infection. You’re on the right track by employing a proper daily cleaning regimen and a recommended aftercare process.

So, why continue the aftercare process once the healing has happened? That’s so your tattoo can continue to be healthy, shiny, and appealing for many years to come.

The First 24 Hours Are Crucial:

Once your tattoo session ends, your tattooist will ensure to clean your tattoo. For this, the artist will use no less than a highly recommended antibacterial soap.

After cleaning the wound, the tattoo artist will patch your tattoo wound and wrap a sterilized wrap or bandage around it before letting you leave for home.

Before saying adios, though, the artist would’ve given you instructions on the crucial first tattoo wash that you’ll be doing yourself at home. The steps would be as follows:

How To Clean A Tattoo – The Steps Involved

How To Clean A Tattoo - The Steps Involved

You’ll end up removing the wrapping (the bandage) around your tattoo a few hours later. Usually, you can remove it between 3 to 12 hours after getting the tattoo. But, the exact timing depends on what your tattoo artist has instructed you.

After removing the bandage (the wrapping), you must clean the tattoo. Remember, that very first wash is critical for the healing and health of your brand new tattoo. Further, the first month of the healing stage is vital. So, on the first day and during the rest of the initial month, stick to cleaning your tattoo daily.

Steps for First-Ever Wash:

Step 1: Wash Your Hands Thoroughly

Wash Your Hands Thoroughly

Hand hygiene is crucial. Before your hands touch your tattoo, you should ensure they’re washed thoroughly with one of the best antibacterial soaps.

Step 2: Wet The Tattooed Area With Lukewarm Water

Wet The Tattooed Area With Lukewarm Water

With your bacteria-free, clean hands, you can now gently wet the tattoo area with lukewarm water. The wound is fresh and quite sore at this stage. Lukewarm water (Caution: not warm water!) shall prove subtle enough and won’t sting or open the pores. 

Make sure you don’t apply the water directly. Instead, cup the water and slowly, gently pour it onto the newly tattooed location. The object is to wet the area with plain water using your hand, achieving this in a gentle, circular motion.

Step 3: Clean The Tattoo Gently With Tattoo Cleanser Or Soap

Once your tattoo is gently made wet, now’s the time to rub a soap to clean the tattoo surface. You have to do this with a safe to use soap that is fragrance-free, alcohol-free, and mild. For this first wash and the rest of the first month, remember to use only your hands and fingers for rubbing the soap onto your skin.

During this step, you should know how much soap to apply. Generally, it would help if you didn’t force clean any blood or ink that has accumulated yet won’t come off. So, just let it be until it cleans off naturally over subsequent washes in the next few days. 

Step 4: Rinse Gently

Rinse Gently

Once you’ve correctly cleaned the tattoo area, you can proceed with sufficient lukewarm water in a cup to gently wash away the soap. At this stage or during the next few days, any ink that comes off in natural progression to the washing process is a normal phenomenon.

Step 5: Pat Dry With A Paper Towel (Do Not Use A Cloth!)

Pat Dry With A Paper Towel (Do Not Use A Cloth!)

It’s crucial to dry off the washed area completely. To do so, gently use a paper towel. Avoid using cloth. Cloth can have lingering bacteria that are hard to clean. That said, gently pat dry the area without scrubbing or rubbing the paper towel on the skin. If you’re not gentle in this process, you might end up pulling scabs and peeling skin. Again, caution should be used, ensuring the paper towel isn’t dabbed hard or it’ll stick to the infected skin.

Step 6: Apply Moisturizer

Apply Moisturizer

A dry tattoo surface is necessary for this next step. A recommended tattoo moisturizer in the form of either a cream, lotion, or ointment that does its job at adequately hydrating the skin and keeping the healing going is the final step. The application of the moisturizer has to be in minimal quantities. Apply a thin layer to the entire tattoo. Applying too much moisturizer is detrimental to the healing process as it blocks the pores inhibiting the entry of much-needed oxygen.

Steps For the Rest of The First Month:

As already mentioned, the initial wash is critical. It needs to happen when the bandage comes off, and there is an urgency to clean the tattoo before the bacteria starts sticking to it and seeps in the open tears. But what about the rest of the first month? — the initial healing stage? 

The cleaning process continues for a month. After that, you have to do it twice a day. Once at the beginning and once at the end of the day. You can’t apply running water on your tattoo during this sensitive healing period like you would during a regular bath or shower. Instead, you have to wash your tattoo separately.  

During the first month, anytime you’re directly involved with messy activities like gardening, for example, make sure you keep your tattooed area covered. Else, wash it immediately using the steps mentioned earlier in the previous section. 

The first two weeks are when scabbing and peeling occur. During that period, you should be extra careful not to get dirt on your tattoo. As much as possible, halt activities that pose a risk to your skin hygiene. 


The healing process of a fresh new tattoo begins the moment you remove its bandage. At that moment, immediately and gently do the first wash.

Clean the new tattoo at least twice or thrice daily for an initial couple of weeks. After that, for the rest of that month, clean it at least twice daily. Typically, after one month of getting the ink, the tattoo entirely heals.

In this article, you’ve learned how to clean a tattoo that is healing. You should perform the steps involved gently.  

Tattoos are central to our lives these days. There are tons of excellent tattoo design options out there. Always go to a reputable, hygienic studio where the artists are experienced professionals. Always consult your artist for instructions on the best tattoo aftercare practices for your skin type.

About Author

Jonathan Corby "Jonny" is a guy who is passionate about Tattooing and successfully running a Tattoo Studio in NY. Through my journey as a Tattoo Artist I have made unforgettable memories. This irrational poetry and sense of freedom of art on skin has given a blissfull experience to my life. Each Tattoo has a story behind it; Lets share one!