Since I get most of my hits on my blog from people researching industrial piercings, I decided to go ahead and post a very basic thing that I know I researched a ton before getting mine done: how to clean it.
Of course, I am not a licensed piercer so take my advice at your own risk but I can assure you that I researched this extensively and that I ended up taking an alternative route to the normal.
There are two ways to clean any piercing but with industrials you have to be a little more diligent and careful because they are temperamental piercings. First of all, basics: wash your hands with antibacterial hand soap every time before you clean your ear, preferably one without moisturizers in it because the less additives near your piercing the better. Don’t put lotion or oil or anything on your hands until after you’re finished cleaning your ear. Don’t touch the actual piercing sites. Clean it twice a day (or if that’s too much for your piercing like it was for mine, you CAN do it once a day but make sure it gets cleaned AT LEAST ONCE a day). Don’t skip a day or a cleaning. Industrials are not piercings you can skip out on cleaning. You WILL feel it if you don’t clean it. Don’t use alcohol on it. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide. Don’t use Bactine. Don’t use Neosporin. Don’t use Triple Antibiotic Cream. All of these will only harm/irritate your piercing and, if you read their instructions, tell you not to use them on puncture wounds. And guess what piercings are: puncture wounds. Also, some people use both of these methods in combination. There’s no need to do that. It might just prolong the healing period because you’d probably just dry it out.
SEA SALT SOAK METHOD:
First method is the most accepted, widely recommended, preferred method and that is sea salt soaks. You heat up 8 ounces (one cup) of purified or distilled water (you can use tap water but it’s safer to use the aforementioned types, but *cough* I used tap water *cough*) as hot as you can comfortably handle it. You don’t want to accidentally burn yourself. Then you add a 1/4 of a teaspoon of NON-IDODIZED SEA SALT to the water and stir it up until it dissolves. DO NOT USE IODIZED TABLE SALT OR EPSOM SALT. Iodized salt and Epsom salt can irritate fresh piercings because of the additives in them. You can buy non-iodized sea salt at the grocery store. They come in inexpensive big tubs of it just like regular salt. However, they can be annoying because sea salt sticks together so you might have to knock it up against something to free up the salt particles every once in a while.
Anyway, after your salt is all dissolved, just submerge your ear into the cup of water. I found this easiest to do by sitting in a chair at my kitchen table with my cup of water on the table and hunching over to submerge my ear. Keep your ear in the sea salt water for FIVE TO TEN MINUTES. This can be a bit of trial and error. You’ll be able to tell over time how long you should keep your ear in the solution. IT’S RECOMMENDED THAT YOU DO THIS METHOD TWICE A DAY, once in the morning, once at night. And make sure to RINSE your ear with warm, clean water after you’re finished soaking it. If you don’t, the sea salt can start to build up around the piercing sites and irritate them. When you’re finished rinsing it, take a piece of paper towel and gently pat it dry. Don’t use a regular towel. Regular towels can harbor bacteria and can cause an infection, especially in the beginning when your piercing is so susceptible. You can also dip in cotton pads/balls in the salt water solution and press them against your piercing sites, replacing them as the water cools on your ear, for five to ten minutes. However, it is MUCH more beneficial to submerge your ear than to do this.
The warm sea salt solution method helps to draw out impurities in your piercing as well as clean the lymph out that develops as a result of your piercing healing. It also helps soften the “crusties” (dried lymph) that develop as your piercing heals. When you first get the piercing, it will be excruciating to move the bar even a little. Simply soaking your piercing for the first week twice a day should be fine. However, if you start to develop the aforementioned crusties (usually crusties don’t develop til after a week of healing time), you need to clean them off and clear them away from the piercing sites; otherwise they can cause you to develop an infection. As your piercing heals and crusties develop, soak your ear first; then take a q-tip, dip it into the sea salt solution and use it to clean the crusties off. Try not to move your bar too much because, first of all, it will hurt A LOT in the beginning stages of healing; and, second of all, because you can accidentally drag the crusties into your piercing which will, again, lead to infection. Crusties are perfectly normal. They’re even good. They show that you are healing because they are the result of your body naturally healing itself from the inside and pushing out dead skin cells, etc. from the healing process. If however, you don’t develop many crusties, don’t be alarmed. Your piercing is more than likely still healing, it just doesn’t develop as much lymph as other people’s do. IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO MOVE/TWIST YOUR BAR. The myth that your skin will heal to the bar if you don’t twist it is exactly that: a myth. It’s impossible for your skin to heal to the bar. And you will be doing more damage than good. Twisting/moving the bar will only irritate your piercing and can damage your fistulas (the healing piercing hole), prolonging the healing process. Your barbell will get moved because life is life but don’t purposely move it around. As your piercing heals, you can move it up and down as little as possible in order to clear away the crusties but, like I said, do it as little as possible. And as you do it, keep in mind the way it’s moving and try to clean the crusties that would get dragged into the piercing first before moving it to get to the rest. EXAMPLE: If you are going to push it UP, clean the inner holes first, then the bottom, then do the one on the top so they aren’t being dragged through the piercing holes.
There are also sea salt sprays, such as H2Ocean, that you can purchase for your piercings. These are marketed as sea salt soaks in a bottle basically. They have added ingredients that can help speed up the process and encourage healing. These can usually be purchased through your piercer or a piercing shop or on the Internet where there is everything.
I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND USING A SEA SALT SPRAY AS YOUR MAIN METHOD OF CLEANING AN INDUSTRIAL PIERCING. Sea salt sprays can be helpful and I think they are great for piercings that are difficult to submerge, such as a lip piercing. But they have their limitations on something like an industrial. They can only clear away crusties, not draw out impurities in your piercing like a warm salt water solution can. Sea salt sprays are good for in between cleaning if you need it, but I definitely wouldn’t use it as your regular twice a day cleaning method for an industrial.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE SEA SALT SOAK METHOD AND SEA SALT SPRAYS:
I hated the sea salt soak method. My body didn’t like it. At all. It dried my piercing out. My piercing was constantly irritated. It prolonged my initial healing period. It just wasn’t for me. I personally sea salt soaked my piercing twice a day for the first week and a half after getting it done. After that, I cut it down to once a day (only at night) because my piercing was feeling irritated and becoming dried out. I was actually developing dry skin on my ear from it and I naturally already have dry skin and live in a desert so it didn’t do me many favors. I still stuck with the sea salt soak method for a month and a half to two months (I don’t remember; it’s been nearly two years now) before I switched to the second method of cleaning piercings. I tried using less sea salt (although 1/4 teaspoon to 8 ounces of water is the best ratio to make sure it gets clean) to try to curtail the dry skin but nothing worked. I didn’t know this at the time, but you can use jojoba oil on the dry skin to help moisturize it. Of course, make sure not to get it into the healing piercing because duh. THE SEA SALT METHOD IS THE BEST METHOD TO USE. Most everyone has amazing results of using SSS but for some people, like me, it just doesn’t work well. I would still recommend and deeply encourage using the SSS method for at least a month of your initial healing period and for the entire healing period if your body responds well to it. If however, you are like me and develop dry skin or if your piercing is consistently irritated, you may want to try the second method.
As far as sea salt sprays go, I don’t like them either for ear piercings or really any piercing. I just don’t like them. The spray goes everywhere if you try to spray it directly on the piercing (it’s marketed to say that the spray comes out fast enough to clear away anything inside your piercing but meh) and it’s difficult to control how much product comes out. Spraying it onto a q-tip then using it on your ear is okay, but I just didn’t care for it personally.
ANTIBACTERIAL SOAP METHOD:
All right. Lots of people don’t like this method. Say it’s very bad for piercings, etc. But this is my preferred method and definitely worth trying if sea salt soaks don’t work for you just like they didn’t for me. For many piercing places, this is even the recommended method given by them but once again I would definitely encourage you to try sea salt soaks before going to this.
For this method, you use antibacterial soap and q-tips to clean the piercing. DO NOT USE HAND SOAP. I don’t know why people use hand soap but just don’t. Buy the DIAL GOLD BAR SOAP. The gold bar soap has little to no moisturizers in it so it is less likely to irritate your piercing.
Firstly, use warm, wet q-tips to wet the four piercing sites on your ear. Take a q-tip and rub it on the bar soap. Then use the q-tip to clean around the piercing hole. I would definitely recommend to err on the side of caution and don’t use the same q-tip for all four piercing sites. If one of the holes is becoming infected, you could accidentally transfer the infection to the other piercing sites by contamination. I personally just used one end of the q-tip per piercing hole so I would use one end for the inside top hole, then flip it to the other end and clean the outside top hole, etc. Also, using a new end of the q-tip for each piercing site will prevent you contaminating the bar soap by repeatedly rubbing used soap onto the bar. After you’re done cleaning around the holes, use clean wet q-tips to clean all of the soap off. It’s important to make sure you get all of the soap because it can irritate your piercings and, once again, lead to an infection, or, even more likely, lead to hypertrophic scarring. DO NOT PURPOSELY GET THE SOAP INTO THE PIERCING. LOTS of uneducated people say that you need to get the soap into the piercing in order to clean it. Don’t do that. Getting soap into the piercing will only irritate it (you might as well call hypertrophic scarring your new best friend) and there is NO NEED to get it into the piercing. Your body naturally is cleaning the piercing on the inside. Removing this debris (crusties) due to its cleaning/healing process is all you need to do. Let your body take care of the inside on its own. You can clean your piercing using this method twice a day as well; however, I only did it once a day because my piercing was happier that way. Listen to your body.
My piercing was MUCH happier after I switched to this method. It stopped being irritated IMMEDIATELY. It felt so so so much better. It also healed very quickly after I switched to this. It still took the entire six months for the initial healing but it would’ve been much longer if I had stuck with SSS because of the irritation SSS gave me. I never got any hypertrophic scarring or had any complications with my piercing.
And I think that’s about it! I might do a post later on hypertrophic scarring vs. keloids (people drive me crazy about getting those two mixed up), and how to treat hypertrophic scarring (keloids are practically untreatable).