How to clean a tattoo
Tattoo Aftercare

How to Clean a Tattoo (Properly) in 7 Easy Steps - Sorry Mom


One of the most important things you can do to have a long-lasting tattoo is to keep it clean, and wash it properly.

Since the skin is so sensitive right after being tattooed, this might be a challenging task, so here’s a step-by-step guide to washing your new tattoo and how to keep it clean.

Your tattoo artist will also provide you with aftercare instructions that you should follow diligently for a healthy, awesome tattoo. 

So, what are the steps to follow when cleaning your new tattoo?

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Wet your tattoo with lukewarm water
  3. Gently add tattoo cleanser or soap
  4. Wash with your hands gently
  5. Rinse
  6. Dry with paper towel
  7. Moisturize

Let's take a look to every step in detail:

The First Wash 

  • When your tattoo artist is finished, they’ll probably wrap it in a tattoo bandage or plastic foil to keep it protected. Your artist will advise you when to remove the bandage, either a few hours after you leave the shop, or even the next morning to keep it from leaking.
  • You should wash your tattoo for the first time once you’ve removed the bandage or film. This first wash is the start of your healing process. Removing the bandage might be messy and a little painful, especially since your skin is extra sensitive at this point.
  • Wash the tattoo with tattoo foam soap or mild soap.

Tattoo foam soap

Blood, ink, and plasma will leak out once you’ve removed the wrap, and the entire area needs to be washed immediately.

      • Don’t be alarmed if your tattoo doesn’t look like you thought it would, or if the lines look fuzzy. All this excess fluid will be washed away over the next few days, and reveal a brand new, spectacular tattoo.
      • You might be hesitant to wash your new tattoo, and that’s perfectly understandable. The area is so sensitive and raw that you probably don’t want to go anywhere near it, but it’s very important that you do.

      You’ll get the hang of washing your new tattoo, and before you know it, it’ll be all healed up.

      Wash Your New Tattoo (Step-by-Step)

      Going through the following steps carefully will ensure your tattoo is clean and healthy.

      The key word in this process is gentle. Everything that touches or comes in contact with your tattoo should be gentle, sensitive, and clean.

      Here are step-by-step instructions on how to wash your new tattoo:

      #1 Wash your hands.

      Your hands should always be clean before touching your new tattoo, otherwise it defeats the purpose of washing it.

      Washing hands tattoo

      #2 Wet your tattoo.

      Use lukewarm water, at least at first, because water that is too hot will be painful and could open your pores and cause ink to leach out. Do not stick your tattoo directly under the faucet, instead cup your hand and gently pour water over it.

      Gently wet the entire tattoo, but do not soak it.

      Rinse hand cup

      #3 Add tattoo foam soap or fragrance-free mild soap.

      Apply the foam soap on the tattooed area, then gently rub in circular motions.


      Tattoo foam soap


      #4 Wash. 

      Do not scrub or use a towel, only use your hand to gently rub. If there are hardened scabs, do not pick at them, they will fall off on their own.

      You’ll know you’re done washing when the tattoo no longer feels slippery.

      Tattoo Foam Soap

      #5 Rinse. 

      Use your hand to cup water and rinse away the foam or soap. In the first few days there might be blood or ink being rinsed away, but this is normal.

      #6 Dry. 

      You have to make sure once your tattoo is washed, that you dry it as much as possible. Press a paper towel on the area, or let it air-dry. Do not use a towel or cloth to dry it, because they could introduce bacteria.


      The next step after washing your tattoo is to moisturize:

      #7 Moisturize. 

      Once your tattoo is entirely dry, use cream/butter or balm to keep your tattoo moisturized and healthy. Apply a very small amount of balm in a thin layer. Too much lotion could prevent your tattoo from healing.


      Moisturize your tattoo with balm


      How to Shower After Getting a New Tattoo

      After getting a new tattoo - especially if it’s a bigger one -, everyday tasks like sleeping, going outside, and showering, can become challenging. 

      Get some tips on how to sleep when getting a new tattoo.

      You have to be extra careful when showering for the first time after getting a new tattoo, and some artists recommend waiting a full day before doing so.

      After about 2 weeks, you should be able to shower normally again. 

      Here are some tips for showering with a brand new tattoo:

      • Set the water to lukewarm. Do not shower with hot water, it could swell up your new tattoo more, or open your pores and cause ink to leach out. 
      • Adjust your shower-head to a gentle stream. You should not pelt your tattoo with water, it'll sting and might even force ink out. 
      • Take quick showers. Excessive exposure to steam, water, and soap could cause problems with your new tattoo, and even dilute the fresh ink.  
      • Do NOT soak in a bathtub with a new tattoo. You should avoid soaking in water, including swimming, for the first few weeks. 
      • Do NOT use a loofah or cloth to wash your new tattoo. You should only ever use your hand, because other objects carry bacteria.

      Read more about the do's and don'ts when getting a new tattoo.

      Which Soap Should I Use to Clean My Tattoo? 

      Different tattoo artists will suggest different products, but one thing’s for sure, they’ll always recommend you use professional tattoo soaps or simply gentle, fragrance-free soap.

      Our tattoo foam is specifically created for the purpose of cleaning fresh tattoos. It easily washes excess blood and ink off without having to scrub/rub the tattoo, calms red skin and relieves the pain during the first few days of healing.

      Tattoo Foam Soap

      Read also: How to Choose the Best Tattoo Aftercare Products (Artist's Advice)

      Celebrity tattoo artist Dr. Woo said, “there are so many soaps with different chemicals and ingredients that can be abrasive, irritate the skin, or even lead to infection. To minimize the chance of an adverse reaction, it’s vital the soap being used is as clean and simple as possible, using the best ingredients.”

      Why Do You Need to Wash Your New Tattoo?

      After reading through different tattoo aftercare instructions, you may have noticed the emphasis on washing your new tattoo. 

      Keeping your tattoo clean is an important aspect of the healing process. Without it, more bacteria, and possibly infection, could be introduced to your fresh tattoo and cause it to heal improperly.  
      Dr. Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist, said, “Tattoos create thousands of microscopic holes in the skin in order to deposit the tattoo pigment. In doing so, the skin is now open and is predisposed to various infections...The most important thing is to make sure the tattoo site is being properly cleaned by gently washing with soapy water 2-3 times daily.”

      Washing your tattoo consistently and properly will be the difference between a quick-healing, beautiful tattoo, or an infected one. 

      Another reason you need to wash your tattoo is to remove the fluids like blood, plasma, and ink that ooze out.

      Having a bloody, inky tattoo is nothing to be scared of, but it does need to be washed. Plasma is necessary and what causes scabbing, so if it’s not washed off, you could end up with big, thick, dry scabs, and even scarring.

      A new tattoo is actually a controlled wound, and you should treat it as such

      How Often Should I Clean My New Tattoo? 

      Most tattoo artists recommend you wash your tattoo with professional tattoo soap or soap and water 2-3 times a day, at least for the first two weeks.

      We recommend you do it in the morning and at night, to keep it clean all day long.

      Moisturizing is another important factor of aftercare because washing your tattoo too often could cause your skin to dry out. In this article we explain how often should you moisturize your new tattoo.

      REMEMBER: Any activities that could introduce bacteria or germs to your tattoo should be avoided as much as possible in the first few weeks

      However, if you are doing something in a germy environment, like exercising at the gym or running outdoors, you should wash your new tattoo right after.

      If you absolutely can’t avoid them, though, keep your tattoo well-covered with clothing that isn’t too tight. 

      When Can I Stop Washing My Tattoo With Antibacterial Soap?

      Typically one to two weeks after getting your tattoo. A good rule of thumb is once your tattoo has stopped flaking and peeling, you can stop washing with the foam or antibacterial soap. 

      At this point, your tattoo is fully healed, at least the top layer is, and you shouldn’t experience any more bleeding, scabbing, swelling, or flaking.  

      Once your tattoo has stopped flaking and peeling, you can proceed to wash your new tattoo like normal skin. This isn’t to say you can start scrubbing the area with a loofah, you should still only use your hand to wash it gently.

      REMEMBER: Even though your tattoo looks healed, and the skin is returning to normal, the deeper tissues are still mending themselves, and aftercare is still important.

      Tattoo Healing Process Explained

      Tattoos are technically wounds that are susceptible to bacteria and infection, so your body recognizes them as threats to your immune system.

      The rate at which your body heals depends on your age, health, and your commitment to a healthy aftercare routine.  

      Your body’s response to a wound can be broken up into four phases of healing:

      1. Hemostasis: In this phase, platelets form blood clots to prevent excessive blood loss and create scabs over your tattoo as temporary protection. These platelets are what trigger inflammation.
      2. Inflammation: Redness and swelling occur to dilate blood vessels and allow other important immune cells in. These cells are called macrophages, (macro=big, phage=eat) they remove bacteria from the wound, which is why it’s so important to keep your tattoo clean, to help the macrophages do their job.
      3. Proliferation: Cells called fibroblasts reconstruct the damaged skin tissues. They promote cell growth and tissue structure, repairing the outer layers of your skin and preventing infection. At this stage, your tattoo will appear healed. 
      4. Remodeling: This phase can last up to weeks or even months, which is why tattoo aftercare is still important at this point. Your skin is healed on the outside, but the tissues underneath are not. The remodeling of your cells and tissues is intended to create layers of new, healthy skin. 

      Steps 1-3 can take as little as a week, but the final remodeling stage can take up to a few months.

      Your skin is still regenerating and restoring cells, so you should continue with aftercare. You should strive to keep your tattoo clean throughout these weeks to help your body’s healing process along.

      Final Thoughts

      Washing your new tattoo is so important, and it only takes a few minutes every day.

      Remember to be gentle, patient, and diligent when it comes to tattoo aftercare and your body’s healing process. A lot is going on beneath the surface of your skin, so even after your tattoo is healed, your body is still hard at work repairing tissues.

      You should make washing your brand new tattoo properly a habit, then afterward you’ll have a well-healed tattoo that’ll look incredible for the rest of your life.