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Are you cleaning your earrings enough? We doubt it—here's why

Are you cleaning your earrings enough? We doubt it—here's why

The short answer? Probably not

Text: Redzhanna Jazmin


From foolproof cleaning techniques to general advice, here's the scoop on the common body modification

Fair warning: This is kind of a gross topic. However, it's also a super important topic if you're looking to keep your piercings healthy, thriving, and odour-free.

READPiercing guide: Everything you need to know before getting poked

If you have ever taken your earrings out, only to be greeted by an ungodly stench emanating from the wretched crevices of your butterfly backings, this article is for you. Also, if you find that your supposedly healed piercings are acting up in the most painful of ways, this article is for you too.

Unfortunately, time doesn't guarantee infection-free piercings (yes, even if they are "healed"), and your poor piercing hygiene habits could be putting you at risk of more trouble down the line. Fret not, however—today, we're delving into all things aftercare. Ahead, find out why and how you should be cleaning your old piercings.

Why should I be cleaning my piercings if they're healed?

Simply put, the aforementioned stench that is commonly associated with earrings is the result of the accumulation of oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells. The unfortunate truth about most earrings is that the stud-and-butterfly-clip combo is the ideal environment for this mixture to stew, leaving your lobes smelling... funky.

Further, if you work out a lot (or you're just perpetually on the sweatier side), you fasten your earring backs very snugly, or you're—you guessed it—slacking in the aftercare department, this smell becomes all the more potent.

Plus, if you've got cartilage piercings such as a helix, a rook or a conch, poor hygiene puts you at the additional risk of triggering an infection. Cartilage piercings are notoriously stubborn to heal, and while they very well may seem perfectly healed, a dirty piece of jewellery (or, even the wrong shape of jewellery) can be enough to set off a cascade of inflammation.

Just clean your earrings.

How do I keep the odour at bay?

Good question! Thankfully, there are a few ways to keep your ears stench free:

1. Remove your earrings before exercising to avoid trapping sweat in your piercings.

2. Remove your earrings when you shower to stop shampoo from getting trapped in your piercings (or any other lurking dirt particles from your hair, for that matter).

3. Clean both your piercings and your earrings regularly (and make sure you're thoroughly drying off both your earrings and your piercings after cleaning them, too!).

4. Change your piercing jewellery to hoops—this way, there isn't a butterfly back for grime to collect in the first place.

How often should I be cleaning my healed piercings?

Real talk: If you're asking this question, the answer is probably more often than you currently are. Don't worry—this is a no-judgement zone. It's easy to get complacent about aftercare once you've had your piercing for a few years. However, though we understand where you're coming from, we absolutely do not support your vices.

Ideally, you want to be cleaning your piercings once a week at the very least. This may sound like a lot of effort, but it really doesn't have to be a huge ordeal! 

Okay, so how do I actually clean the piercing?

There are a few ways to go about this. Firstly, you could soak your piercing (and your jewellery) in saline solution, just like your piercer taught you to with your fresh piercing. The saline works to sterilise the area without being overly irritating to the wound.

Alternatively, a much more convenient method is to gently wash the piercing and the jewellery with a mild, unscented soap. You could easily do this in the shower once a week while you let a hair mask sit—just find a way to integrate it into your regular routine!

Do I have to clean the inside of the piercing hole?

It really depends on the state of your piercing, but a quick way to cover all bases is to soap up the piercing with a mild antibacterial soap (make sure your jewellery is still in!) and gently rotate the earring to introduce the cleaning solvent to the inside of the hole. Once you've loosened any dirt or grime from within, just run the piercing underwater, rotating as you go, to rinse it all off!

Well, there you have it! No more excuses—now, get cleaning.

Find more piercing tips here.