One of the best things you can do for your piercings is to do “sea salt soaks.” It’s a cheap natural remedy that you can do with a fresh piercing, or any time your piercing acts up.
The whys and wherefores: Piercings heal from the outside in, and soaking helps irrigate and drain the wound inside, where you can’t see. A warm, mild salt water soothes and helps to clean the dried lymph and skin cells (“crusties”) off. The difference in alkalinity between the saltwater and the surface of your skin draws out the fluid and other matter that accumulates in the wound. Hot water also opens the capillaries, bringing blood flow and therefore oxygen to the piercing site, encouraging healing.
The Salt: Use sea salt, not regular table salt (which has ingredients added to prevent it from clumping; it may also have iodine or other undesirable ingredients). Look for salt labeled, “non-iodized sea salt.” Sea salt is not rock salt or Epsom salts! Kosher salt without any additives can be used, but coarse granules take longer to dissolve. Salt sold at health food stores or Indian groceries as “jal neti” salt (for neti pots) is also good. Look for non-iodized sea salt in the grocery store or health food store. You can also find it at online retailers selling body jewelry and supplies, or from your piercer. It’s not hard to find—really!
Basic Recipe: 1/4 teaspoon to 1 cup (8 oz) water. The correct proportions are very important for the process to work. If the solution is too weak, it will be ineffective; if too strong, it may cause the cells to swell and burst, irritating your piercing and the skin around it.
Mix it: Wash your hands! Then, mix the measured amount of salt in a clean container with very warm, not hot, water, or pop it in the microwave for thirty seconds or so (don’t burn yourself). Bottled, filtered, or distilled water is optimal but not required.
Soak: Once or twice a day for 5-10 minutes. Soak before showering, or rinse afterwards with clear water (it’s important to make sure no salt residue remains on your skin). Use a cup or bowl. You may have to lie on the floor, or lean over a table; for navel piercings lean over and seal the cup onto the area to create a vacuum. For those awkward areas, like eyebrows or nape piercings, you can also saturate a sterile gauze pad or a strong paper towel and apply it (but it probably won’t be as effective as immersion). Cotton balls or buds may leave fibers in the piercing—a bad idea.
Note: Be clear on the difference between soaking and cleaning. Although soaking does have the effect of cleaning crusties and junk off your piercing, soaking by itself is not enough. Proper hygiene, in the form of cleaning with mild soap is also recommended for proper piercing care. Cleaning your hands, body, and around the piercing reduces surface dirt and microorganisms on the skin which can cause infection.