Cleaning your septum piercing during the healing process and beyond
A septum piercing sits between your two nostrils, so it takes up prime facial space.
Learning how to properly clean your new piercing can help keep it healthy and prevent painful (and very noticeable) complications.
When cleaning your piercing, it is important to follow the care instructions that your piercing professional has given you.
Typically, you gently clean a septum piercing – or any other piercing, for that matter – with a saline solution, which is made of salt and water.
How to make your own saline soak
You can buy saline solution online or at your local drugstore, but you can also make it yourself using tap water or distilled water.
for your information
The saline solution made from distilled water lasts longer, which makes it a good option if you want to make a big batch ahead of time.
You can find distilled water at most drugstores or grocery stores.
What you will need
- microwave-safe saucepan or bowl with lid
- tap or distilled water
- table salt or fine sea salt (without iodine)
- baking soda (optional, but it may help keep the saline solution from irritating your skin)
- measuring cup and teaspoon
- a clean jar or airtight container with a lid
What to do
You have a few options for soaking your saline solution.
- Add 2 cups of tap water to a pot and boil, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Let cool to room temperature.
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt.
- If you are using baking soda, add a pinch.
- Stir until the salt is dissolved.
- Refrigerate the solution in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. (Throw away after this to avoid bacteria.)
- Pour 2 cups of tap water into a microwave-safe bowl.
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Cover and cook in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Let cool to room temperature.
- Pour the solution into a clean airtight container.
- Refrigerate it for up to 24 hours, then throw it away to avoid bacteria.
- Add 8 teaspoons of salt to 1 gallon of distilled water.
- Refrigerate for up to 1 month.
How to use your salt dip
To clean your septum piercing with physiological saline, you can:
- spray or pour over
- use a cotton ball or piece of gauze soaked in saline solution
Some people also dip their nose in a shallow bowl of the solution. If you want to try this, go for it. Just avoid breathing through your nose when submerged underwater.
Yes, you will want to clean your piercing every day, at least while it is healing.
A good rule of thumb is to clean your septum piercing twice a day with saline solution, although you can clean it more often if needed. If it becomes crisp, for example, clean it thoroughly again.
Just watch out for over-cleaning, which can dry out your skin and cause irritation.
Technically, you have to keep cleaning it forever, but, once it’s completely healed, you can clean it less often. You can also switch to cleanings with plain water, instead of a saline solution.
Unless your piercing professional tells you otherwise, you’ll want to continue daily saline cleanings for 4-8 weeks.
Scabbing is quite normal in the first 1 to 2 weeks. After that, any crust will probably be less crust and more, well, boogers.
You can gently remove any accumulated crust using lukewarm water and a clean piece of gauze. You can also try gently soaking the area to help loosen the crust.
Gently pat the area dry afterwards with a paper towel, if you are still healing. If you are completely healed, a clean towel will do.
You should keep your jewelry until you are completely healed to avoid the risk of injury or infection.
Regular salt baths should be enough to keep the jewelry clean while you heal.
Once you are completely healed, you can remove your jewelry and wash it with lukewarm water and soap or put it in boiling water to sanitize it.
Make sure your hands are clean before putting it back on. You should also make sure that the jewelry is thoroughly rinsed, dry and cooled. (Septum burn? Ouch.)
Septum piercings generally heal faster than other nose piercings. They usually take about 2 months to heal. Having said that, everyone is different. Some people will not fully recover for 8 months or more.
Improper aftercare, poor health, and poor quality jewelry can slow down the healing process. The same goes for anything that irritates the skin, like getting sunburned, playing with your jewelry, or blowing your nose a lot.
If you are not sure whether your piercing has healed, have a piercing professional check it.
Seek immediate medical attention if you have any signs of infection.
Here’s what to look for:
- severe pain or worsening, redness or swelling
- a foul smell coming from the piercing
- thick, smelly discharge or pus from the piercing site
It is also important to watch for signs of rejection. Piercing rejection occurs when your body treats the jewelry like a foreign substance and tries to push it away.
If this happens, you may notice:
- a change in the position of your jewelry
- the drill hole gets bigger
- your septum tissue is thinning
- peeling and redness around the piercing site
Avoiding bacteria and general irritation to the skin around your piercing is essential for uncomplicated healing.
To avoid complications, try to avoid the following during the healing process:
- touch the piercing unless you clean it
- handling the piercing with unwashed hands
- swim in pools, hot tubs, or open water, such as lakes and oceans
- pulling, snagging, or causing any type of friction around your nose
- having contact between the piercing and someone else’s body fluids, including saliva and semen
Some final considerations:
First, getting a piercing by a reputable piercing professional can help you avoid injuries and complications. Ask your friends for references or find one through the Association of Professional Piercers (APP).
Then choose high quality jewelry made of titanium or medical grade steel to avoid allergic reactions, infections and irritation.
Once you have your septum piercing it is important to be very careful as it heals, but don’t stop once it heals. Keep your piercing in mind afterwards to avoid accidentally snagging or pulling it off. Ouch.
Keep in mind that even normal daily activities can lead to injury if you are not careful. This includes:
- put on or take off your shirt
- blow your nose
- kissing and oral sex
You absolutely can still do all of this with a septum piercing, of course. Just be a little more careful around the piercing site.
Learning how to properly clean your septum piercing is important for preventing infection while it heals. But proper cleaning can also help keep your piercing healthy for the long haul.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canadian-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all health and lifestyle issues for over a decade. When not locked in her shed writing for an article or interviewing medical professionals, she can be found frolicking around her seaside town with her husband and dogs or by splashing around on the lake trying to master stand-up paddleboarding.