A septum piercing sits between your two nostrils, so it takes up some prime facial real estate.
Learning how to clean your new piercing properly can help you keep it healthy and prevent painful (and very visible) complications.
When cleaning your piercing, it’s important to follow the aftercare instructions your piercing professional gave you.
Typically, you’ll gently clean a septum piercing — or any piercing, for that matter — with saline solution, which is made from 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 your own using tap water or distilled water.
Saline solution made with 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 pharmacies or grocery stores.
What you’ll need
- pot or microwave-safe bowl with a lid
- tap or distilled water
- table salt or fine sea salt (iodine-free)
- baking soda (optional, but it can help keep saline from irritating your skin)
- measuring cup and teaspoon
- clean airtight jar or container with a lid
What to do
You have a few options for making your saline soak.
- Add 2 cups of tap water to a pot and boil, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Let it cool to room temperature.
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt.
- If you’re using baking soda, add a pinch.
- Stir until the salt is dissolved.
- Refrigerate the solution in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. (Discard after that to avoid bacteria.)
- Pour 2 cups of tap water into a microwave-safe bowl.
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Cover, and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Let it cool to room temperature.
- Pour solution into a clean airtight container.
- Refrigerate it for up to 24 hours, then discard to avoid bacteria.
- Add 8 teaspoons of salt to 1 gallon of distilled water.
- Refrigerate for up to 1 month.
How to use your saline soak
To clean your septum piercing with saline, you can:
- spray or pour it on
- use a saline-soaked cotton ball or piece of gauze
Some people also dip their nose into a shallow bowl of solution. If you want to try this, go for it. Just avoid breathing through your nose while submerged underwater.
Yes, you’ll want to clean your piercing every day, at least while it’s healing.
A good rule of thumb is to clean your septum piercing twice per day with a saline soak, though you can clean it more often as needed. If it gets crusty, for instance, go ahead and carefully clean it again.
Just be mindful of over-cleaning, which can dry out your skin and cause irritation.
Technically, you need to keep cleaning it forever, but, once it’s fully healed, you can clean it less often. You can also switch to plain water cleanings, instead of saline.
Unless your piercing professional tells you otherwise, you’ll want to keep up the daily saline cleanings for 4 to 8 weeks.
Crusting is totally normal in the first 1 to 2 weeks. After that, any crusting will probably be less crust and more, well, boogers.
You can gently remove any built-up crust using plain warm water and a clean piece of gauze. You can also try gently soaking the area to help loosen up crusting.
Gently pat the area dry afterward with a paper towel, if you’re still healing. If you’re fully healed, a clean towel is fine.
You need to keep your jewelry in until you’re fully healed to avoid the risk of injury or infection.
Regular saline soaks should be enough to keep the jewelry clean while you’re healing.
Once you’re fully healed, you can remove your jewelry and either wash it with soap and warm water or set it in boiling water to sanitize it.
Make sure your hands are clean before you put it back in. You’ll also want to make sure the jewelry is thoroughly rinsed, dry, and cooled. (Septum burn? Ouch.)
Septum piercings generally heal faster than other nose piercings. They typically take around 2 months to heal. That said, everyone’s different. Some people won’t fully heal for 8 months or longer.
Improper aftercare, poor health, and low quality jewelry can slow the healing process. So can anything that irritates the skin, like getting a sunburn, playing with your jewelry, or blowing your nose a lot.
If you’re not sure your piercing’s healed, have a piercing professional check it out.
Connect with a doctor right away if you have any signs of an infection.
Here’s what to look for:
- severe or worsening pain, redness, or swelling
- a foul smell coming from the piercing
- thick, smelly discharge or pus from the piercing site
It’s also important to watch for signs of rejection. Piercing rejection happens when your body treats the jewelry as a foreign substance and tries to push it out.
If this happens, you might notice:
- a change in your jewelry’s position
- the piercing hole getting bigger
- your septum tissue getting thinner
- flaking and redness around the piercing site
Avoiding bacteria and general irritation of the skin around your piercing is essential for complication-free healing.
To avoid complications, aim to avoid the following during the healing process:
- touching the piercing, unless you’re cleaning it
- handling the piercing with unwashed hands
- swimming in pools, hot tubs, or open water, like lakes and oceans
- pulling, snagging, or causing any kind of friction around your nose
- having contact between the piercing and someone else’s bodily fluids, including saliva and semen
A few final considerations:
First, getting pierced by a reputable piercing professional can help you avoid injury and complications. Ask friends for referrals, or find one through the Association of Professional Piercers (APP).
Next, choose high quality jewelry made from medical grade titanium or steel to avoid allergic reactions, infection, and irritation.
Once you’ve got your septum piercing, it’s important to be super careful with it as it’s healing — but don’t stop once it heals. Stay mindful of your piercing afterward to help you avoid accidentally snagging it or ripping it out. Ow.
Keep in mind even normal daily activities can result in an injury if you’re not careful. This includes:
- putting on or taking off your shirt
- blowing your nose
- kissing and engaging in oral sex
You can absolutely still do all of these with a septum piercing, of course. Just take a little extra care around the piercing site.
Learning how to clean your septum piercing properly is important for preventing infection as it heals. But proper cleaning can also help keep your piercing healthy for the long haul.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.