Keeping your tattoo clean is one of the most important aspects of healing your tattoo as it keeps a nice clean environment and prevents bacteria from causing infections. It starts as soon as you remove the bandage that your artist put on you and continues the entire time you are healing. The objective is to heal as quickly as possible and infection will definitely complicate things thus slowing down the process, so make sure to do a good job. Here's a guide for How To Clean Your Tattoo. It'll definitely help you along during the healing process.
Once the bandage comes off the first thing you'll want to do is to clean your new tattoo(s). As soon as the bandage is removed you'll have an environment where the bacteria can gather around the open wound so you'll want to get cleaning right away. For first timers this might seem a bit intimidating but it needs to be done.
Before you go anywhere near you tattoo with your hands you absolutely need to wash them. You're not going to do any good by using dirty hands to clean an open wound. Some soaps are stronger than others and many contain chemicals that can be harsh on your now sensitive skin. Because of this it's highly recommended to use a natural product such as Primitive Outposts Ink'd Tattoo Soap. It has no scent added and is made with gentle, natural ingredients making it a much better choice than its chemical/synthetic competitors.
Now that your hands are clean you need to add water to the tattooed area. Don't put the tattoo directly under the running water. Instead, run the water until it is lukewarm and allow it to fill your cupped hand. Gently pour the water onto the area until it is thoroughly wet. If the tattoo is a big one and covers a large portion of your body you can clean it in the shower but once again don't put your sensitive skin in the direct path of the water flow. Make sure to cup the water onto it.
No doubt you'll experience some discomfort when adding the water and cleaning but it will lessen over the days and weeks to come.
At this point you'll add some soap for tattoo cleaning. Our opinion is the best soap for tattoo aftercare is a natural one without any added scents. Using your hand and fingers gently rub the soap around using a circular motion and remove any of the leaking plasma and blood. Don't use a cloth, sponge or loofah as they can be abrasive and will likely be housing bacteria. If there are areas that are hardened and won't come off don't force or pull them off. They'll eventually come off on their own in subsequent washes.
Cup some more water onto the area to make sure all the soap has been removed and you're done.
The best way to dry off is to let the tattooed area air dry, which can take a while. If you are going to dry it off with something make sure it's clean and that you gently blot/dab, don't rub. Most people will say to use paper towel but a small amount will say to use a clean towel.
Even if you dab it dry make sure to leave it uncovered for a short period of time to breathe and completely dry off.
Once completely dry you can apply your tattoo aftercare product. You only need a small amount and you should make sure to apply only a thin layer. Primitive Outposts Ink'd Tattoo Balm and Ink'd Tattoo Oil are both made of natural ingredients and do a fantastic job of protecting, moisturizing, and healing. Petroleum and chemical based products should be avoided as they can smother the tattoo and cause additional irritation.
Aftercare application should always follow the tattoo cleaning process which is generally 2-3 times a day. If the area appears dry and in need of moisture you can apply more as needed. Just remember too often or too thick of a layer can smother the tattoo and isn't ideal.
Your tattoo will look pretty much healed within the first few weeks but that doesn't mean you can slack off. Every one heals at different rates and you should continue the cleanings for at least a couple weeks after that to ensure what looks healed actually is.
It might seem like a lot but the process only takes about 5 mins. Regular cleanings 2-3 times a day will greatly reduce any risk of infection and speed up your recovery time making it a very important part of your aftercare program. There are many opinions on how to clean your new tattoo and what to use to do that. As mentioned above we feel the best tattoo soap is an unscented natural one and that this simple common sense method of cleaning works best.