Take good care of your ink right from the start. Use the best soap to clean tattoos.
Tattoo aftercare requires cleansing the skin at least twice a day. If you stay away from soap with alcohol, artificial fragrances, and harsh ingredients, the tattoo will heal faster.
You can use antibacterial soap for tattoos if you like. But you may want to stay away from bar soap as it tends to dry out the skin.
Today, we’ll review the best tattoo washes, antibacterial soaps, and mild cleansers.
What happens the first time you wash a new tattoo?
Before you peel off the bandage, wash your hands first. You don’t want to contaminate the open wound that is your new tattoo with any germs.
Gather up your tattoo soap and a clean cloth or paper towel.
Next, if the bandage is stuck, soak it with cool water. But don’t hold it under the faucet – use your hand or cup to pour the water slowly onto the bandage (1).
Once the bandage is off, wash the skin with lukewarm water and soap. Gently use your fingers to work loose dried blood and excess ink, but don’t pick at it or scrub.
Never soak your new tattoo in water or hold it under running water as you may wash away the ink. A small amount of ink will leak out anyway for the first day or so.
Pat dry the skin with a clean towel and smooth on a thin layer of tattoo ointment or balm. Please don’t reuse the towel for the next time you wash – get a clean one. If you get sweaty or dirty, wash and moisturize the tattoo again (2).
For the first few days, the tattoo may look red and itch or sting, and that’s normal. The tattoo moisturizer will help soothe it.
It will probably take two weeks to a month for the tattoo to heal. Remember to keep it from fading by applying sunscreen when you go outdoors.
Which is the best soap for a tattoo?
The artist likely suggested their favorite tattoo cleanser. They might recommend green soap or Dial antibacterial soap.
But you’re not limited to those two choices.
It’s smart to avoid soap that dries out the skin or has an artificial fragrance. Antibacterial formulas are useful for cleansing wounds, which is exactly what a new tattoo is.
Best Soap to Clean Tattoos in 2024
Choose a moisturizing wash with gentle ingredients that won’t cause irritation. See the reviews below for our favorite tattoo soaps.
H2Ocean Blue Green Foam Soap
H2Ocean offers both liquid and foam versions of their Blue Green soap. The foam is more soothing to new tattoos and won’t leach the ink.
In either case, the active ingredient is benzalkonium chloride. It’s antimicrobial to prevent infection.
Then, there’s aloe to calm redness and itching.
Yes, it’s a small bottle and rather pricey. But it will get you through the crucial first couple of weeks of healing.
Cosco Tincture of Green Soap
It’s possible that your artist used Cosco’s green soap to prep your skin before inking it. Some use it for stencil transfers.
The soap comes in a concentrated formula that has to be diluted with nine parts of clean water. Put it in a squirt bottle, and it’s easy to wash your new tattoo with it.
It’s made with vegetable oils, glycerin, and lavender. The blend won’t strip moisture, yet it’s powerful enough to kill germs.
Dragon Art Green Soap Prep Wash
Here’s an alternative green soap with peppermint. It’s extra cooling for itchy, irritated skin. It also smells refreshing.
Like the original green soap, it needs to be mixed with water before use.
Users say that it works well, but it tends to dry out the skin.
One Tattoo World Blue Soap
We’ll be honest – we didn’t get to try this soap. It generally gets positive reviews as it seems to clean well. It’s a concentrated formula that needs to be diluted with water.
Still, we trust other options like Cosco Green Soap and H2Ocean more.
Tattoo Goo Deep Cleansing Soap
Tattoo Goo teamed up with tattoo artists and dermatologists to create this soap. It features PCMX-L, which is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. It kills just about everything that could infect your new tattoo.
It’s not harmful like triclosan and other antibacterial ingredients. Plus, it’s in a pH-balanced formula that easily rinses clean. It rehydrates and removes dead skin while it cleanses. (But you’ll still need moisturizer).
As Tattoo Goo puts it, you’ll feel “squeaky clean” after using it.
Nat-A-Tat2 Organic Foam Cleanser
Here’s the cleanser to use if you’re wary of chemicals. The formula has pure essential oils and USDA-certified organic ingredients.
It’s a vegan formula based on natural germ killers like coconut and rosemary. It foams away dirt without removing moisture or harming the skin.
Ink Oil Tattoo Aftercare Products Ink Soap
This is a brand that believes in creating sustainable, ethically-produced products. Their soap is designed to speed up healing by moisturizing the skin and reducing swelling and redness.
Users say it has a pleasant scent, and it relieves itching. Just in case, it comes with a satisfaction guarantee.
Billy Jealousy Make Your Mark Tattoo Wash
Once your tattoo has healed, you can switch to a soap like this one to keep it clean and bright. Billy Jealousy’s wash has a delicious fragrance and a soothing texture.
It’s enriched with oat protein and cucumber to help the skin stay hydrated. As a result, tattoo ink stays vibrant and clear.
On the downside, it contains an artificial fragrance and color, which are potential irritants for open wounds.
Dr Numb Topical Anesthetic Foaming Soap
Getting a tattoo hurts, both during and after. Your skin is going to be sore. But you can use numbing soap to ease the sting.
This one has 4% lidocaine, a topical anesthetic that blocks pain signals. It also contains benzethonium chloride, an alternative to benzalkonium chloride. It’s just as effective at killing germs but less aggressive to the skin.
When you use this soap, you not only alleviate itching and soreness, but you also prevent infections. The relief is immediate and lasts for a while after washing.
Provon Antimicrobial Lotion Soap
What could be better than medical soap? This one appears in hospitals around the country. It’s a favorite choice of doctors and tattoo artists because it doesn’t dry out the skin even if you wash a lot.
The active ingredient is PCMX, a safe antimicrobial agent also known as chloroxylenol. It’s strong enough for tattoos and gentle enough to use on piercings, too.
The formula cleanses then hydrates with vitamin E and aloe.
Micro-Scientific Opti-Scrub Antimicrobial Liquid Soap
If you’ve had to take care of a wound after surgery or stitches, chances are the doctor recommended Opti-Scrub. It’s excellent for accelerating the healing process, plus you can use it anywhere on your body. For example, it’s mild enough for the face.
The soap is packed with moisturizers and uses PCMX to kill bacteria.
Dial Gold Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap
It’s not just old-school artists who like Dial soap. It’s original antibacterial hand soap with the classic fragrance and orange color. Speaking from experience, we’ve used it to clean open wounds, and it works well.
It’s cheap and easy to find. Plus, Dial altered the formula to make it safer. They dropped triclosan in favor of benzalkonium chloride.
The main con is that it has both artificial fragrance and color, which could cause irritation.
BerbereX Antimicrobial Wound Cleanser
You won’t be throwing money away on a specialty item if you get this soap. It’s the real deal for wound cleansing, and it’s appropriate for taking care of piercings as well as tattoos.
It’s registered with the FDA and made in America. It contains no artificial fragrances or parabens, plus the formula is pH-balanced to protect the skin.
If you need something to heal in a hurry, this is a smart choice. You can also use it as an antiseptic spray, not just a soap.
DermaKleen Antimicrobial Liquid Soap
PCMX, also known as chloroxylenol, is a potent antimicrobial ingredient. It kills 99% of all types of bacteria. It’s the stuff that hospitals and nursing homes use on babies’ delicate skin and the elderly.
This liquid soap features PCMX in an alcohol-free formula. With vitamin E, it calms and cleanses at the same time. It’s perfect for taking care of new tattoos.
Rite Aid Antiseptic Skin Cleanser
This cleanser doubles as a surgical hand scrub. The antiseptic formula uses chlorhexidine gluconate to eliminate germs of all types. (You might recognize the active ingredient as it’s what’s in Hibiclens).
It’s okay for sensitive skin and new tattoos.
Free & Clear Liquid Cleanser
Let’s switch gears from antibacterial soap to mild cleansers. If you have sensitive skin or allergies, you may already know about Free & Clear soap. It’s free of artificial fragrances, parabens, dyes, and many other harsh chemicals.
Are you concerned about whether it can kill germs? We hear you because we had our doubts. It doesn’t have an antimicrobial agent. What it does instead physically removes the microbes. If you stay on top of washing your tattoo at least twice a day, it should be fine.
What’s more, you’ll reap the benefits as it won’t make the skin feel tight or dry. Then, once your tattoo is healed, you can use it as hand soap, body wash, face cleanser, or wash your dog with it.
Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap comes in different versions like peppermint or rosemary. But we recommend the one for babies as it’s perfect for sensitive skin. It’s mild and moisturizing, with no artificial fragrance or chemical ingredients.
It doesn’t make a lot of foam, but it will rinse clean. You can dilute it one part soap to two parts of water, and it will still wash well.
The formula is mostly organic and made with Fair Trade ingredients. Also, it’s packaged in post-consumer recycled plastic.
Better Life Natural Hand and Body Soap, Unscented
Here’s another fragrance-free soap made with non-toxic ingredients. It’s biodegradable, too, which is useful if you have a septic tank.
Can a soap this mild actually be good for a tattoo? We took a closer look at the label. It lists vitamin E and aloe, which add moisture. There’s also green tea and sweet orange that are loaded with antioxidants that accelerate healing.
Better yet, it’s free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, artificial fragrances, and dyes. It sounds like it has everything you need to take good care of your ink.
Eucerin Advanced Cleansing Body and Face Cleanser
Eucerin makes a big deal of the fact that their formula is pH-balanced. Why does that matter?
Typically, bar soap has a high pH – it’s basic, not acidic. But human skin is naturally acidic. Regular soap disrupts the balance and leaves the skin dry.
This cleanser is hydrating and mild. It has no artificial fragrance and rinses easily. Don’t worry if it doesn’t lather much as it’s not supposed to.
Neutrogena Original Facial Cleansing Bar
If you’ve gotten a facial tattoo, try Neutrogena’s cleanser. It has no fragrance, alcohol, or artificial color.
It’s dermatologist-recommended for sensitive skin as it doesn’t clog pores or cause dryness. Instead, it washes clean without leaving a residue. Plus, it’s fortified with glycerin to rehydrate the skin.
The nice part is that it comes in a bar format, which is handy for travel. It’s not going to count against your liquids allowance in your carry-on.
It’s crucial to keep your new tattoo clean. It will heal quicker and hurt less.
Proper cleansing will help you avoid another trip to see the artist for touch-ups.
Old tattoos can benefit from a moisturizing cleanser, just like new ones can. When your skin is healthy and hydrated, it shows off the ink better.
1. https://www.tattoocolumbia.com/aftercare/tattoo-aftercare by Living Canvas Staff, accessed December 29, 2020
2. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-take-care-of-a-tattoo by Emma Sarran Webster, published July 9, 2018, accessed December 29, 2020