What Happens to the Ink on the Tattoo if You Soak It Too Soon in Water?

Updated November 21, 2016

Tattooing involves the permanent marking of the skin with an indelible ink made from titanium dioxide, iron oxide, carbon and other organic materials. Tattooing has been used by tribes for centuries, but the word tattoo was first encountered in the 18th century on Captain Cook's voyage to Australia and the Pacific Islands. Once somebody gets a tattoo there are a number of care tips which must be followed to preserve the quality of the outline and colouring.


Once a tattoo is completed it will start to scab like any other wound to the skin. Over time the scabbing will subside and the tattoo will heal. If the tattoo is soaked in water soon after, especially warm water, the scab will come off prematurely and will not heal properly. This can take away some of the colour and distort the detailing of the tattoo.


The biggest worry about soaking tattoos too soon afterwards is infection. Water at home should be fine, but water in swimming pools, hot tubs and other similar public bathing facilities may carry bacteria. This can lead to the tattoo getting infected, which yet again means the tattoo will not heal properly leading to loss of colour and definition.


Under no circumstances should washcloths, loofahs or sponges be used to clean a tattoo, as this will result in the same effects as soaking. There is an increased chance of removing the tattoo scabs resulting in the effects noted above. Scrubbing is also more likely to lead to bleeding, which will adversely affect how well the tattoo ink holds.


Like with any scabbing it is important to keep the area clean, but soaking needs to be avoided. Showers are fine, but the area is likely to be sensitive to hot water. Hot water is also more likely to cause the scab to come off prematurely. Antibacterial soap should also be used early on to stop infection. After washing, pat the tattoo dry with a soft towel so as not to damage the scab. It is important not to clean the tattoo too regularly as this will deplete the skins natural oils which are essential for healing the skin and preserving the tattoo.

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