Woman plugging nose

So, your piercing has been healed for a while, and you’ve been fully enjoying the pierced life. Until, one day, you start getting an unpleasant whiff coming from your belly button. Uh-oh.

Besides the fact that you don’t want your belly button or other pierced parts to emit an odor, you might start wondering if there’s something medically wrong with your piercing.

Luckily for you, piercing stench is common, and it can usually be fixed with simple hygiene.

Here’s a quick guide to piercing stench, why it happens, and how to avoid it.

Why does my belly button piercing (and other piercings) smell?

In the piercing world, we tend to focus a lot on aftercare during the piercing healing process and forego conversations surrounding healed piercing care. This leads many to the false belief that piercings don’t require tending to once they have healed. In fact, you need to clean and take care of your piercing throughout its life.

Our bodies constantly shed skin cells. On the surface, these cells easily flake off as we move throughout the day. Some areas of the body, however, are a bit more difficult to reach, and dead skin cells tend to gather together to create some gunk. (This is why it’s important that you clean between your toes to avoid things like toe jam.)

dirty toes

Just like you have to clean out the gunk that appears between your toes, you need to clean out the gunk from your piercing tunnels.

When your piercings heal, they create a piercing tunnel where these dead skin cells gather along with the oils in your skin and bacteria. When you get enough of this mixture in your piercing tunnel, your piercing starts to smell. This creates the stench that’s associated with piercings. All piercings can get them, but some piercings are more likely to create a buildup due to their location. Among these are the septum, the belly button, and stretched lobes.

How to avoid piercing stench

The solution to avoiding piercing stench is simple: be sure to maintain healthy cleaning practices even after your piercing has healed. 

While healed piercings no longer require daily cleaning, it’s a good idea to clean them once a month and make sure that the piercing tunnels remain clear. Fill a small cup with saline solution and soak the piercing for a couple of minutes in order to clear out the piercing tunnel. Then, make sure that you gently clean your jewelry using a jewelry cleansing solution that’s safe for your precious pieces.

If you keep your piercing and your jewelry clean, you should enjoy a stench-free piercing.

Can a bad-smelling piercing be a sign of an infection?

If your piercing is fully healed, and it smells, it’s more than likely that you are not experiencing an infection or any sort of larger issue; you just need to keep your piercing clean.

woman with belly button piercing

Luckily, if you’re showing no other symptoms except an odor, your piercing likely only needs to be cleaned.

However, if the stench persists despite semi-frequent cleaning or you start to see other symptoms—like swelling, bleeding, or a localized fever—then you should seek medical attention to rule out any issue that may require attention.

Piercing stench is completely normal and nothing to worry about. If your belly button piercing starts smelling, it’s simply a sign that you need to give it attention and make sure that it’s clean. Simply remember to clean your healed piercing monthly, and you should avoid any piercing stench altogether.

Shop belly button jewelry

If you choose high-quality jewelry, it could help diminish piercing stench that arises due to skin irritation from cheap metals. Here’s some of our favorite 14k gold belly button jewelry pieces for you to browse.

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