How long do you keep cling film on a tattoo? Why?

How long do you keep cling film on a tattoo
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We’ve all seen people fresh out of a tattoo studio with their arm wrapped in clingfilm. Maybe you have a freshly wrapped tattoo and are wondering how long do you keep clingfilm on a tattoo?

You keep cling film on a tattoo for the minimum amount of time possible. It’s there to keep your tattoo safe and clean until you get home and have chance to start your aftercare regime. If you keep the cling film on you run the risk of an infection starting in the damp warm conditions under it. 

There is a lot of conflicting information about how long do you keep cling film on a tattoo. This article explains what you should do to avoid getting an infection in your fresh tattoo.

How long do you keep cling film on a tattoo?

You want to leave the clingfilm on for a maximum of about five hours or so until you can get home and have a shower.

It’s ok if you can’t get home immediately. You may be travelling or have a work shift to complete. But it’s important to get home as soon as you can, remove the cling film and start your aftercare.

The reason for this is that cling film doesn’t allow the skin and tattoo to breathe. It’s a non-permeable membrane.

It keeps the skin underneath the clingfilm moist and warm which is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So you want to get that cling film off as soon as you reasonably can.

Make sure you have any aftercare supplies that you need. This may be Bepanthen Nappy Care ointment or whatever your tattooist has suggested.

Why do they put cling film on tattoos?

The cling film that your tattooist wraps you in is only there as a short term solution. It’s basically there to protect your tattoo from dirt and prying fingers until you can get home to start your aftercare regime.

Your tattoo is an open wound, and as such is vulnerable to bacteria entering and causing an infection. The cling film is there to stop that, at least for the first few hours.

In the first few hours after the tattoo, your body is frantically releasing healing body fluids to try and seal itself away so the bacteria can’t get in. The initial cling film helps to protect it during this initial period.

The initial cling film also stops air from getting to the tattoo which stops scabs forming in the plasma that leaks out of the fresh tattoo.

What to do when you take the cling film off.

It’s important to say that every tattooist has different aftercare instructions. Listen to what your tattooist told you and stick to that.

I am a tattooist but I’m not your tattooist. I am not giving medical advice here. Whatever you do is at your own risk…

[BTW. I don’t use cling film anymore to wrap my tattoos. Many tattooists use tattoo dressing film instead which is much better. I’ll go into that further on in this post.]

Make sure you wash and clean your hands before you do anything. Wash them well with soap and water and then use a hand sanitiser to make sure they are really clean.

This is so important as you will be washing a fresh tattoo and can introduce bacteria at this point.

It’s a good idea to take off the cling film in the shower. Then gently wash down your tattoo with soap and water and your hands. Don’t use a shower scrub or anything rough.

You want to gently remove all the dried ink and plasma.

When you get out of the shower, pat the tattoo dry with something clean. Kitchen towel or similar. It’s really important to make sure this is clean.

You then want to apply a thin layer of protective aftercare cream.

Don’t re-wrap your tattoo

Do not re-wrap the tattoo in cling film.

Use the right aftercare product

Your tattooist should have suggested the best breathable aftercare solution to use.

I can’t recommend which cream to use as different countries have different supplies.

I use Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment which forms a breathable protective layer over the tattoo. However, it isn’t available in all countries.

You definitely shouldn’t use Vaseline or Sudocrem as these don’t allow the tattoo to breathe and can cause healing problems.

Keep your tattoo clean

You need to look after your tattoo and make sure it doesn’t come into contact with bacterial sources.

That means

  • Wear clean clothes.
  • Don’t allow anyone to touch the tattoo
  • Don’t touch the tattoo yourself
  • Don’t lean the tattoo on dirty surfaces. For example, its really easy to touch a wrist tattoo on a dirty keyboard when you are typing
  • Make sure you don’t immerse the tattoo in dirty water.

The aftercare regime

Again. Im not your tattooist. Make sure you follow the aftercare instructions that your own tattooist has told you. If in doubt, call them and get them to go over it.

This is what my clients do. I generally tell my clients to repeat this process twice a day for the first 3 days after getting a tattoo. To summarise…

  1. Wash and sanitise your hands <
  2. Wash down the tattoo to remove dried ink and plasma. Easiest in the shower
  3. Dry the tattoo with clean kitchen towel
  4. Apply a THIN layer of breathable aftercare cream
  5. Do this twice a day for 3 days. This will get your tattoo through its initial healing phase.

Should I rewrap my tattoo at night?

It isn’t advised to rewrap your tattoo at night. You will be asleep for seven hours or so which gives bacteria time to thrive under the cling film. Just make sure your bedding and any clothes you wear in bed are clean and use a protective layer of aftercare solution to protect the tattoo.

What can I use instead of cling film on my tattoo?

Cling film is really the old way of covering tattoos. Most tattooists now use a breathable dressing film to heal their tattoos. This is a much better solution. It can be left on for about 5 or 6 days to protect the tattoo whilst allowing it to breathe and avoiding the bacterial risk of cling film.

It’s worth checking with your tattooist before you go if they use dressing film. If not you could buy some for yourself and ask them if they will use it to wrap the tattoo at the end of your session.

Most tattooists will be ok with that as it will help to preserve the tattoo they have just put their hard work into.

There are many different brands of tattoo dressing film which you can easily order online. You need to read the instructions on the one you buy as each one is slightly different.

The most well known of the tattoo dressing film brands is Saniderm.

How do you use tattoo dressing film?

Tattoo dressing film is simple to use and frees you from the constant washing of your tattoo as well as the stickiness of aftercare cream.

The general idea is…

  1. Apply tattoo film to a clean dry tattoo that isn’t bleeding when it’s finished. Your tattooist will do this.
  2. Leave the first film on for up to 24 hours
  3. The next day, wash and sanitise your hands first.
  4. Remove the film in the shower. Wash and clean the tattoo gently.
  5. Pat the tattoo dry with clean kitchen towel
  6. Apply a second piece of tattoo film
  7. Leave that on for 5 days or so [or how long the manufacturer recommends] After that time your tattoo will have completed its initial healing phase.


How long to keep tattoo covered with Saniderm?

Saniderm is a popular tattoo dressing brand. You need to keep the first dressing on for up to 24 hours. Then the second piece of dressing stays on for 5 days or so. If you have fluid build-up under the dressing you can change it. After this time your tattoo will have completed ints initial healing.

Do tattoos heal faster with Saniderm?

Saniderm and tattoo film in general does seem to speed up tattoo healing. It traps the body’s healing fluid or plasma against the skin whilst preventing it from oxidising and forming scabs. This allows the tattoo to heal faster, safer and with less chance of infection.

The main advantage is the safety aspect of protecting the tattoo from infection. It’s very easy to mess up a tattoo in the first 24 hours if you touch it or allow it to come in contact with dirty surfaces.

The protection that the tattoo film offers reduces this danger and so allows the body to get on with healing the tattoo.

Can I take Saniderm off after 4 days?

You can take Saniderm off after 4 days or so if it’s irritating your skin. Some people find their skin starts to get sensitive to the film and may itch. This is rare. If it happens you should remove the Saniderm film. Wash and dry the tattoo and add a thin layer of aftercare cream to protect it.

Most people are perfectly fine with the film and don’t need to remove it. It’s pretty rare to get an allergic reaction. If you don’t become sensitive you should leave the film up to the amount of time your tattooist specified.

However, after 4 days your tattoo should have sealed over so if you need to, removing the Saniderm due to allergy you should be safe to do.

When you remove the film it’s easiest to do it in the shower. That way you can get warm water behind the film and ease it off. It’s pretty sticky so can be sore to remove. Warm water definitely helps.

Where can you buy tattoo dressing film?

There are many different brands of Tattoo dressing film. If you need to buy your own these can be easily ordered online for fast delivery from Amazon. My favourites are listed below.


Saniderm Tattoo Dressing Film

  • Breathable
  • Latex Free
  • Protective

Check Price on Amazon

Should I wrap my tattoo at work?

The need to wrap your tattoo at work depends on your job. It’s unnecessary for most jobs but if you are dealing with bodily fluids or excrement it’s a good idea. Use a breathable dressing film like Saniderm. Ensure the tattoo is clean before you apply and read the manufacturers instructions.

If your tattoo artist has already applied Saniderm or a tattoo dressing film after your tattoo you will be just fine. However, if you were sent home in cling film you may be worried if your tattoo will be ok at work.

Most people don’t need to wrap their tattoos at work. If you are in a normal work environment that doesn’t have biological hazards you will be just fine. You can make sure your tattoo stays protected by using an aftercare ointment and wearing clean clothing over the area.

However, some jobs do present more of a hazard when you have a fresh tattoo. If you work in a medical or home care situation you may come into contact with bodily fluids or excrement. In this case, it would be wise to protect your tattoo for the first 3 days at least.

People working in an outdoor situation with mud or animals would also be wise to protect their tattoo whilst at work.

Leisure activities are also a hazard for tattoos. If you are playing sports such as soccer where you may fall in the mud, it’s a good idea to protect your tattoo

Tattoo dressing films such as Saniderm would be the ideal solution for these situations.

Conclusion – How long do you keep cling film on a tattoo?

I hope this post has helped you to find out how long you keep the cling film on your tattoo and answered some of the other tattoo healing questions you may have.

Cling film is a good first fix for keeping a tattoo clean initially but you shouldn’t keep it on too long. Saniderm and other tattoo dressing films offer a much more hygienic and convenient way to heal and protect a tattoo.


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