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 cling film 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.

You can find a lot more information about After Tattoo Care in this extensive post.

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.




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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.

Is my tattoo healing right?

Are you unsure if your tattoo is healing ok? Are you wondering is it normal for a new tattoo to look faded? Check out this post. 

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