Safe and Effective Ways to Clean Your Belly Button

Updated on February 3rd, 2020
how to clean belly button

While we make it a point to clean ourselves and stay hygienic, we often overlook our belly buttons. A 2012 study(1) discovered that an average belly button houses at least 67 different kinds of bacteria. Needless to say, it is essential to clean your belly button periodically as the many crevices could collect dirt, lint, and bacteria.

Ideally, you should be cleaning your belly button at least once a week, if not daily. So if you wish to know the best way to clean your belly button, then you have come to the right place!

How to Clean Belly Button

Types of Belly Buttons

As surprising as it may sound, there are SIX types of belly buttons! These include:

  • Protruding Navel (Outie)
  • Deep and Round Navel
  • Vertical or Oblong Navel
  • Horizontal Navel
  • Off-centre Navel
  • Oval Navel

As per Chinese mythology, the shape of your belly button determines the number of kids you will have. Further, Dr. Gerhard Reibmann, a German psychologist claimed to be able to predict an individual’s lifespan or personality traits based on their navel. However, it has come to light that the shape of your belly button is determined by the way the umbilical cord is cut at birth.

What Causes Odour in Belly Buttons?

It is pretty normal if your belly button smells slightly funky. This is due to the fact that dead skin and sweat could get trapped inside the belly button.

Further, the naturally occurring bacteria break down sweat to create waste products that have a peculiar odour. The odour would be mild and sweaty, much like your armpits and feet.

However, if you notice a prominent odour paired with other symptoms such as red, scaly, itchy skin or tenderness around your belly button, the following conditions could be the primary reasons:

1. Candida Intertrigo

Candida is a yeast strain that lives on the skin and thrives in dark, moist, and warm environments. Hence, your belly button offers an ideal habitat for it to flourish.

Having a belly button piercing or diabetes mellitus could increase the risk of contracting an infection. Usually, if you have a yeast infection, you will also notice pus or liquid discharge from your belly button.

[Also Read: Remedies For Candida]

2. Epidermoid and Pilar Cysts

A dirty belly button could be home to epidermoid cysts(2), which are present on the top layer of the skin, while pilar cysts appear near hair follicles.

These cysts contain cells, which secrete thick keratin protein sludge, enveloped inside a thin membrane. When these cysts burst, they release a thick, yellowish, smelly discharge.

3. Sebaceous Cysts

These are a rarer form of cysts that originate within the sebaceous gland. These cysts are pretty much like blackheads in your belly button and are caused by the clogging of a hair follicle, which can get filled up with sebum and get infected.

When these cysts rupture, they release odorous yellow or black stuff in your belly button that can accumulate inside your belly button and form a stone.

[ Read: Get Rid of Body Odor Naturally ]

Materials Required to Clean Belly Button

To eliminate dead skin in the belly button, here are a few supplies that you will need:

  • Gentle, unscented body wash
  • Warm saline water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Sterile cotton swabs
  • A clean washcloth

Steps to Clean an Innie Belly Button

Clean Belly Button

Before you take a shower, here are the steps on how to clean your innie navel:

  1. Dip the cotton swab in rubbing alcohol.
  2. Gently rub the cotton swab over the surfaces inside your belly button. If the swab is too dirty, discard it and prep a new one with some rubbing alcohol.
  3. Continue cleaning until the cotton swab comes out clean.
  4. Dip the cotton swab in warm saline water and use it to rinse out the rubbing alcohol from inside your belly button.
  5. After you have a shower, dry out your belly button with a clean and dry washcloth.

NOTE: Do not apply any lotion or moisturizer inside an innie belly button as it could not only make it dirty but also promote the growth of bacteria.

[ Read: Essential Oils to Prevent Body Odor ]

Steps to Clean an Outie Belly Button

Belly button dirt removal is easier for outie belly buttons as they are more accessible. Here’s how you can clean an outie:

  1. Wet the washcloth, apply a squeeze of body wash to it, and lather it up.
  2. Gently scrub your belly button with the washcloth and rinse off the lather with the warm water.
  3. Apply some lotion on your belly button.

Steps to Clean a Pierced Belly Button

If you have a pierced belly button, it can be tricky to get to the dirt and dry skin lodged in the belly button. However, do note that if your piercing is recent, you must follow the belly button cleaning regiment as outlined by your piercer. For fully healed pierced belly buttons, here’s how you clean it:

  1. Follow the instructions above based on the type of belly button that you have.
  2. Gently rinse the pierced area using a cotton ball that has been soaked in an isotonic saline solution.
  3. Pat the area dry or moisturize it.


Keep the following tips in mind while cleaning your belly button:

  • Make it a routine to clean your belly button.
  • Use an unscented lotion/moisturizer or light baby oil to moisturize an outie.
  • Be gentle while cleaning your belly button as some people have sensitive navels. In fact, belly buttons are considered to be an erogenous zone.
  • If you experience discomfort or itching due to the usage of rubbing alcohol, switch to regular soap and warm, saline water.
  • Do not pick at the scabs in the belly button; allow them to heal and fall off naturally.

[ Read: Ways to Lose Belly Fat Naturally ]

When to See a Doctor

Consult a Doctor

You should consult a doctor if you suspect that your belly button is infected. Symptoms of an infection include redness, swelling, and itching. In some cases, you would notice pus or fluid discharge, or a hardened belly button crust.

See a doctor if you notice cyst formations inside your navel. Depending on the condition and the diagnosis, the doctor will be better equipped to drain it.

Final Take

Usually, merely washing the belly button at home can effectively solve the problem of dead skin or bacteria buildup inside the belly button. Make it a habit to periodically clean your belly button and keep it dry.

Cleaning your belly button regularly will not only get rid of but also prevent the onset of an infection. Additionally, wear loose and breathable clothes so that sweat does not accumulate inside or around your belly button.


1. Is it bad to pick stuff out of your belly button?

Yes, it is usually advised to not pick stuff out of your belly button.

2. What happens if you don’t clean your belly button?

If left unattended, a dirty belly button could develop a yeast infection, gain an overpowering odour, or even develop navel stones, which are stone-like masses similar to blackheads. Their tips are blackened due to oxidation, and they can fill up your entire belly button, become infected, ulcerated, or even inflamed.

3. How to clean a baby’s belly button?

You can clean a baby’s belly button with warm water. Using soap or antiseptics may not be necessary. Remember to keep the area dry.

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