Dirty Belly Button: The Right Way to Clean

Most days, people likely switch on a kind of autopilot. As soon as the alarm goes off, they jump out of bed and head to the shower. But, not every person cleans every inch of his body thoroughly. And one of the body parts that often gets disregarded is the belly button.

What Purpose Does it Serve

This body part may have already done its most important work during birth, but it’s not entirely useless. In yoga classes, it’s considered the center of gravity or balance. Because the belly button is just above the abdominal muscles, the yoga instructor uses it as an easy marker for accessing the core, therefore, providing balance.

The belly button is an excellent landmark in medicine, too. It’s recognized as the central point by which the abdomen is divided into regions and quadrants. During laparoscopic surgery, it serves as the opening that prevents scars elsewhere in the abdomen.

What Decides its Shape

When people are asked about their first scar, they immediately associate it with falling off a bicycle or slipping on a wet floor. However, every person’s first-ever scar is actually the belly button. For the fetus to survive in the mother’s womb, oxygen and nutrients are supplied through the umbilical cord, which connects the fetus to the mother’s body.

Besides, the umbilical cord helped to pass waste products and deoxygenated blood from the fetus to the mother’s body. After birth, the fetus can now get the nutrients and oxygen with the mouth; thus, why the doctor or a family member cuts the cord a few inches from the baby’s body. The piece of cord that’s left is called a stump, but the body heals the abdomen over the next few days and forms scar tissue. The dried stump eventually falls off, and what remains is the scar or the belly button.

Contrary to popular belief, the shapes of the belly buttons, outie and innie, don’t depend on the manner the umbilical cord is cut or clamped, nor the manner parents cared for the remnants of the umbilical stump. Interestingly enough, the shape merely depends on how the scar tissue is formed. While an outie has extra scar tissue sticking out, an innie has excess scar tissue going inward.

What Makes Belly Button Dirty?

Despite being a valuable scar on the body, the belly button is dubbed as a dirt collector. Much like the armpits, this dark, moist, and confined area doesn’t get a lot of airflow. It becomes the home for lint, sweat, dead skin cells, and various microorganisms. When these are trapped inside, an infection is likely to occur.

Below are the common infections related to not keeping the belly button clean:

Yeast Infection. The vagina is not the only body part that gets yeast infections. This fungal infection can also impact the belly button. It occurs when the yeast that usually lives on the belly button becomes too dense and causes an offensive smell. Other than the smell, a yeast-infected belly button can also cause itching, burning, and clear discharge.

Staph Infection. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria is another cause of belly button infection. It can manifest in several ways, including impetigo- a severe condition that causes symptoms like itchy sores and fluid-filled blisters. The infection can also cause abscess or boil, which is a bump full of translucent fluid. The chances of getting staph infection are greater for those with pierced belly buttons. That’s why it is crucial to stick to the piercing aftercare instructions diligently.

Strep Infection. The Streptococcus bacteria is also often behind belly button infections that cause a painful and swollen rash. Without antibiotics, the infection can spread to underlying tissues and cause swollen lymph nodes, fever, and chills.

If a person has any of the infection symptoms mentioned above, he should see a doctor immediately. The appropriate treatment depends on whether the infection is caused by yeast, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, or Streptococcus bacteria. To accurately ascertain what’s causing the infection, the doctor may swab the belly button to get a testing sample.

How to Clean an Outie Belly Button?

The best time to clean a dirty belly button is during showers and baths. For routine washing, doctors recommend the use of gentle soap and warm water. During a shower:

  1. Gently scrub the outie using a washcloth or sponge. Then, rinse and dry off thoroughly with a clean towel.
  2. Massage some light moisturizing lotion or baby oil into the outie to prevent drying and irritation.

How to Clean an Innie Belly Button?

Since the innie is less accessible than the outie, the cleaning process is less straightforward. During a shower:

  1. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and use it to do a thorough cleaning in the innie. Use as many swabs as necessary, and replace each dirty swab with a clean one.
  2. To rinse the alcohol out of the innie, dip a clean cotton swab in warm water with soap. Then, swab the inside of the innie, and make sure to rinse it off well.
  3. Once washing is done, gently dry the innie with a clean towel.
  4. Avoid using lotion and baby oil afterward, as doing so can trap moisture inside the innie. This creates a suitable environment for fungus, yeast, and bacteria growth.

How to Clean a Pierced Belly Button?

For recently pierced belly buttons, the piercing’s aftercare instructions should be followed to avoid any infections. But, for fully healed pierced belly buttons, it’s best to follow the proper cleaning regimen based on the type of belly button. The pierced area should also be cleaned with a washcloth that’s been soaked in a warm saltwater solution or isotonic saline solution.

The Bottomline

The steps to cleaning the belly button may be easy, but these bear repeating. Deep cleaning the belly button twice a week or so can help prevent potential infections. Otherwise, a person will mistake the infection for skin cancer then consult a doctor. What’s more, he will end up embarrassing himself for years of accumulated belly button dirt, tint, and bacteria.