Yes, You Need to Clean Your Belly Button—Here’s the Best Way to Do It

"Clean me!"
"Clean me!" / Sawitree Pamee/EyeEm/Getty Images

Haphazardly dragging a soapy washcloth or loofah over your abdomen might be good enough to clean the surface of your skin—but properly cleaning your belly button calls for a little extra care and attention.

The details depend on what kind of belly button you have. People with outies, rejoice: The cleaning process is easier for you. Experts generally agree that all you need to do is soap up a washcloth and gently scrub your navel. 

Soap and a washcloth can work for innies, too, but you may need slightly more specialized tools—namely, as Healthline explains, a cotton swab and some rubbing alcohol. Before you hop in the shower, coat the cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and delicately scrub all the folds of your belly button. If the Q-tip gets dirty quickly, it’s a good idea to switch to a fresh one. After you’re done, repeat the process with water in order to get rid of any excess alcohol; that will help prevent your skin from becoming dry. Since alcohol can be hard on sensitive skin, some doctors recommend just sticking to soap and water.

There’s no medical mandate requiring you to clean your belly button with any specific frequency. “I recommend patients clean their navel daily in the shower with gentle soap and water,” dermatologist Dr. Susan Bard told Teen Vogue. Other sources say one to two times a week will suffice. It goes without saying that if it’s starting to smell weird, you’re definitely due for a cleaning.

What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Belly Button?

An unpleasant odor isn’t the only issue a dirty belly button can cause. Those small creases are a playground for bacteria. “Moisture tends to pool there and the area becomes like a petri dish,” Dr. Gary Goldenberg told Shape. “That alone is enough to cause an infection.”

Oil, dirt, keratin, and other gunk can also build up over time and solidify into a hard brown or black stone known as an omphalolith, or a navel stone. If that’s not enough to convince you to clean your belly button regularly, we don’t know what will.