In general, most doctors will ask you to keep an incision dry until:
- The incision is no longer draining
- There are no signs of infection (redness)
Also, many doctors recommend that incisions are not soaked (in a bath, swimming pool, or Jacuzzi) until the wound is completely healed.
These recommendations have limited scientific basis. However, there may be real concerns with getting an incision wet too soon. Therefore, always check with your doctor before getting your incision wet.
When you are permitted to wash your incision, you should use a mild soap, and never scrub an incision. Be gentle on the skin surrounding the incision, and allow any scabbing to fall off without pulling at loose skin and scabs.
Carragee EJ, Vittum DW "Wound care after posterior spinal surgery. Does early bathing affect the rate of wound complications?" Spine. 1996 Sep 15;21(18):2160-2.