How should a tattoo artist prepare before applying a tattoo?

A tattoo machine creates a puncture wound each time it injects ink into the skin. Any puncture wound can potentially cause infection or disease, much of the tattoo application process focuses on safety. Tattoo artists sterilization all permanent equipment, use disposable materials whenever possible and sanitize their hands to protect themselves and their clients.

To eliminate possible contamination, most tattoo materials, including the inks, the ink cups, the gloves and the needles, are for single use only. Most of the single-use items arrive in sterile packaging. The artist opens the packages in front of the customer right before beginning work.

Reusable materials, including the needle bar and tube, are sterilized before each use. The only acceptable sterilization method is an autoclave, which is a machine that uses heat, steam and pressure. You many have seen these units in hospitals.

Before sterilizing the equipment, the artist cleans every item and places it in a special pouch. The pouch has an indicator strip that changes color when the items inside are sterile.

Before the artists begin to work on customers, they wash their hands and inspect them for cuts and abrasions. Then, they do the following:

  • They disinfect the work area with an EPA-approved viricide.
  • They place plastic bags on all spray bottles to prevent cross-contamination.
  • They explain the sterilization process to the client.
  • They remove all sterile packaging in front of the client.
  • They shave and disinfect (using a mixture of water and antiseptic soap) the area that will be tattooed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.