Tattoo Sterilization for Beginners
Not sure how to sterilize your tattoo equipment? Don’t have an autoclave? Beginner looking to begin tattooing and don’t want to spread disease? Here are some things realize before you begin tattooing.
Tattoo Sterilization is an important process. In fact, it is THE most important thing to consider when giving a tattoo. A bad tattoo can be covered up or fixed later, but a case of Hepatitis or HIV can be a death sentence.
There are some things you want to know before you begin tattooing, especially before you begin tattooing other people.
While you are setting up your tattoo station, machine, needle, inks, etc… be VERY aware of cross contamination. Make sure your area is clean, sterilized. Do not tattoo in a carpeted or dusty area. Wash your hands thoroughly before you begin. Wash, shave, and sterilize the area to be tattooed well. Change your gloves everytime you touch something other than your client and your tattoo machine. If anything touches a client, then it cannot touch another client until it has been sterilized.
You need to wear gloves and safety glasses while handling any equipment that has someone else’s blood on it. If you choose to wash your own equipment, treat every used grip/tube/tip like it is coated with Super-HIV. Do not wash your equipment if you have any cuts or breaks in the skin that water could enter. Play it safe.
You need to thoroughly scrub your equipment with the proper tip/tube cleaning brushes and lots of soap. This will remove MOST of the ink and grime, but there is still a lot left that you can’t see. To really clean your tips/tubes/grips you need to immerse them in an ultrasonic cleaner.
Heres the deal, boiling water doesn’t kill everything. So don’t think that just because you boiled your tips, tubes, and grips that they are safe to use. Some germs can survive a boiling procedure, others are re-introduced to your tattoo equipment when you remove it from the pot. Also there are germs in the air that can and will land on your equipment while it dries or after you store it. Also, boiling water can coagulate proteins and ink residue on the equipment, protecting germs from any chemical sterilizers you might later apply.
Alcohol and chemical “sterilizers” are hit or miss. Some germs and bacterial spores can live through an alcohol bath. Alcohol can also coagulate proteins and provide protective shells for some germs. Don’t think that just because you soak your kit in alcohol that it is sterile. Also, unless you have an ultrasonic cleaner, there might be germs hiding under layers of invisible grime that you missed during the cleaning. And these germs are protected from your chemical sterilizer. However, there are compounds such as Glutaraldehyde that can sterilize your kit properly — just know that they are expensive, take hours to work, need to be handled properly, and have a short shelf-life.
They only really safe route to go with re-useable tattoo tips/tubes/grips is an autoclave. The autoclave uses steam at pressure to penetrate and kill germs, then seals the equipment in a bag to prevent any germ contamination while you store the tips. The downside is that autoclaves are expensive, require maintenance and need to be used properly to ensure that germs are killed. They are really only an option for the professional tattooist, not a beginner.
So how do you learn to tattoo without spreading disease?
You use pre-sterilized disposable tubes each time you tattoo. They are inexpensive and guaranteed to be sterile. You still MUST be aware of cross contamination if you use disposable tips.
One final thing you may want to consider for yourself is a full regimen of vaccinations for communicable diseases as well as the Hep A/B vaccines.