Tattoo equipment > Info Center > What to look for in a tattoo shop

What to look for in a tattoo shopTattoo equipment

There are many things you should look for, before deciding on where to get your tattoo done.

Many people don’t stop to think about whether or not the shop practices sterile protocol. The decision of getting a tattoo shouldn’t stop at what art you would like on your body permanently. But, also the quality of work, and the cleanliness of the shop itself.

Take a list with you, there are several things to look for, such as:

Autoclave - This is the preferred method of sterilizing equipment, such as grips, tubes, and needles. The process uses pressurized steam to kill bacteria. Needles, grips, and ink tubes should be sealed individually in pouches, with an indicator strip. The packages should be opened in front of the client.

Gloves - The tattoo artist should be wearing gloves at all times. They should be removed every time the artist walks away, or reaches for non-disposable items, such as ink bottles (not including ink-shots), ink caps, lubricant, or anything that has fallen on the floor to prevent cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination - The HIV/AIDS virus dies within several minutes of contact with air, however the Hepatitis B virus can live up to two weeks on an item. Cross-contamination can occur when the artist touches any unsterilized object with the gloves he is wearing. (un-covered bottles, paper, telephone, dropped items, anything that is covered for the sterile environment) and then returning to work on his/her client.

Ink cups - Tattoo ink becomes contaminated through the tattooing process, and should be poured into plastic cups prior to you getting tattooed. They should be refilled only when your artist has taken off their gloves, the tip of the bottle should not come in contact with the ink-cup as it can cause cross-contamination. The cups should be then be thrown away, or placed in a hazard bin.

Needles - The needles should be taken out of the sterilized pouch in front of the client, before the tattooing process begins. After the tattoo is completed, they should be properly disposed of in a “sharps”, or hazard container.

Cleanliness - The shop should be clean upon entering, often times they will have flash work, and portfolios hung, or laying on counter tops. If they are dusty, chances are the shop has not been cleaned properly. The floors should be mopped, and sanitized. The counters should be clean, and set up should be done during each tattoo. All disposables should be properly disposed of in a hazard container after the tattoo. The artists should wash his/her hands before, and immediately after tattooing a client. You might not stop to think about their dress, but their clothing should be clean, and properly maintained. Jewelry such as watches, rings, and bracelets should be removed by the artist, as they pose a tear risk with the gloves. All non-disposable items should be wiped down, and freshly covered during each new tattoo.


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