One of the primary considerations for anyone who wants a tattoo is the cleanliness and hygiene practices in the tattoo shop. Proper sanitizing is critical to a customer’s overall health as well as the beauty of the tattoo. A tattoo that gets infected can be ruined by the work required to kill the infection, and of course, no one likes to get sick in the first place.
Unsanitized tattoos have led to hospitalizations and a bad reputation for the tattoo parlor involved; some have gone out of business. The importance of a clean work environment cannot be overemphasized.
Needles should always be a single-use product. Every tattoo parlor should have a ‘sharps’ container into which the needles are placed after use. Customers should be able to see their tattoo artist removing new needles from their original container and placing them in the tattoo machine.
In a similar fashion, every tattoo artist should scrub his or her hands with soap and hot water, then turn off the tap with a paper towel and dry their hands with several other paper towels, not the paper towel they just used to turn off the tap. Tattoo parlors should have both latex and non-latex gloves available so customers with latex allergies can be served.
Anything that touches skin should be single-use, including the pencil or marker used to outline the design or the transfer paper. Ink, of course, should be individualized. Ink caps should be filled and brought to the work area before work begins. Once the tattoo process has begun, re-sterilization (hand washing, re-gloving) must happen anytime the tattoo artist leaves the tattooing area.
Look for an ultrasonic cleaner in the shop. This is a machine through which tubes and other instruments pass prior to going in the autoclave; which is another must-have for any tattoo shop. Anything that is not single-use must be thoroughly cleansed, and an ultrasonic cleaner followed by the autoclave is the only way to ensure proper sterilization. Tattoo sanitization is a multi-step process that requires attention to detail, on the part of both the tattoo artist and the customer.