Tattoo safety guidelines
Originally Published: October 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 8, 2011
I am planning to get a tattoo. Can you please give me some guidelines to follow so this can be accomplished safely, as I do not want blood poisoning or any diseases as a result?
Dear Ink Virgin,
You have obviously done some research already on tattoo safety, kudos! Your best bet for finding safety-conscious tattoo artists and studios is to call or visit and chat with the proprietors. When you call tattoo companies or freelance tattoo artists, ask the following questions:
- Thoroughly wash your hands with antibacterial solution immediately before and after each tattoo application?
- Wear latex gloves during the tattooing procedure?
- Use single service materials and equipment (i.e., each needle and tube set is individually packaged, dated and sealed, and autoclave sterilized), and set up and open them in front of the client?
- Use sterile disposable needles?
- Have an FDA-regulated autoclave on site?
- Sanitize your work space with an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)-approved viricidal disinfectant, preferably one that kills tuberculosis, before and after each client?
- Thoroughly rinse tube/needle set from tattoo machine using an ultrasonic tank before discarding?
- Properly dispose of contaminated materials?
Measure how the person who you talk with answers your questions — are they considerate and thorough, or are they annoyed by your inquisitiveness? You have a right to have your questions answered thoroughly in advance. When you get there, check out the studio — make sure it looks and feels clean. If you get there and you're uncomfortable, you can leave.
Most states regulate tattooing, but a few leave it up to cities or municipalities. You might consider checking with the department of health in your city or state for resources close to you. Additionally, several national associations and organizations exist to bring tattoo artists and those interested in their work together. The Alliance of Professional Tattooists, Inc. is an organization dedicated to health and safety issues within the tattoo industry. The AAA Tattoo Directory provides information on regulations and a list of shops, and the National Tattoo Association provides news and convention information.
Remember, there are plenty of studios and artists who have their clients' safety and health in mind; you may just need to do a little leg-work to find them.