Safety and Sanitation in the Tattoo Parlor

You wouldn’t eat in a dirty restaurant, or have surgery in a filthy operating room, so why in the world would you settle for a less that sanitary tattoo studio? You wouldn’t. When a tattoo parlor sets up shop in a city in which the practice is legal, (believe it or not, there are still places in the United States where it’s not) it is liscensed by the city in the same way any other business would be and is subject to the same rules.

However, there are, as of yet, no governmental bodies or laws geared specifically toward regulating the sanity of the body art industry. Over the years, there have
been times when the government, at various levels, has threatened to stick its nose into the tattoo business. So far professional tattooists have prevented that by self regulation. Here are some things you should look for to make sure you have a happy, healthy tattoo experience.

o Needles – They should be sterile to start off with and disposed of every single time. Above all else, needles should never be used more than once. It’s a good idea for tattooists to break and properly dispose of the used needle where the customer can see them. This gives the tattooist a little accountability and incentive to finish the job right while instilling confidence in the facility in the customer. At the very least it’s good for business.

o Gloves – If the tattooist acts like he’s about to touch your skin without gloves on, scream. It’s a popularly know fact that we carry a lot of germs on our hands. Before your tattooist begins working on you, he should was his hands with antibacterial soap and put on a fresh pair of gloves. After the gloves go on, he should not touch anything but your skin and his already sterile equipment. If he steps away from the sterile environment for any reason: to talk to another customer, answer the phone, operate the cash register, anything, the process should be repeated with a new pair of gloves.

o Autoclave – We you are in the process of auditioning shops for your new tattoo, be sure to look around for an autoclave. This is a machine roughly the size of a microwave that is used to serialize tattoo equipment. Dentists and doctors also use them. Smart tattooists keep their autoclaves in sight of the customers for all the same reasons they let them see the broken needles.

o Ink – The tattooist should always throw out left over ink after every project. All kinds of airborne contaminants can fly into open ink pots and stick there. Reusing

In a good shop, you should be able to observe most of these practices just while you are waiting in line. If not, don’t hesitate to ask some questions. A tattooist with nothing to hide won’t mind talking with you. If he acts nervous, or like you’re bothering him, just turn around and walk out. There are enough good, clean shops out there that there’s no need for you to compromise your health or the quality of your experience.

The Alliance of Professional Tattooists, Inc. was founded in the summer of 1992 to educated and protect the interests of both the tattooer and the tattooee. Membership hopefuls must be able to prove at least three years of documented tattooing experience, use an autoclave and attend a nine hour seminar on microbiology and how diseases are contracted. The APT sets guidelines for sanitation practices and, with the help of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) enforce hefty fines of up to $7,500 a day to encourage members to operate safe, clean shops.

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