How do I know if this tattoo studio is clean?
Updated: Apr 27, 2019
What to look for in a hygienic tattoo studio. Why is this important? Choosing a tattoo studio that upholds high levels of hygiene is vital to protect your health. Alas there are still many studios operating who take very little care over this, and if each person takes responsibility for their own health and safety by choosing a studio that is responsible and progressive about hygiene, then the standards will be raised across the board. If a tattoo is carried out in an unhygienic manner, there are risks to the client such as blood borne diseases, infections and scarring (as well as risks to the practitioner themselves. I want to help you feel informed and ready to make a choice of studio you can be confident in. So here's a few things you should know...
Environment You can tell a lot about a tattoo studio by having a really good look at the space there. Is it really clean? Is it tidy? Would you be happy to have a clinical procedure done in this space? Feel free to ask your artist or a member of the team at the studio to show you around (when they are not busy with another client of course!) . Your consultation will be an ideal time to do this- time to meet the artist, ask any questions you have and check out the studio space. Do not be afraid to ask any questions you may have- a good studio will always be happy to oblige to put you at ease. There should be hand washing facilities readily available in each area, and a whole lot of high-potency (80% +) alcohol hand gel around the studio. What kind of questions to ask...?
Licensing and training Is the studio/artist licensed? The law is different in each area so check out the laws in your county. Do they have insurance? Public and employee liability, as well as specialist professional insurance/ Do they have any further training such as 1st aid or blood borne pathogen training? These are not essential but will certainly put you in good hands.
Sterilisation and disposables Your chosen studio should ensure that all tools are clean and sanitary. All needles should be single-use in pre-sterile packets. The tubes used (the part that supports the needle) should ideally be medical-grade pre-sterile, and disposable. It is likely that your artist will set these up in front of you on the day, but by all means ask about it first. Autoclaves are used to sterilise any non-disposable items. They work by exposing the items to very high temperature and pressure steam. In order to be effective, there must be a thorough decontamination and preparation procedure done on the tools first. The autoclave itself must be a medical standard category B vacuum autoclave, and it must be tested every day and cycle, and serviced regularly. A good studio will take pride in it's sterilisation suite and will be happy to show your their records and explain their systems. Procedures Prevention is better than cure! Infection control measures during a tattoo procedure are easy to spot. All surfaces should (work station, tattoo couch, tattoo machines, arm rests, cables, bottles etc) with an impermeable barrier. Cling film, plastic baggies, and specialist plastic products will be used for this. If it doesn't fill you with horror at the amount of plastic that gets used and thrown away, it's probably not being done right! (we're working on solutions...) Medical grade biocides should be used before and after every procedure to ensure clean working areas. These will have strict instructions from the manufacturers on how to use them to ensure effectiveness, and these should always be followed. Dettol, alcohol, or ordinary disinfectants are simply not effective and safe enough. Disposable gloves should be used when the artist sets up for the procedure, and used, and most importantly changed regularly throughout the tattoo. For example, if the artist needs to pick up something from outside of the tattoo work zone, or touches something like the bin, or an item they have dropped, then they must change their gloves. Skin
The skin should be shaved and disinfected at the beginning of each procedure, and regular disinfecting using a specialist soap mixture should take place. This ensures your skin is clean and taken good care of. A secure dressing should be applied at the end of your tattoo to protect it for the first few hours. There are many products available, but cling film and specialist tattoo dressings are usual. Local Laws
You can also check the website of your local authority, as they are likely to have guidelines for tattoo studios to follow. These are available to download, so you can always take a read first so you are prepared. The most important thing is- trust your instinct. Take the time to see the studio and meet with your artist, ask questions, and if something doesn't feel right then keep on looking until you find the right studio for you.