Infection Control in Tattoo Studios: Essential Practices for Ensuring Safe and Sterile Procedures

Proper infection control in tattoo studios begins with the selection of safe and sterile equipment. All needles, tattoo machines, and other tools must be sterile, and must be properly disposed of after each use. Additionally, the studio must be kept clean and free of clutter, with surfaces regularly disinfected and cleaned. The tattoo artist must also follow strict hygiene practices, including washing their hands before and after each tattoo and wearing gloves throughout the procedure. They should also be aware of the signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, and discharge, and take appropriate action if they occur.

Tattooing is a form of body art that involves puncturing the skin with a needle and injecting ink into the dermis. It is a popular form of self-expression, but it also poses a risk for the transmission of blood-borne pathogens. This is why infection control is of the utmost importance in tattoo studios.

Another important aspect of infection control in tattoo studios is the management of blood and other bodily fluids. The studio must have a policy in place for dealing with any spills or splashes, and all surfaces that come into contact with blood or other bodily fluids must be properly disinfected.

Proper sterilization of equipment and tools is also crucial for preventing infections. Using an autoclave is a very common method for sterilizing equipment in tattoo studios, it’s important to ensure the autoclave is properly calibrated and maintained, and that regular spore testing is conducted to ensure the equipment is working effectively.

Need a third party lab to perform your regular spore testing? SporeAlert is a mail-in sterilizer monitoring service that makes it convenient for you to do your routine testing. All you have to do is run the strip through your sterilizer and drop it in the mail. We take care of the rest! For more information click here.

There are over 21,000 tattoo studios throughout the 50 states. 40 states + DC require studios to perform monitoring of their sterilizer. Most of those require that such testing be performed by a 3rd party. Insufficient monitoring means the tattooist jeopardizes both their license and the health of their clients.

Most states require monthly testing, but there are a few exceptions. Missouri and Ohio have the strictest laws, both requiring weekly monitoring of sterilizers in tattoo facilities, which puts them on par with most state’s dental regulations. Florida and Kansas require only quarterly testing (every 3 months). State regulations are subject to change with political tides, and many local municipalities have their own regulations, so always review your local laws and codes to verify your current regulations.  To see your state’s requirements, check out our map of all state’s tattoo regulations which includes links to regulatory documents.

Finally, it’s important for tattoo studios to have a clear and detailed infection control policy in place. This policy should be provided to all clients and employees and should be reviewed and updated regularly. In conclusion, infection control is an essential aspect of tattooing. Proper selection and sterilization of equipment, hygiene practices, management of blood and other bodily fluids, and the implementation of a clear infection control policy are all crucial for ensuring safe and sterile procedures in tattoo studios.

Do I really need to test?

Just because a state doesn’t require testing does not exempt a tattoo studio from sterilizer monitoring.  Many municipalities have their own regulations which are more strict and/or a higher frequency than those of the state level agencies.  For example, the state of Maryland has no regulations regarding tattoo studio sterilizer monitoring but Allegany and Calvert county each require monthly testing.  So always check with your county and city governments health department or equivalent agency to verify that you are in compliance.

What about disposables?

It is important to remember that 21,000 tattooists doesn’t mean 21,000 sterilizers.  Today, most tattoo studios use only pre-sterilized disposable equipment, so a sterilizer may not be necessary. However, most tattoo studios do not limit their services exclusively to ink – many also perform piercings, which means they still need a method of sterilizing body jewelry.

If you are a tattooist, or a patron of a tattooist, and you have any questions about your local regulations, you can always call or email the experts Woodhouse Labs for a free consult.

Gemma Woodhouse is the Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Woodhouse Laboratories – a microbiology service laboratory providing remote e-commerce solutions for infection control compliance. When she isn’t in the lab, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and working on her hobby farm.