So, this happened. Earlier this month, a tattoo “artist” had his home studio shut down by health officials after they discovered some startlingly dangerous practices – namely, the complete lack of sterilization equipment and sanitation practices. Now, you may be thinking something along the lines of “no shit” – home-based tattoo shops have long had a bad reputation for being unclean and unsafe. But, keep in mind that this also happened. Even so-called professional tattoo shops can fail to uphold even the most basic safety standards. Stories like these undoubtedly leave potential tattoo recipients feeling nervous and scared. And rightly so.
How, then, does one choose a safe, clean shop? Of course, we at I-Kandy want you to come see us for your tattoo and piercing needs. We pride ourselves on our incredibly high standards and use of the most up-to-date, medical grade equipment. But we also know that many of our readers are scattered across the globe, and therefore can’t just come on down to see us whenever they want a new tattoo. So, we would like to help all of you choose wisely by offering up some basic advice.
First and foremost, any reputable shop will have an autoclave and ultrasonic on the premises. These are sanitization and sterilization machines that ensure any piece of equipment that comes near you is clean and safe to use. Any safety-minded shop will be more than willing to show you this equipment (though they may not let you right into the room it’s kept in, as we take several precautions before coming near the equipment).
Another strong sign that a shop is safe is their use of needles – all needles should be disposable, and come out of a sterilized package. This applies to both tattoo artists and piercers. Similarly, their set-up should reflect their use of sterile needles – you will see plastic coverings on machines, a needle disposal box, barriers between surfaces, and skin cleansers.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the use of gloves is also of utmost importance. Many of these dirty shops that get shut down throw up a huge red-flag with their questionable use of gloves. Some of these “artists” don’t wear them at all, while others wear the same pair throughout several different stages of the tattoo. The use, and changing, of rubber or latex gloves is vital in keeping both you, and them, safe. Any artist who feels comfortable getting your blood and tissue on their hands, and then touching their equipment and items around the shop is someone you want to run, not walk, away from.
Finally, look around the shop itself. A studio that prides itself on safe practices will not only take the proper precautions when it comes to equipment, but will advertise this cleanliness by ensuring the entire shop is clean. Check out the floors, the front desk, the bathroom. While these are public places, and therefore may have the occasional footprint on the floor or fingerprint on a glass display, the shop should be free of dirt and debris.
And, of course, read reviews. No shop has 100% good reviews – that’s to be expected of any business, as everything from loyalties to politics can influence how someone feels about a business, and some people just enjoy stirring up trouble. But a reputable shop should have mostly good reviews, including comments about cleanliness, professional attitudes, and informed artists. All of these are good indications that a shop is clean and safe.