How To Sterilize Tattoo Equipment (6 Detailed Steps To Follow)

Whether you are a professional tattoo artist or just an amateur, thoroughly cleaning all tools used in inking is a must-have procedure. Not only does it kill off viruses and bacteria before they get the chance to infect the body, but it also ensures your equipment’s durability and top-notch performance.

If you are still new to the process, let’s look at our comprehensive guidelines on how to sterilize tattoo equipment below.

What You Need For Tattoo Equipment Sterilization

Before getting down to the actual work, you have to assemble your toolkit. Ideally, there should be enough of the following items.

  • A few pairs of medical gloves. These offer your hands extra protection against the chemicals used for disinfection and ensure an accidental touch will not burn off your fingers.
  • An empty spray bottle.
  • A piece of linen cloth.
  • Clean towel.
  • A bottle of disinfectant.
  • Paper tissues.
  • A bottle of alcohol.
  • An autoclave
  • A bottle of germicide.

How To Sterilize Tattoo Equipment?

How To Sterilize Tattoo Equipment

Step 1: Put on your medical gloves and slowly remove each part of the tattoo machine. Lay all the details on the linen cloth, then use the clean towel to quickly rub on the surface.

Step 2: Pour the disinfectant inside the spray bottle and start spraying it all over the tattoo machine. Wait for at least 10 to 15 minutes before using a few pieces of paper tissues to wipe off the disinfectant. Remember to spray on internal parts of the gadget, as they are usually overlooked when cleaning. If they are too inaccessible for the spray, try wrapping the paper tissue around the tip of a stick, then gently scrub it inside. 

Step 3: After cleaning the device with the tissues, dip a cloth into an alcoholic solution. The disinfectant might still remain on the surface of the machine, which may eat up the iron. Use alcohol to get rid of any residue.

Step 4: Repeat the first three steps with other tattoo gadgets, including the tubes and grips, the cables, the tattoo chair, needles, etc. Anywhere the previous client has come into contact with needs a proper clean-up. For non-metal parts, feel free to use hot water and soap instead of disinfectant and paper tissues.

Step 5: Turn on the autoclave with a medium water level. Carefully place all the tattoo items into a basket or washing bag before putting them into the autoclave. If your tattoo machine has a removable motor, you can also put its body parts inside. Most autoclave takes at least 60 minutes to complete a cycle, but you might need to check the manual for more specific instructions.

Step 6: In case an autoclave is not available, consider replacing it with a chemical bath. They are much cheaper, and the germicide can be bought virtually everywhere, but running chemical baths means a longer time for sterilization (12-24 hours), riskier performances, and less effectiveness. All you have to do is pour the germicide into a large container, submerge everything in, and wait overnight. The next morning, take the equipment out of the container and wash it under running water.


1. Does boiling a needle sterilize?

Boiling alone can only kill microorganisms and common bacteria, not viruses or heat-resistant bacteria. Therefore, it is not a highly recommended method to sterilize the tattoo needle. While using pressurized steam or an autoclave is much safer and more efficient, if you cannot afford to have one, make sure the needle is in deep boiling water for at least 30 minutes.

2. Can you use a UV sterilizer for tattoo equipment?

Yes, using a UV sterilizer is sufficient enough for both the tattoo machine and other smaller gadgets. Like the autoclave, you only have to put things inside the device and let it do the job for around an hour or two.

3. Can you reuse tattoo needles?

Tattoo needles need to disinfect after each use

Ideally, tattoo needles are single-use and should be disposed of after being applied directly on the skin. Unfortunately, most tattoo shops want to save money by using a needle multiple times before it wears out. If you intend on reusing needles, be very mindful of the potential risks and scrub it from the inside out as much as you can.

4. Can you put a tattoo machine in an autoclave?

In most cases, the answer is no. The autoclave relies on extreme heat, pressure, and steam for thorough sterilization, which might tamper with the motor inside a tattoo machine. If you put an entire machine inside an autoclave, the chances are the machine will stop working altogether.

An autoclave is used by tattoo shops for sterilization

However, there are two exceptions. The first one applies to LACEnano machines, which are tattoo devices compatible with autoclave-washing. The second one is machines with removable motors, allowing you to safely disassemble all the details and autoclave them instead.

5. At what temperature does tattoo equipment decontaminate?

Usually, tattoo equipment would decontaminate if left at 251 degrees Fahrenheit (or 122 degrees Celsius) for approximately half an hour.

6. Does rubbing alcohol sanitize?

The alcoholic solution is capable of wiping off many bacteria, fungi, and bacteria. Still, when it comes to tattoo equipment, alcohol is only as effective as boiling. 

7. Does the tattoo floor need sterilizing?

Many tattoo shops ruin the whole inking experience for customers with their dirty floors. That is not to mention blood and pigment drops that might stain and disinfect the whole establishment. Thus, it is of utmost importance that you keep the floor clean and shiny.

How to do it is actually quite simple. First, mix 20-30% of bleach with 80-70% of water. Next, sink a mop inside the bucket and cleanse the entire surface, then let it sit for a few minutes before drying the whole area. Make sure the room is well-ventilated so that the smell of bleach is less repulsive.

Next up, it is time to deal with the pigment stain. A foamy tile cleaner is highly recommended for this purpose. Spray the cleaner on the stained area for around a minute, just enough time for the chemical to infiltrate the floor and dissolve the pigment. Then, use a mop to wipe the residue away and rinse the floor again with soapy water.

8. How do you sanitize a new tattoo?

Taking care of a tattoo requires extensive attention to detail. Right after inking, wash your hands thoroughly to ensure they are hygienic. Slowly apply warm water to the tattoo to create a wet surface. 

Afterward, put on a layer of soap or tattoo cleanser so the substance can gradually purify the skin. Gently rub it using your fingers, and remember to be slow and controlled, not aggressively scrubbing. Next, rinse the tattoo under tap water and use a piece of sterile cloth to botch it up. Finally, a coat of moisturizer on top will suffice.


After reading this article, you indeed have become an expert on how to sterilize tattoo equipment. Now, remember to apply these tips and tricks next time you finish with a client and move on to another. Safety comes first, everyone!

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