The only acceptable sterilization method is an autoclave machine-- a heat/steam/pressure unit often used in hospitals. Most units run a 55-minute cycle from a cold start, and they kill every organism on the equipment. To do this, an autoclave uses time, temperature and pressure in one of two combinations:

  • A temperature of 250° F (121° C) under 10 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes
  • A temperature of 270° F (132° C) under 15 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes

Prior to sterilizing the equipment, the artist cleans each item and places it in a special autoclave bag. An indicator strip on the pouch changes color when the items inside are sterile.

Before working on customers, tattoo artists wash and inspect their hands for cuts and abrasions. Then, they should do the following:

  • Disinfect the work area with an EPA-approved viricide.
  • Place plastic bags on spray bottles to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Explain the sterilization process to the client.
  • Remove all equipment from sterile packaging in front of the client.
  • Shave and disinfect (with a mixture of water and antiseptic soap) the area to be tattooed.

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