Tattoo Hygiene: Keep it clean, don’t be a victim!

If you’ve read our post on aftercare, you are fully aware of how important is that you keep your new tattoo clean. But you aren’t the only one responsible for tattoo hygiene.

I’m sure we’ve all seen many examples of bad tattoo art in our day. We see it on social media, out in public, and unfortunately with our friends and family sometimes.

There is another nightmare tattoo situation that is less common, but just as harmful to your ink and more importantly, harmful to your health.

That nightmare is poor tattoo hygiene.

Poor hygiene can come from both ends of the spectrum. If a shop or artist fails to maintain a clean, sterile environment to work in, they are just asking for trouble. On the other end, if the customer walks out of the shop with a safely done tattoo and doesn’t clean it or take care of it properly, they will end up with their own nightmare to deal with.

Tattoo Hygiene Isn’t Always A Given

While there’s no excuse for poor tattoo hygiene in today’s world of disinfectants, cleaners, and anti-microbial surfaces and materials, the reality is that it still happens all over the country.

I know what you’re thinking. If it’s so easy to practice proper hygiene, why doesn’t everyone?

There are a few different reasons tattoo hygiene goes ignored. The first being the almighty and evil dollar. Cleansers, disinfectants, and clean friendly materials all cost money.

If a shop is starting out, struggling, or if the management is particularly thrifty, the chances for cutting corners increases. All the more reason to do your research and make sure you’re visiting a reputable shop!

Unfortunately, this often comes at the expense of the customer and their safety. Reusing needles, not having proper cleansers, or using equipment not made for tattooing in efforts to save money are all common in bargain barrel tattoo shops.

Sometimes it’s just an accident. If there are groups of people working together without proper communication or systems in place, things fall between the cracks. Shops need to have cleaning plans that ensure proper hygiene is maintained regularly.

What You Can Do

When visiting a shop, let your eyes wander a bit and check out the corners, tops of items, underneath things and see how clean or dirty it is.

Do they have sharps containers for used needles?

Are needles freshly opened from a sealed package before each tattoo?

Are artists using gloves?

It is worth every bit of your time to be an investigator at this stage and make sure this is a place you trust with your skin and your health.

For more info, check out what WebMD has to say about sourcing a tattoo shop!

 If you feel uncomfortable, ask!

You’re about to throw down a chunk of cash for something to be permanently placed on your skin. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings by asking a couple of questions about their hygiene procedures. If they give you a hard time or vague answers, then they likely aren’t someone you want to work with anyway.


When a tattoo is done in a dirty environment or using dirty equipment, the body is exposed to potential infections. If you’re the victim of such a terrible breach of trust, you should seek medical attention. If the tattoo site becomes infected, you will need antibiotics to treat it.

It’s scary stuff.

Don’t let it scare you away from some killer body art, though.

Prevention is the most effective treatment. Prevention that starts with tattoo shops and artists keeping their spaces, themselves, and their equipment squeaky clean and professional.

What You Can Do

The artist and shop hygiene is paramount, but once you head out into the world with your fresh ink, it’s your turn to keep it clean and ensure healthy healing!

You’ll want to make sure you wash the tattoo with non-scented, anti-bacterial soap 2-3 times a day. Practice proper aftercare, preventing any build-up of fluids or excess ointment, which are prime conditions for bacteria to flourish. Keeping the area cleaned off and properly moisturized greatly reduces the risk of issues during healing.

You’ll also want to make sure that you refrain from touching your tattoo unless you have washed your hands prior. Our hands touch everything as we go throughout our day and we don’t want to risk contaminating our open skin.

Improper Tattoo Hygiene

Last, avoid situations that will get your tattoo dirty as much as possible. Sometimes you can’t help it, we understand. If you do get it dirty or if you have any fluid build-up in the first few days, be sure to wash it with an appropriate soap as soon as possible.

Touching your new tattoo with dirty hands, submerging it in the bath or pool, or allowing too much build-up on the surface can all hurt your tattoo or cause an infection. Thankfully, they’re all very much preventable if you just know how.

Tattoo hygiene and cleanliness is serious business. If you have any questions about keeping your new tattoo clean, we’d love to hear them!

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