Is the tattoo shop you choose safe enough for you?

We have some pretty amazing tattoo artists and reputable tattoo shops all across South Africa. Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad and let’s be honest, the ugly. We don’t have any sort of tattoo council or authority in place to grant shops certificates of practice, so the average Joe (or Jane) does not necessarily know what they should look out for to make sure the tattoo shop they’re visiting is a safe and sterile environment.

Cleanliness is next to godliness!

Hygiene is of the utmost importance to ensure the health of the client, their tattoo, the artist and any other patron in the shop. So we compiled a list of things to look out for to make sure the tattoo
shop you choose is safe enough for you!


It sounds a bit ridiculous, but if a shop does not smell clean there is usually a reason, and that reason could be an unpleasant one. Bodily fluid builds up, be it blood or sweat, can cause quite the stink. If the shop you are entering smells dirty, stay clear because they very likely do not thoroughly clean and sterilise their equipment, beds and workstations before and after every single client.

Do they wrap it up?

When setting up a work station, we cover anything the artist will touch with their gloved hands while working on the client’s tattoo, to prevent cross contamination! We cover the surface with plastic wrap or a dental bib so that the stock used in the tattooing process is not placed on a dirty surface. We also cover our soap bottles, tattoo machines and power cords with plastic wrap to ensure no blood or ink splatter gets onto the equipment. There will always be plastic wrap or a linen-saver on the surface of the tattoo bed; no reputable artist will tattoo the client without a clean barrier in place.

No second chances!

While some things like the artist’s tattoo machine cannot be a single-use item, there are many other things in today’s tattoo world that are single-use and disposable to ensure the client’s health and safety. Gloves should be disposed of immediately as soon as they have been contaminated or taken off of the artist’s hands and a new pair should be put on to continue working on a clean surface or the client’s tattoo. All needles should be packaged individually and for single use only. The same goes for ink caps, water cups, razors and ointment packets.

Waste control.

A tattoo shop should have designated bio-hazardous waste bins to dispose of all the contaminated single-use products, gloves, plastic wrap and towelling used in the tattooing process. There should also be a separate sharps bin to dispose of the needles. Tattoo waste cannot be thrown away in a normal dustbin as it can cause the spread of disease when the trash is taken to the curb.

Just because some people view getting a tattoo as an act of rebellion does not mean you have to rebel against standard health protocol to get a kick-ass piece of art! A healthy tattoo is a long lasting tattoo. You wouldn’t want your doctor or dentist to work with unsterilised equipment, after all.

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