PPE in the Daily Life of a Tattoo Artist | Painful Pleasures Community

PPE in the Daily Life of a Tattoo Artist

PPE is an essential part of safe, sanitary tattooing.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: May 27, 2021

Tattoo artist with latex gloves and other essential PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a non-negotiable necessity in the day-to-day life of a tattoo artist. Mandated by OSHA and the CDC, the right PPE is a crucial part of a clean tattoo parlor that provides safe, sanitary, and lawful procedures. In this blog, we’ll highlight the best daily practices and the right PPE for excellent tattoo sanitation.

Setting Up for a Tattoo 

The right PPE sets the groundwork for a safe tattoo procedure. Box of Recovery vinyl disposable tattoo gloves

Before setting up your workstation, be sure to put on a pair of vinyl gloves. Vinyl gloves are cost-friendly and disposable, providing an adequate layer of protection so you can avoid cross-contamination while cleaning your shop. Check out our Recovery Clear Disposable Viny Gloves and save your pricier latex and nitrile gloves for tattooing. Be sure to always have vinyl and latex or nitrile gloves on hand; this is essential PPE that must be worn at all times. 

Madacide and Cavicide hospital-grade disinfectant cleaners are also essential in the setup process. Sold in bottles or as easy-to-use wipes, these cleaners have virucidal, bactericidal, and fungicidal properties on all surfaces, from counters to tattoo chairs. All hard, non-porous, exposed surfaces should be wiped down and cleaned before your client sits down for a tattoo. 

Covering all your tattoo equipment with machine bags, bottle bags, cohesive wrap, and barrier film is another crucial part of your tattoo setup. While wiping things down is certainly important, it is not guaranteed to kill all biological contaminants on any given surface. Wrapping things up guarantees an extra layer of antimicrobial protection. 

In short, signs of a tattoo workstation that’s ready for action are shining countertops, plastic wrap, and the sterile smell of disinfectant cleaner.

Tattooing a Client 

Once everything is covered up, wiped down, and sanitized, it’s time to power up the tattoo machine and put needles to skin. 

That is… only if you’re donning latex or nitrile gloves. As mentioned above, wearing disposable tattoo gloves is simply a “must” when it comes to tattoo sanitation; all tattoo shops should be stocked full of tattoo gloves, which are used frequently throughout the tattoo process. While tattooing, it’s important to dispose of and replace your tattoo gloves whenever you touch something new. The best and safest way to do this is by using the CDC-approved hand-in-glove technique. Shop all our varieties of latex and nitrile disposable tattoo gloves. Black disposable face mask on molding of tattoo artist Jesse Smith's head

In light of COVID-19 regulations, other essential PPE garments worn during the tattoo process include face masks and sometimes face shields. You may also choose to don goggles or an apron, to protect your eyes and body from splashing. 

Another mandatory part of the tattoo sanitation process is prepping your tattoo site with antiseptics like Dettol or Green Soap. While tattooing, artists should repeatedly wipe and clean the tattoo site with their preferred antiseptic to make sure the tattoo stays clean and free of bacteria.

Spills, Splashes, and Common Upsets 

Spills and splashes are liable to happen every day in the life of a tattoo artist. Whether it’s an upturned ink cup or a biomedical splash, artists must always be prepared with the proper PPE. 

Disposable face shield on molding of tattoo artist Jesse Smith's headIn the event of a spill, use Madacide and Cavicide to wipe down exposed non-porous surfaces that have been affected by the substance. In the event of a big mess, like a spilled rinse cup, we recommend breaking down your setup entirely and starting fresh for proper tattoo sanitation. 

Splashing is always a safety concern in the tattoo studio. Inks, bodily fluids, and subsequently bloodborne pathogens can splash during the tattoo process. PPE garments like tattoo gloves, aprons, medical bibs, goggles, and face shields protect artists from harmful splashing. In the event of a biomedical splash, artists should wash the affected site with germicidal soap. We also recommend having a change of clothes on hand in the event of a chemical or biological splash that gets on your shirt, pants, shoes, etc.

Managing Waste 

As you know, tattooing generates a ton of waste due to the nature of the procedure and the disposable supplies used. After tattooing, it's important to dispose of contaminated materials safely using designated sharps containers in accordance with OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standards. Proper FDA-approved sharps containers, available on our Web store, are puncture-proof, red, and labeled to indicate they are for the disposal of biohazardous materials. While OSHA regulations mandate that sharps containers must be closeable, there is no set regulation for how big the opening of your container should be. However, choosing the design of your sharps container should be based on a hazard analysis of your workstation. In other words, consider the size and amount of sharps waste to determine which size sharps container you’ll need, and how big the opening should be. 

Set your sharps bin aside and keep the lid sealed tight to prevent any spillage. When your sharps container is full, follow your state’s regulations for safe, lawful disposal, which could be via mail, drop box, or supervised collection point.

Client Interactions Plastic barrier for tattoo shop front desk use

Under COVID-19 regulations, there are several PPE staples that help make consultations and client interactions as safe as they can be, even outside the tattoo workstation. Things like plastic barriers for the front desk, vinyl gloves for shop cleaning or client interactions, and, of course, face masks, are crucial to maintaining a safe tattoo environment. Additionally, requiring frequent hand washing (for both artists and clients) and providing hand sanitizer at the front desk are great measures to take in the current climate. These PPE garments and resources are not only good sense but will certainly boost client confidence in your professional image and overall tattoo shop hygiene. Clients will be more likely to return to a clean tattoo parlor that takes sanitation seriously.

Slow Days at the Shop 

Having a slow day at the shop? There’s no time like the present to clean your station. In between drawing up concepts for upcoming appointments, we recommend taking the time to clean every nook and cranny — places you may not have thought about that you touch every day, such as your smart devices, the height adjustment on your tattoo chair, and your light switches. The tattoo sanitation process never ends, but it’s well worth the effort! Learn more about maintaining a clean tattoo parlor by checking out our blog, “5 Tips for Keeping Tattoo Equipment Clean.” Plus, shop now for all the PPE available on our Web store, so you can maintain excellent tattoo shop hygiene and enjoy safe, sanitary tattooing. 



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