How Can Tattoo Artists Prevent Bloodborne Pathogens?

Roughly 49% of tattoo clients carefully consider a tattoo artist’s studio or reputation when researching options, especially with concerns about bloodborne pathogens.

As such, tattoo artists hold a great deal of trust from their clients. There lies a vulnerability when getting a tattoo, whether in the reason behind choosing to get a tattoo or the weight tattooing holds in many indigenous cultural practices.

For something so sacred, tattoo artists who wish to hone their craft need to also consider their clients’ safety and wellbeing. Thus, special training to ensure best practices in hygiene and safety to prevent infections or diseases prepares aspiring tattoo artists for a successful career.

This article specifically discusses how to prevent the risks associated with bloodborne pathogens. Read on to learn exactly what these risks entail, the best safety practices, as well as how to get certified in these skills.

The Dangers of Bloodborne Pathogens From Tattoos

Tattoos have permanent consequences. This isn’t just because of the life-long effects on someone’s appearance, but because health risks could cause potential damages ranging from minor to very serious. Diseases caused by bacterial or viral infections can happen when needles aren’t sterilized or if they’re reused.

That’s why in tattoo studios today, needles get disposed of immediately. Tattoo artists never reuse needles, though the tools which hold the needle get reused and require proper coverings and clean practices.

To mitigate risk to the best of your ability, as a tattoo artist, you should do everything in your power to create the best results to keep clients happy and healthy. Educated tattoo artists have the necessary skills to prevent diseases. Knowledge, as they say, is power.

Understanding Bloodborne Pathogens

Someone can get an infectious disease if they come into direct contact with infected blood. The most famous example of a bloodborne pathogen happens to be HIV/AIDs.

Lack of information and prevention protocols led to this virus becoming widespread and devastating for millions of people for many years. Not understanding how bloodborne pathogens worked caused this disease to spread quickly and be highly contagious.

Viruses caused by bloodborne pathogens from contaminated tattoo needles include Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HBC). MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is another risk associated with getting tattoos.

Close contact makes these diseases highly contagious when unchecked. Bloodborne pathogens commonly get transmitted by the following:

  • Mother to Child during Pregnancy or Birth
  • Breastfeeding
  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Injury by a Needle Stick
  • Sharing needles with an infected person

These diseases happen when pathogenic microorganisms in the blood pass from one person to another. Pathogenic microorganisms refer to anything that can carry disease. The term “pathogen” derives from Ancient Greek; genes means to be “born of” while pathos is the Greek word for “disease.”

This happens unintentionally and even while someone does not know they have an infection. For this reason, knowing how to protect your clients and keep consistent best practices for clean needles in your studio needs to happen.

Preventing Diseases Caused by Bloodborne Pathogens

Tattoo artist falls under the category of occupations affected by bloodborne diseases, according to the CDC. For this reason, taking measures in preventing disease is a legal requirement for all tattoo studios, especially regarding certain protocols, such as:

  • Storage of pre-sterilized needles
  • Records of needle supplies and disposals
  • Maintaining practices for clean needles

Some standard business practices that may be legally required for constantly monitoring tattoo cleanliness include any of the following:

  • Wrapping tattoo machines and soap bottles in plastic
  • Cleaning tattoo machines in autoclaves
  • Having a Sharps box for disposing of used needles on the premise
  • Maintaining a well-kept clean studio in a proper building
  • No Animals allowed in the tattoo work area

Inked Magazine recently published an article describing major red flags to look for to know if a tattoo studio does not uphold proper healthcare standards. Most of these listed red flags (some have been included in the above list) are now regarded as common sense within the tattoo industry.

Federal Compliance and Healthcare Industry Standards

Other standards listed by Inked Magazine that serve as essential tattoo artist tips include using distilled water. All water used by tattoo artists should be de-contaminated through heating and water-filtering systems. Never use tap water.

Using needles that have been pre-packaged and get disposed of right after use now serves as a federal and state requirement. Regulations in the healthcare industry led to similar preventative protocols in industries that use needles. Becoming a tattoo artist means taking similar coursework about disease prevention that healthcare workers get.

Tattoo artists, as well as the studios themselves, have to hold certifications. This makes the work of being a tattoo artist more than just the artwork itself. While having the skills to make aesthetically pleasing tattoos makes someone highly sought after, they gain the trust of their clients when they have a clean practice.

An Overview of the Law

The US Department of Labor lists the required practices to avoid bloodborne pathogens. These serve as universal standards that need to be followed in any workplace that uses needles. You can read those exact requirements from this link.

There are also regulations from states about tattoo needle cleaning. These include workplace requirements for studio owners. Also, tattoo artists to get a job anywhere need special licenses that get regularly renewed.

Organizations that offer educational services and courses may not be strictly regulated. However, to obtain a license as a tattoo artist, you have to complete the required coursework and be certified in these areas for disease prevention.

Trustworthy tattoo artists work in studios that also carry the proper certifications. Customers should be able to see credentials for a bloodborne pathogen certification.

Tattoo Artist Tips for Best Sterilization Methods

It’s a myth that tattoo artists can use certain methods to sterilize needles on their own. Some of these methods range from the following:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Bleach
  • Boiling Water
  • Ethanol

Please note that none of these methods work. Tattoo artists must never reuse needles. In fact, in doing so, you’d be breaking the law.

Every client gets a brand new needle. Each needle comes pre-sterilized and contained in individual wrapping. The equipment that artists do reuse as well as any soap dispensers need to be specially wrapped to avoid any contamination.

Further sterilization tips include constantly cleaning the studio and keeping any contaminants, such as food, away from workspaces.

Can You Work from Home

Industry experts generally advise not working directly in the home. Certified tattoo artists should find a professional studio to work in or rent their own private space.

During the Covid lockdown, this was not possible for many service workers, so some adjustments were made. Those who do any tattoo work from their home need to make sure they have a special space set up, like an entirely separate room.

This avoids any possible exposure to contaminants. It also makes sure that bloodborne pathogens don’t infect the living space. Considering all the risks involved, it’s better to avoid working from home at all.

Any tattoo artist who does work out of their home, especially from their kitchen, should be approached with caution, if not avoided entirely.

How to Keep Tattoo Studios Clean

We’ve already discussed ad nauseam how to keep needles and reusable tools clean. Let’s discuss more practices that you will learn how to do as a tattoo artist.

Proper skin cleaning agents need to be used by tattoo artists and kept in stock. Cleaning your client’s skin before and after the procedure will keep clients safe. It also allows for the best quality tattoo result.

Every studio needs to have Sharps containers. These containers need to be visible to everyone who enters the building. Sharps containers are special boxes made just for storing needles.

Sharps containers, which are legally required, keep all used needles in one space to keep the working area clean. It also prevents accidental contamination by preventing needles from sticking out. Whether tattoo artists work in the studio or travel, these containers are a must!

Other Ways to Stay Clean

Having a fully stocked first-aid kit which includes items like anti-septic wipes, ammonia inhalant pouches, and iodine prep, helps you keep your clients safe. Tattoo artists should also always be wearing gloves when they perform their work. Keeping these well stocked is key.

Tattoo studios should also maintain a robust supply of different cleaners, such as autoclaves, and disinfectants. Have back stock as well, especially if you have a lot of clients.

Take the Steps to Become a Certified Tattoo Artist

Our tattoo academy offers courses on a range of topics that will prepare any aspiring artist with the essential skills to rise to the top of their field. Taking coursework on important subjects like preventing bloodborne pathogens prepares artists professionally to be on track for the right certifications.

Hit the ground running with your new career! Click here to learn more about our program.