Tattooing is a dirty job and not only are you dealing with pigment but you are also dealing with blood and bacteria as well. Cleaning your equipment properly can really be a life or death situation since it only takes a one contact with infected material to give you or the client a life threatening disease such as HIV, Hepatitis or Staph. Using the right tools and chemicals to clean your equipment properly is just as important as applying the tattoo itself.
The most important chemical to have in a tattoo studio is some form of hospital grade disinfectant. Most tattoo supply companies will offer several different types and these are specially made with the intention of killing hard to kill bacteria and viruses. Bleach is not a hospital grade disinfectant though many shops will use it for other surfaces like floors and walls to help with keeping general cleanliness levels high. Some of the most common disinfectants are Madacide, Wavicide and Cidex; generally these are quite expensive but they are an absolute necessity within any shop if you plan on being safe. Most surfaces that cannot be disposed of or autoclaves are wiped down with disinfectant though it will not substitute for surfaces that are porous or directly in contact with blood. This being the case most areas that may have direct contact tend to be covered in impermeable plastic before tattooing and then wiped down after the plastic has been removed.
Though many artists don't bother buying one an ultrasonic cleaner can still be found in the average studio. Often this is used as a pre-wash to help loosen any dry ink or blood from the tubes before scrubbing them. It tends to make the person who has to do the tubes job a lot easier and can help dislodge ink from places and grooves within the tubes that cannot be reached using brushes. It's not an essential but it helps to make things extra clean and therefore is never a waste of money.
One of the most important pieces of cleaning equipment in a tattoo studio is the autoclave. Autoclaves come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can wither use dry heat or steam to sterilize equipment. Usually these heat a pressurized chamber inside to about 121°C and 30PSI killing almost all known strains of viruses and bacteria. This is usually the same piece of equipment that hospitals use to sterilize surgical tools. The process is similar to that of a pressure cooker but at a much higher pressure and temperature than would be needed for food. Steam sterilizers require constant addition of water or if the autoclave runs dry the pressure can crack the chamber and break the autoclave. This is usually the most expensive piece of equipment in any tattoo studio and with good reason. Usually the autoclave is used for tattoo tubes and piercing equipment that cannot be thrown away. Needles do not get autoclaved as they are always one time use only and are always disposed of after every tattoo.
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