Neatness and proper hygiene are the most critical skills that a tattoo artist should have. We know that clients would rather pay more for any tattoo than get one that also infects them with a disease.


This is one of the many reasons you should learn how to clean a tattoo machine.


Cleaning your equipment is one operation you will do as frequently as you tattoo anyway, so you should get it done correctly.

In today’s piece, we discuss everything from cleaning all parts right to autoclaving – and whether you should put your machine to that treatment.


Cleaning After the Session

Once you are done with any tattooing work, follow these steps:

Step I – Disassemble the needle and tube setup if the machine is still coupled. Learn how to re-couple your coil or rotary tattoo machine here if you don’t have that down already.

Step II – Prepare bleach water in a small container to soak the tube and needle. Please note that you only have to soak the needle if you use it on a client. For initial machine preparation, you would only need to soak the tube.

Step III – Spray the machine with a suitable disinfectant (alcohol-based options work fine here), then rinse it under running tap water.


Only rinse the machine’s water-resistant parts lest you damage essential items during the process. Wipe the device with damp paper towels if it cannot be rinsed under water.


Step IV – Dry the tattoo machine off; it is ready for use.

Step VDispose of the used needle in a specific container at your shop. These needles should not go into general waste disposal bins as they could end up hurting/ infecting someone.

Step VI – Take the tube out of the bleach water (from the steps above) and dry it with paper towels.

Step VII – Put the tube into an ultrasonic cleaner. Some people skip this step, but this cleaner sends sound waves to vibrate off particles and residue that might be left inside the tube before the next step.


ULTRASONIC CLEANER FOR TATTOO EQUIPMENTUltrasonic cleaner for tattoo equipment


Step VIII – Place the tube in an autoclave to eliminate germs, bacteria, and viruses that might have clung to the inside and outside. Make sure to follow all relevant autoclave instructions (from bagging the tube right to the proper duration it lasts) to ensure safety and the best application.


Wear a new pair of gloves before getting started with the cleaning. This way, you don’t contaminate the machine with your older gloves.


How to Clean a Pen Tattoo Machine?

Pen rotary-style machines do not come in the same way or build as the traditional designs.

Before we go into this, we assume you know how to set up your machine right with a clipcord cover.


tattoo pen style sleeve for sterilization



We cannot say this enough. So, now that you are done with a tattoo session, here’s what to do to get it ready, spick, and clean for the following task:

Step I – Wear a new pair of disposable nitrile gloves.

Step II – Remove the needle and put it in a special collectible bin for used needles.

Step III – Slide off the grip tape and other external additions to the machine easily using the clipcord cover.

Step IV – Use disposable wipes (such as the Super Sani-Cloth) to clean the clipcord and body of the pen tattoo machine.


Even though the clipcord had a cover, remember that nylon effectively covered not all parts. Better safe than sorry there.


What to Put in an Autoclave

Autoclaves are great for eliminating pathogens as they can reach high temperatures and pressures. That is why they are so great for sterilization and even find applications in medical fields.



Pressure steam Autoclave for tattoo equipment




However, your machine might break during the autoclave process.


Not all tattoo machine motors are designed to withstand the high temperature and pressure that an autoclave supplies.

Even if they were, autoclaving takes anywhere from half an hour to a full hour so the motor might break under continued exposure to extreme conditions.

It is best to check with the manufacturer if you can get it done safely. Until then, please assume that the entire machine cannot be put into it and brought back without any damage.

Yes, we said ‘entire’ machine.

You can break down the machine parts and put them into the autoclave separately. This applies to the tattoo machine tube, as discussed above.

If your machine also has a removable motor, pop that out and place the rest of the setup in the autoclave.


Can You Use a UV Sterilizers Alone?

First off, there is a difference between cleaning and sterilization.

While autoclaves and UV sterilizers, among others, will eliminate the germs from the machine, they don’t remove the debris, dirt, liquid splatter, and other stains from the device.


That is why you must combine both processes – cleaning, and sterilization – not substitute one for the other.


That said, UV sterilizers bombard the machine with UV rays, like the sun, breaking down the DNA of germs that might have made their way onto your tattoo gun.


However, care should be taken when treating the equipment with painted frames.


Besides the UV rays wreaking havoc on the paint, they will also increase the degradation rate of rubber parts on the tattoo gun.

Finally, lovers of coil tattoo machines better not have exposed coils when putting their units into UV sterilizers. You could have a short-circuiting problem on your hands in no time.


Wrapping Up

The steps to effectively clean a tattoo machine are not rocket science. If you start now, they soon become second nature, and you start doing it immediately after each procedure – as it should be.


We recommend taking the processes slowly as it is very often to forget some of the mentioned steps above.


When the next client comes in, you don’t have to worry about whether or not the equipment is clean. You know for sure that they are clean and ready to go again.



Hi!, I'm Thomas, the driver of TMA. Tattoos are a way to express our thoughts, right? but how can we do it without the right tattoo machine? Thanks to my tattoo artist friends, I can transfer their point of view about their experiences in the industry.

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