How to Clean and Sterilize Your Tattoo Machine

Whether using a coil tattoo machine or a rotary tattoo pen, you must take extra care to clean and sanitize your tools. Your tattoo machine will be super close to the client. Additionally, tattoo machines are recycled equipment used repeatedly on various clients, unlike disposable tattoo cartridges and needles.

Proper cleaning and sterilization procedures will help prevent cross-contamination and the spread of infections, making it a top priority in tattooing. Continue reading this piece for a condensed step-by-step guide on cleaning and sterilizing your tattoo machine.

Step 1 – Understand the Importance of Cleaning and Sterilizing Your Tattoo Machine

Cleanliness and sterilization are vital in tattooing as it involves breaking the skin, creating an open wound. Inadequate cleaning can lead to infections and complications due to the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens from one client to another.

Step 2 – Gather the Supplies

You’ll need some essential supplies to start the cleaning and sterilization process. Here’s a list of the supplies you will need:

  • Autoclave/ sterilization machine
  • Clean towels/ disposable paper towels
  • Cleaning brushes
  • Cleaning solution
  • Disinfectant solution
  • Disposable barrier film or plastic wrap
  • Disposable gloves
  • Lubricant
  • Water or cleaning solvent

Step 3 – Disassemble the Tattoo Machine

Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to correctly disassemble the tattoo machine, removing the needle, tube, grip, and other removable components.

Step 4 – Clean the Components

Thoroughly clean the components by rinsing them under warm running water to remove visible debris and ink. Use a recommended cleaning solution and scrub with cleaning brushes to eliminate all traces of ink, blood, and residues.

Step 5 – Disinfect the Machine

You can now disinfect your machine after mechanically cleaning its components. Use a disinfectant spray of your choice, apply it to the part, and allow it to dry for at least 10 minutes to take effect. Once you have sprayed the disinfectant on each side of the parts, turn your equipment and repeat the process.

When handling any machinery, wear a clean pair of medical gloves and be careful not to touch the unbagged disinfectant spray bottle to avoid contaminating the machine parts.

Step 6 – Sterilize the Machine

Choose between autoclaving or chemical sterilization:


An autoclave is the safest and most effective way to stop cross-contamination and eliminate all bacteria, infections, and germs.

While an autoclave does not completely eliminate the previously mentioned, it greatly reduces the risk of contamination to a very low level. Any type of component inside the autoclave is sanitized using a combination of high pressure, heat, and vapor. However, since the motor cannot handle this mixture, tattoo machines cannot be placed in an autoclave.

Cold Sterilization

A chemical bath may be for cold sterilizing your tattoo machine. These work much more slowly (8 to 24 hours), but they are a good way to make your equipment usable for the next client.

Sadly, these procedures fall short of an autoclave regarding effectiveness and safety. If you don’t have an autoclave, you should take extra care to thoroughly disinfect your tools and bag your tattoo machine. Additionally, disposable grips and tubes should be used because they are pre-sterilized and reduce the chance of cross-contamination for your customers.

Step 7 – Dry and Lubricate

After sterilization, remove components from the autoclave or solution. Let them dry completely in a clean environment. Lubricate moving parts per the manufacturer’s instructions for better performance and longevity.

Bottom Line

As a responsible tattoo artist, prioritize cleaning and sterilizing your tattoo machine. Follow the steps carefully to ensure your clients’ safety and maintain a professional studio environment. A clean machine guarantees safe and stunning tattoos, contributing to your success in the tattooing career.