How Do You Know if a Tattoo Shop is Safe?

So it’s official, you’re getting your tattoo. You’ve thought about the design, you are certain you know what you want. Now comes the time to find the perfect artist and tattoo shop to do the design. It seems like it’d be easy – just look up tattoo artists located near you, pick one that looks nice and show up. However, there are a lot more things to think about than just whether or not you like the look of the place.

First off, you need to think about whether or not the artist is experienced with your style of tattoo. Next, you will likely consider the cost to get the work completed and whether or not you’re willing to pay it. However, the most important thing that you can think about in regards to getting a tattoo is whether or not the tattoo shop you have chosen is safe.

First Impressions

Before you book your appointment and pay your down payment, you should try and visit the tattoo shop that you’re leaning toward. Your first impression of the shop will tell you a lot about whether or not it is a good place to get a tattoo.

When you first enter the tattoo shop you should feel comfortable, not intimidated. If the general feel of the shop makes you uncomfortable, leave and find another one. Your comfort is important.

A good, clean tattoo shop should smell similar to a hospital. You should be able to smell the cleaning solution that they use because they should be cleaning the seats after every tattoo appointment. There should be no used equipment laying around, or trash sitting anywhere. In addition, everything should be neatly organized and all unused equipment should be wrapped in single-use sterile wrappings.

While you’re visiting, you should be able to look at the books of the tattoo artists and ask them questions. Ask them about their cleaning procedures, what type of equipment they use, and how long they have been tattooing. They should be eager to talk about their process and discuss possible designs with you.

If you do not feel respected by the artist or if you feel that they’re pushing an idea on you that you are not into, walk away. This is a permanent decision and if you are not comfortable with their answers to your questions, it isn’t worth the regret. Just find another shop and another artist.

Tattoo Shop Licensing

One of the simplest ways to ensure that your tattoo shop is safe is by making sure that both the shop and the artists are properly licensed. The United States does not have a federal law regarding tattooing practices so every state has its own rules and regulations. Some states only require the artists to have licenses, some states only require the shop to have a license and rely on the shop owner to vet new artists.

Fortunately, one thing that every tattoo shop is required to have is a sanitation rating. Just like with restaurants, every year they should have an inspector come in and look at their facilities then give a sanitation rating. This sanitation rating should be at least 90%, ideally above 95% to ensure that you will be having the safest experience possible. The sanitation rating should be displayed clearly in the window or just inside the entrance of the shop. If you do not see one, turn around, walk out, and find a different tattoo shop.

If your state does require licenses, you should expect to see them displayed clearly in the shop. A shop license will likely be displayed near the sanitation rating and should not be expired. Tattoo artist licenses should also be displayed clearly and can often be found by the individual stations of the tattoo artists.

Can I Get Tattooed in Someone’s Home?

A frequent question that we get asked is, “So my friend knows a guy that does tattoos, can I get tattooed in someone’s home?” The short answer to this question is no, you cannot, and should not, get tattooed in someone’s home.

Just like with tattoo shop licensing, every state has different laws regarding tattooing and in some states, it is legal to get tattooed in someone’s house. However, regardless of the laws in your state, we strongly recommend that you do not do this for several reasons.

Firstly, when you are getting tattooed in someone’s home, you have no way of verifying that the equipment they are using is high quality and sterile. It could be, yes, but the risks associated with using non-sterile tattoo equipment can be devastating including contracting many blood transmitted illnesses including HIV which can be lifelong.

There is no getting a sanitation rating for your house so if you choose to get a tattoo in someone’s house, you are doing so knowing that you have no official measure of sanitation. In addition to the sanitation issues that may come up, you will run into the problem of not being able to verify who your artist actually is. They may claim to be someone that they’re not and claim to have done artwork that was stolen from other artists.

If you are getting a tattoo in an actual shop, you have the opportunity to talk to the owner, the other artists, and any customers to verify who you are getting your tattoo from. It’s also unlikely that they will be able to show you proof of their tattoo license while you are at their house. They may have one, but chances are they will not have it displayed where you can see it and ensure that it is up to date and correct.

Final Tips

After reading all of this your mind might be swimming with new information, and that’s okay. Getting a tattoo is a big decision and it’s one that you can’t take back. If there’s one thing from this article that I would want you to remember, it’s that you should be comfortable. Trust your gut.

If you walk into a shop and something doesn’t feel right, leave. If you are talking to the artist and they’re making you uncomfortable or your ideas just aren’t aligning, find someone else. Tattoo shop safety has to do with more than just the sanitation rating, you should feel safe every moment that you’re in the shop and if don’t feel safe and continue with the tattoo, it’s likely that you will end up with something that you regret.

In summary, make sure the shop gives you a good first impression, look for the sanitation rating and/or licenses, and never get tattooed in someone’s house. Also, one final word of advice. If the pricetag seems too good to be true, it probably is.