From getting your first-ever tattoo to becoming a tattoo artist, there is so much to learn about the world of tattoos. It is a world full of creativity and wonder, but it can also be very technical. The most important thing about being a tattoo artist is safety.
Expired tattoo needles are not safe because they are no longer sterile. This means that they cannot offer complete protection against viruses or bacteria. If an expired tattoo needle is used without additional sterilization, the client is at risk of contracting a bacterial or viral infection.
Using an expired tattoo needle can be detrimental to both the client and the business. Take the time to learn all about tattoo needles and how to sterilize tattoo needles that have passed their expiry date. Read on and find everything you needle to know.
Why Do Tattoo Needles Expire?
Tattoo needles and other types of needles, such as injections, insulin needles, and many more, have an expiration date. When a tattoo needle passes its expiration date, the manufacturing company says that the needle is no longer sterile.
When companies manufacture tattoo needles, the needles go through a sterilization process before being packaged. They will then place the needles into the packaging to keep the needle sterile for a certain period. As time goes on, the efficacy of this sterilization will decrease, making the needle less able to protect you against bacteria or viruses.
When a needle expires, it is no longer sterile and will not be able to offer you complete protection against bacteria, viruses, or any other diseases that can cause harm.
The manufacturing companies are obliged to place an expiration date onto each needle so that the tattoo artists can determine how safe their needle is for use.
What Happens If You Use An Expired Tattoo Needle?
You should not use an expired tattoo needle unless you put the needle through an additional sterilization process. However, it is common practice for tattoo artists to throw away any needles that have passed their expiration date.
Using an expired tattoo needle without additional sterilization can put your client at risk of bacterial or viral infections. Infections commonly associated with unsterilized needles are HIV, MRSA, Hepatitis. Aside from these three, the tattoo itself could become infected by bacteria or viruses.
Some signs of an infected tattoo are:
- Pus, redness and swelling on or around the tattoo
- Hot and cold waves
- Hard skin
- Raised skin
Using an expired needle can have a negative effect on the client and the tattoo artist. If a client contracts anything from your tattoo parlor, they could pursue legal action against you for negligence.
Additionally, tattoo artists should only ever use their needles once. Refraining from reusing needles will prevent diseases from passing from client to client.
How To Sterilize Expired Needles
Some tattoo artists use newly expired tattoo needles but sterilize them. It is vital to note that if you plan to sterilize expired needles, they must come from a sealed package. If the package has a break, it is no longer safe to use.
While some tattoo artists think that boiling water or cleaning alcohol will suffice for sterilization, this is not the case. While this may kill some bacteria, likely, it will not kill all. Unless the artist is using the needle on someone aware of and has agreed to the risk of purely using cleaning alcohol, they should go through a thorough sterilization process.
The best and most efficient technique to sterilize an expired needle is using an autoclave. An autoclave is a machine that uses temperature and pressure to sterilize equipment. It is frequently used in the medical field to sterilize medical equipment.
There are two ways to find an autoclave. The first is to contact various medical practices or tattoo parlors and ask if they have one and if you may use it. I would advise doing this if you are not an expired tattoo artist and have not fully committed to joining the world of tattoos.
However, suppose you are a professional and plan to regularly use tattoo equipment. In that case, investing in an autoclave machine is the best option so that you are free of hassle. You can buy autoclaves from various online stores such as Amazon and eBay.
Using An Autoclave To Sterilize Expired Needles
When using an autoclave, you need to start by prewashing all the expired tattoo needles and any other equipment that you wish to sterilize, such as the tubes.
The prewash should involve hot and soapy water. Gently scrub the equipment with soap and water for about five minutes. Afterward, you can leave the needles in the soap and water solution to soak for 15 minutes.
Once the prewash is complete, you will need to place the needles into your autoclave machine. There are various types of autoclave machines, so how they are each set up and used differs across the different models. There will be an instruction manual attached that you must follow step by step to set up your machine correctly.
Carefully place the equipment into the autoclave after setting it up. Depending on the machine, it should take between an hour to two hours to adequately sterilize the equipment. Ensure that you plan this into your day, as it could take some time.
Although you can also use this process to sterilize a reused tattoo needle, I would not advise this. Reusing needles is an unnecessary risk that you should not take. It is better to be safe now than to be sorry later.
In conclusion, it is unsafe to use expired tattoo needles as they are no longer sterile and, therefore, cannot protect a client from various bacteria and viruses. If you use an expired tattoo needle, the client is at risk to contract diseases such as HIV, MRSA or hepatitis.
Additionally, expired tattoo needles and needles that will be reused can be sterilized using an autoclave machine. This process normally takes between one to two hours, and you should do a prewash beforehand.
Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you
Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.
Design and tattoo ideas
For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):
- Great Book of Tattoo Designs, Revised Edition: More than 500 Body Art Designs (Fox Chapel Publishing) Fantasy, Celtic, Floral, Wildlife, and Symbol Designs for the Skin by Lora Irish
- The Big Book of Small Tattoos – Vol.1: 400 small original tattoos for women and men by Roberto Gemori
- Tiny Tattoos: Over 1,000 Small Inspirational Artworks by Rebecca Vincent.
If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).
The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):