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Getting a tattoo is a long term commitment. The tattoo shop where you get your tattoo can have a big impact on the results, healing process and your health. We want to help you learn about tattoo safety and choosing the best tattoo shop in Toronto & Vancouver that meets your needs.

We recommend that you dedicate time to learning if the tattoo process at your chosen location is safe. By doing your research you will learn that the procedures and best practices tattoo artists put in place to ensure tattoo safety are some of the most important parts of the tattooing process.

Here’s a guideline of the questions you should ask yourself and the tattoo or piercing shops. The suggestions also outline some of the differences in safety practices for tattoo or piercings as well as the answers you should expect from your tattoo artist or piercer.

What should I look out for when I’m determining the sanitation and safety level of a tattoo clinic?

– Always evaluate the cleanliness of front area — if the front of the tattoo shop is dirty and untidy, there’s a good chance the rest of the shop will be in similar shape.

– Look for gloves and paper towels at every station. Tattooing involves piercing the skin and the gloves prevent the transmission of dangerous infections. Best practices that the Tattooer or piercer should employ are; always be wearing gloves at all times. This includes moments when there is contact with non-opened or un-pierced skin. Also ensure the tattooer or piercer  changes their gloves every time they touch something that didn’t come out of a sterile package.

Tattooers should wrap their work area before asking you to sit down. For piecers there’s an autoclave log on site at all times. It shows that piercers have passed their sterility tests. You should also verify that records demonstrate that bi weekly tests are being done.

All equipment in tattoo and piercing shops should come out of sterile packages, that are opened in front of you. This includes needles, tubes, clamps and everything that comes in contact with your skin. Ensure that all needles are being disposed of in clearly marked “sharps” containers. Also, make sure these containers are properly maintained and cleaned out daily.

What questions should a customer ask to get this information?

– Ask to see sterilization records. All Tattoo shops in Toronto & Vancouver are required by law to keep them on hand for five years, and must show them to you when asked for. Bear in mind, there is a difference between an autoclave log and spore test records. Ask for both, and specify. Also, don’t be afraid to ask to see the autoclave, and have them show you how it is run.

Ask your piercer or tattoo artist to walk you through their set up. Ask them to give you information about l every step of the process. A good piercer or tattooer will always do this whether you ask or not, but ask to make sure.

As mentioned earlier, pay attention to what they touch with their gloved hands. For example,if they are opening packages and placing items on their work station with gloves on–then they touch your skin, stop them. The packages are not sterile on the outside. Your artist should change their gloves whenever they touch something that is not on their workstation.

If something feels amiss, do not be afraid to ask questions. A professional  artist will be able to tell you the ins and outs of what they are do–if the artist is avoiding your questions, making excuses, or unable to elaborate on the process, the safe option is to leave and find someone else.

Are there any specific considerations for piercing shops compared to tattoo shops?

– Piercings require an autoclave for sterilization. Unlike tattoos, not everything can be single use sterile, and jewelry/clamps/tubes must be cleaned and sterilized before every use.

– Piercing needles become warped and damaged during the piercing process. Therefore needles can only  be used once–even if the procedure is on the same person.

– Do not allow a piercer to use any sort of skin marker on you that is not guaranteed to be single use. If your piercer is using a marker, make sure it hasn’t been used on anyone else before you.

In the end the best thing to do is spend some time researching what sort of artwork or piercing you want. Then, research a few shops and set up a visit. Talk to the artists and get to know them. Ask about their sanitation practices and procedures.