How Do You Clean And Sterilize A Rotary Tattoo Machine At Home?

A professional tattoo machine can be a suitable habitat for bacteria, pathogens, and other harmful viruses. And this can lead a person to severe infection if properly not cleaned after every use. Once a rotary tattoo machine is used to make a tattoo, it gets clogged with blood and inks. If the machine is reused without cleaning or sterilizing, the harmful ingredients may spread to another person.

Every tattoo artist should focus on cleaning or sterilizing the rotary tattoo machine to ensure both the tattoo artist’s and the wearer’s safety.

So, what is the process of cleaning a rotary tattoo machine?

First, we will look at the equipment list used to clean and sterilize a rotary tattoo machine. Then the cleaning process will be discussed.

Let’s start the journey.

How do You Clean and Sterilize a Rotary Tattoo Machine?

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What is tattoo cleaning equipment?

Different tattoo machine cleaning equipment is available in the market. All of them are efficient enough to clean a rotary tattoo machine.

Let’s learn the different ways of cleaning or sterilizing a rotary tattoo machine.

1. Chemical Cleaners

Chemical Cleaners
Photo: Chemical Cleaners

The medical industry has a wide range of chemical disinfectants. These chemical disinfectants are effective enough to kill harmful germs. Even they create a bad environment for bacteria, viruses and pathogens.

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2. UV Sterilizers

UV Sterilizer
Photo: UV Sterilizer

When the machine surface gets exposed to the sterilized machine, it kills all the germs with intense UV rays. It is much similar to get exposed to the sun. The machine kills the germs’ DNAs, and thus the germs stop functioning and can’t be a threat to the human body. 

However, UV lights can also cause damage to the frame of the painted machine. The rubber parts of the machine can start decaying. And if any copper parts of your machine get exposed to the UV lights, the UR rays will damage the insulated clear varnish on the copper wire, and the coil will shrink.

As a result, when using a sterilizing machine, you have to be careful to use it. Moreover, turning off the machine is required several times. Otherwise, the machine parts that remain in the shade will not disinfect correctly.

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3. Ultrasonic Cleaners

Ultrasonic Cleaner
Photo: Ultrasonic Cleaner

They work by transmitting an utmost high-frequency sound through the ultrasonic bath fluid that submerges the machine. The machine then vibrates, and any remaining ink “falls off due to the high frequency.” Remember, ultrasonic cleaners don’t sterilize machines, it cleans. To sterilize a rotary tattoo machine, you have to follow any of the above 2 methods.

Enameled copper wires and all electrical parts can damage an ultrasonic cleaner. Every motor is equipped with copper wires, and the enamel of the copper wire can strip off because of the ultrasonic activity. This way, a short circuit will happen to the motor.

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4. Autoclave Machine

Autoclave Machine
Photo: Autoclave Machine

They create wet and dry steam under high pressure and kill germs. Wet steams temperature goes up to 135°C, and dry steams temperature goes much higher. For this reason, you have to keep your rotary tattoo machine inside the autoclave machine for a long time. In such a high level of temperature, no bacteria, viruses or pathogens can survive. Autoclave machines are the best way of sterilizing any rotary tattoo machine, and due to this, many studios own this machine.

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Step by Step Process of Cleaning or Sterilizing a Rotary Tattoo Machine

Cleaning a rotary tattoo machine is a mandatory task before sterilizing the machine. Different parts of the machine, like tubes, needles, etc. need to be detached when sterilizing.

The disassembling process varies from brand to brand and machine to machine. You must follow the user manual that comes with the machine when assembling or disassembling your rotary tattoo machine. 

Once you disassembled all the basic parts of the rotary tattoo machine, the next thing is to follow the basic cleaning steps. Use the best antibacterial tattoo soap along with warm water to clean the rotary tattoo machine equipment.

After finishing the basic cleaning steps, the next step is to sterilize the rotary tattoo machine with an autoclave or ultrasonic cleaner.

Let’s look at the basic cleaning process below:

Ensure wearing hand gloves in this process.

  • Take some warm water into a bowl. Take very little amount of bleach and mix it well into the water. Then put the disassembled components into the bowl. To clean the grip, use disinfectant spray. After spraying the disinfectant, submerge it into the water. Leave all the components into the water for the next 10 – 15 minutes.
  • After 10 – 15 minutes, take all the components out of the water. Always dispose of the needle in a medical treatment container.
  • Take a warm cloth and wipe away all the components thoroughly. Use a sonic basket to place them after cleaning. This way, all residue will be well-cleaned.

Sterilization is the next step.

We will share the sterilizing process with the both autoclave and ultrasonic machine.

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How to Sterilize a Rotary Tattoo Machine with an Autoclave Machine?

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Autoclave machines are one of the most recommended methods of sterilizing a tattoo machine. They create a high level of heat and pressure to kill and sterilize every part of a rotary tattoo gun.

  • Put all the different parts of a rotary tattoo machine into a bag that needs to be sterilized.
  • All autoclave machines have trays in them. Place those bags onto different autoclave machine trays.
  • There is an autoclave machine tank; fill it up with water and turn the machine on.
  • Now let the autoclave machine work for the next 1 or 2 hours. Within this time, the machine will clean every bag inside it.
  • Once the process is complete, and the temperature is down, open the autoclave machine and take out the bags.
  • Ensure proper drying up of the rotary tattoo machine equipment. It would be best if you give them air dry. Then assemble the parts following the instruction shared in the user manual.

An autoclave is a professional sterilizing device, and with the help of this machine, you can effortlessly sterilize any tattoo machine type. 

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How to Sterilize a Rotary Tattoo Machine with Ultrasonic Cleaner?

Autoclave machine is an expensive device, and those who are tight on a budget can go with an ultrasonic cleaner.

The ultrasonic machine is a budget-friendly device, and it can deliver quite a similar result to the autoclave machine. 

Follow below step by step procedure of using an ultrasonic cleaner to sterilize the rotary tattoo machine.

  • Every ultrasonic cleaner is equipped with a tank. And you can fill up the tank depending on the tank capacity. 250 – 500 ml is the capacity of a normal tank of an ultrasonic machine. Fill up the tank with warm water.
  • Put all the disassembled parts of a rotary tattoo machine inside the tank.
  • Turn on the ultrasonic cleaner. Depending on the rotary tattoo machine components condition, set up the ultrasonic cleaner’s cleaning time.
  • Once the cleaning time is finished, take out the components and give them a good rinse on running water.
  • Give them air dry. Before reassembling, make sure they are well dried.

Remember that both autoclave and ultrasonic cleaner effectively destroy different bacteria, viruses or pathogens, but they can’t kill HIV virus.

Now you might be thinking, are there any alternative ways available where I don’t need to use any sterilizing machine?

Yes, alternative options are there. Many people may find an autoclave or ultrasonic cleaner costly, but the truth is, they deliver an effective and fruitful result. 

However, suppose you are a DIY enthusiast and using a rotary tattoo machine only at home to create tattoo design. In that case, you can go with the below cheaper option and buying either autoclave or ultrasonic machine will be unnecessary.

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Alternative Way of Cleaning Rotary Tattoo Machine

Step 01: Buying Chemical-based Germicide

Chemical-based germicide is a suitable option to be used to sterilize the rotary tattoo machine. Go to the nearest store and buy it.

While buying, make sure the chemical contains ingredients that can kill germs, viruses and bacteria. Look at the label of the chemical where the chemical list is defined. 

Step 02: Read the Instruction

The working process of every chemical-based germicide is unique. For the sterilization process, their varying time is also different. 

It would be best to read the application process intently before you go to the next step.

Step 03: Soak the Rotary Tattoo Machine Equipment into the Germicide

Take a glassware where you can keep your rotary tattoo machine’s components. After putting all the equipment into the glassware, pour the germicide solution. Leave it for the next 2 – 3 hours.

Step 04: Take Out All the Components and Give it an Air Dry

Once the designated time is finished, gently take out all the components from the solution. Take a clean cloth and place the components on it and ensure air dry. Reassemble the components once everything is well-dried.

Now your rotary tattoo machine is sterilized, and it is ready to be used for the next tattooing session. Ensure sterilization of your rotary tattoo machine after every use.

Following the above simple steps, you can get your rotary tattoo machine sterilized both before and after use.

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A Few Tattoo Machine Maintenance Tips

Cleaning, maintenance and sterilization of rotary tattoo machines are necessary steps. All these steps ensure that your rotary tattoo machine will give you long term service, and it will be safe to use.

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Finding the wear and tear signs of a pen tattoo machine might be hard if you don’t know how they look. At this point, an experienced and skilled tattoo artist’s knowledge can be helpful. A skilled tattoo artist knows how a good rotary tattoo machine works; they will know for sure when the rotary tattoo machine shows lazy behavior. Recovering a faulty tattoo machine is not an easy task. So, before your rotary tattoo machine shows any bad performance, keep a close eye on it to learn if it has any mechanical issue or not.

Learn to Fix the Common Problems

Every rotary tattoo machine has some common problems such as carbon build-ups, cords slip-up, etc. With a little knowledge, these problems can be avoided easily.

Carbon-build-up is an inevitable problem; it can reduce the efficiency and productivity of a rotary tattoo machine. Regular cleaning of the machine can help you avoid the carbon-build up problem.

Rotary tattoo machines power cord can slip-up any time, and it happens due to a broken power cord. It is recommended to keep a spare power cord to replace the broken power cord quickly.

Learning a different fixation process will allow you to save both time and money.

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Frequently Asked Question

Why do tattooists wear black gloves during a tattooing session?

Tattooing Process
Photo: Tattooing Process

Tattooing is a messy process, and black nitrile gloves help hide this mess. Black nitrile gloves offer the best safety and freedom during a tattooing session. They are thinner than other gloves like latex, but they are strong enough to be used for 5 – 6 tattooing sessions.

Is green soap a disinfectant?

Green Soap
Photo: Green Soap

Green soap is a professional-grade disinfectant used in a tattoo studio and medical centers. Tattoo artists can buy green soap from reputed medical suppliers. Since it will be used on the skin, it has to be a branded item and shouldn’t be the cheapest quality product.

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Sum Up

Unfortunately, many of us don’t want to pay attention to safety precautions. But safety should always get priority. Bacteria, germs, viruses or pathogens can be dangerous to the human body. The only way to ensure safety in a tattooing process is to follow the cleaning, sterilizing and maintenance process meticulously.

You will need to invest in expensive machines to ensure safety, but keeping yourself and your customers safe from unwanted health issues can be much tranquilizer to heart.