How to Sterilize Tattoo Needles: Safety Tips to Follow

One of the most important steps in ensuring a safe and successful tattoo is using only sterile tattoo needles. But do you know how to sterilize tattoo needles?

Sterilizing tattoo needles is a complex process that requires specialized equipment and experience. It involves immersing the tattoo needle in various chemicals and intense temperatures to ensure it is completely sterilized.

In this post, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about sterilizing tattoo needles, so you can rest assured that you’re putting your safety first.

Key Takeaways

  • Sterilizing tattoo needles is a complicated process that requires specialized equipment.
  • Used needles should never be reused due to the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Not sterilizing needles properly can lead to serious infections like HIV or hepatitis B and C.

How To Sterilize Tattoo Needles?

First, I want you to know that you should NEVER reuse and sterilize tattoo needles. Tattoo needles are specifically designed for SINGLE use only, and sterilizing them between customers doesn’t make them safe to reuse.

how to sterilize tattoo needles

If you’re considering getting inked by a tattoo artist who reuses needles, you’re putting yourself at risk for serious INFECTIONS like hepatitis B and C, HIV, and even tetanus [1].

And it’s not just the customer at risk – tattoo artists who reuse needles are also putting themselves and others in the shop at risk for infection. While some people may think they can save money by sterilizing and reusing needles, it’s not worth the risk.

Sterilizing needles is a DELICATE process, and it’s easy to miss something if you’re not experienced. It’s better to err on the side of caution and use disposable needles.

Related: Do Tattoo Artists Reuse Needles?

How To Disinfect Tattoo Needles?

Some of you may wonder if it’s possible to DISINFECT and reuse tattoo needles instead of sterilizing them.

The answer is NO. While it may seem like a good idea to save money, disinfecting needles DOES NOT guarantee they’ll be safe for reuse and can still put you at risk of contracting serious infections.

Disinfection involves killing or removing GERMS on the surface of an object, while sterilization requires that all germs and spores are destroyed. So while you may be disinfecting the needle, the inside is still filled with bacteria that can’t be seen by the naked eye.

Plus, it’s DIFFICULT to tell what kind of bacteria or spores are on a used needle, so you have no real way of knowing if you’ve disinfected it properly.

Pro Tip: Make sure to wear gloves while handling needles, even if they’re sterile. This will help to protect you from any potential infection or contamination.

The Risks Of Reusing Tattoo Needles

Many risks are associated with reusing tattoo needles; let’s look at a few of them:

1. Avoid Cross-Contamination

Reusing needles can lead to cross-contamination, which is the transfer of germs or viruses from one person to another. This risk is especially high if there’s an open wound on the client being tattooed [2].

2. Infections

Unsterilized needles can transfer bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms from customer to customer, leading to serious infections like hepatitis B and C, HIV, and even tetanus.

And if a contaminated needle is used on more than one person, the risk of transmission increases significantly.

3. Contamination of Tattoo Inks

Reusing needles can also cause contamination of tattoo inks and pigments. Contaminated inks can lead to skin infections and may even contain toxic substances that can be hazardous to your health.

Pro Tip: Be sure to ask your tattoo artists about their sterilization process and which needles they use.

When Can You Reuse and Sterilise Tattoo Needles?

In some cases, it may be necessary to reuse and sterilize needles. Here are some situations where this is acceptable, provided all of the proper safety precautions are taken:

1. You’re Getting A Large Tattoo

In some cases, it may be NECESSARY for tattoo shops to use the same tattoo needle for extended periods or multiple sessions when getting a large tattoo.

artist reusing a tattoo needle on men

This is typically only done with larger areas like back pieces and only when there is no risk of cross-contamination on the tattoo area.

2. Touch-Up Sessions

In some cases, touch-up sessions may require using the same needle. Reusing and sterilizing needles may be appropriate if you’re doing a touch-up session to FIX faded or discolored areas of existing tattoos.

3. Medical Tattoos

Another scenario where it may be appropriate to reuse needles is if you’re performing MEDICAL tattoos [3]. Special medical standards must be met in this case, and sterilization procedures must be followed very closely.

4. Tattooing Yourself At Home

Another example is if you’re a self-tattoo artist and must reuse needles because you can’t afford new ones. If this is the case, sterilize the tattoo needle VERY thoroughly between each use.

In all these cases, however, special sterilization procedures must be followed, and great care must be taken to ensure no cross-contamination.

Ensure your artist has the tattoo equipment and experience to sterilize the needles before use properly. If they don’t, I strongly suggest you find another artist who does.

What Is Autoclaving?

Autoclaving is a STEAM sterilization process used to disinfect tattoo equipment ( including tattoo machines) using an autoclave machine. It involves heating the needle in pressurized steam at high temperatures, which kills all pathogens and bacteria on the needle [4].

how to sterilize tattoo needles through autoclaving

This is one of the most EFFECTIVE ways to sterilize tattoo needles, and it is the method any professional tattoo parlor use.

If you’re under circumstances where you need to reuse and sterilize needles, make sure your tattoo artists are using autoclaving.

What’s A Sharp Box?

A sharp box is a plastic box where the tattoo artist THROWS away used needles and tattoo needle cartridges after each session. The box should be designed to PREVENT accidental needle sticks and contain sharp objects for easy disposal.

This helps ensure that no one can UNINTENTIONALLY reuse the needles and prevents anyone from coming into contact with potentially contaminated materials.

How To Properly Dispose of Used Tattoo Needles?

Once the tattoo is complete, it’s essential to dispose of the needles PROPERLY. All used needles should be disposed of in a SEALED container and taken to a medical waste disposal facility.

Never throw away used needles in the trash can or try to sterilize them yourself — this could put you and others at risk for infection.

It’s also essential to WASH your hands with soap and warm water immediately after handling needles as a precaution.

Pro Tip: Ask your tattoo artist how they dispose of used needles to ensure the right safety measures are being taken.

Things to Look Out For To Ensure Clean and Safe Tattoos

When getting a tattoo, you should always check for the best tattoo machines as well as unsterilized needles.

Look for signs of IMPROPER sterilization, such as dented or damaged needles, discoloration, and rust spots.

Always ASK questions about their sterilization process and double-check that they are using fresh disposable needles every time.

Also, make sure you are aware of the LAWS in your area regarding the regulation of tattoo needle sterilization and disposal.

Finally, check that your artist wears gloves during the procedure and CLEAN the skin before starting.


Can You Sterilize Homemade Tattoo Needles?

No, it is not recommended to sterilize homemade tattoo needles. This can lead to serious health risks and complications.

Are Autoclaves Safe?

Yes, autoclaving is a safe and effective way to sterilize tattoo needles. It involves using high-pressure steam to kill all pathogens and bacteria on the needle.

I Can’t Afford New Tattoo Needles. Can I Make Them At Home?

No, I do not recommend making homemade tattoo needles. If you have them already, I still don’t recommend you reuse and sterilize homemade tattoo needles.

Do I Need To Sterilize My Tattoo Equipment Too?

Yes, if you’re using your tattoo equipment, you must sterilize it before each use. To sterilize your tattoo equipment effectively, make sure you have an autoclave machine.


Now you have everything you need to know about how to sterilize tattoo needles and why you shouldn’t practice it.

It may be tempting to save money by reusing tattoo needles, but it’s not worth the risk of cross-contamination and infection.

Use sterile needles for each tattoo session, and dispose of all used needles properly. If you follow these tips, you can ensure that your fresh tattoos are clean and safe.

tattoo needles but how to sterilize tattoo needles

Did you find the guide helpful? Let me know in the comments section!


  • CDC – Bloodborne Infectious Diseases – Stop Sticks : Bloodborne Pathogens – NORA. Published 2022. Accessed November 18, 2022.
  • Body Art: Reduce Cross-Contamination. Published 2022. Accessed November 18, 2022.
  • Medical Tattooing. Cosmetic Surgery. Published 2022. Accessed November 18, 2022.
  • Shero. Sterilization by Heat. Painful Pleasures Community. Published June 6, 2014. Accessed November 18, 2022.

About Edith Russo

Edith is a self-made entrepreneur with a keen business sense that others admire and a total “can-do” attitude. She’s always coming up with new ideas to anticipate her readers’ needs and help solve all their toughest beauty and skincare problems. READ HER LATEST ARTICLES. FOLLOW HER on Linkedin and Twitter. Learn more about her HERE.

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