Tattoo needles really shouldn’t be used more than once, especially when tattooing different people. The tubes and other equipment, however, can be sterilized and used again. If you are tattooing yourself at home and are reusing needles, you need to be extremely careful on how you sterilize them. Boiling in hot water, burning with a match or cleaning with alcohol does not sterilize a used tattoo needle. With that said, there is only one way to properly and safely sterilize tattoo needles and equipment and that is by using an autoclave. An autoclave uses extreme heat and pressure to kill off any living organism on the object it is cleaning and is the only true and safe way to disinfect. Here is how to sterilize your tattoo needles and equipment using an autoclave.
Find an autoclave. Visit your local tattoo shop and ask the proprietor where he purchased his tattoo equipment. You can also buy autoclaves at medical supply stores online or by checking eBay, Amazon or even Craigslist. Dental offices use autoclaves as well, so you can ask your dentist for information on where to purchase.
Set up your autoclave. Make sure that you follow the directions that come with your autoclave to ensure that it is properly set up for disinfecting.
Pre-wash your needles and tubes. Put on a pair of heavy rubber gloves and an apron. Carefully scrub the equipment out with soap and water and leave in the soapy hot water to soak for 5 minutes.
Use the autoclave. Place the pre-washed needles and tubes in the autoclave bag or basket and place them in the autoclave machine. Make sure the water level is between the high and low level marks and turn it on.
Sterilize your needles and equipment. The average autoclave cycle is between 1 to 2 hours, but make sure to check the instructions for the specific machine you are using.
Tattoo needles should only be used once and then disposed of in a sharps container that is marked “hazardous material”. A UV sterilizer will not work for sterilizing tattoo equipment.