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Traditional tools tattooing code of practice

How to provide a safe service


  • Sterilise all instruments.
  • Clean, disinfect and sterilise traditional tools both before and immediately after any tattooing process. Soak tools and scrub implements in Perasafe solution (or equivalent) mixed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, for at least 20 minutes.
  • If possible, clean tools and scrub implements in an ultra-sonic cleaner in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the tools to air dry for at least 45 minutes before reuse, protecting them from contaminants, and maintain sterility.

Best practice: some additional recommendations

Cleaning, disinfecting and sterilising

  • Observe use-by dates on disinfectants. In some people, povidone-iodine may cause a skin reaction if left on the skin.
  • Apply disinfectants to the skin using a pump pack and wiping with a clean single-use disposable cloth. Alternatively, pour skin disinfectants from their original container into a single-use disposable container. At the end of tattooing, discard any remaining fluid and single-use disposable cloths into a hazardous and infectious waste container.
  • PeraSafe is a product developed to sterilise items made of plastic and rubber and other materials that cannot be cleaned in an autoclave (specific cleaning machine). It is the best option for sterilising traditional tattooing tools, such as bone. It is important to mix the PeraSafe solution correctly. If you do not use enough powder it may be ineffective, and if you use too much powder, the solution may damage the tools.

Principles for healthy and hygienic tattooing

Provide your customers with professional, safe and hygienic services, in a clean environment.

Be fully aware of the potential dangers of your procedures and understand the safety measures that you need to take to make the likelihood of infection, or spread of pathogens, as small as possible.

Follow the following basic principles:

  • Keep your business site clean and hygienic
  • Keep any article used for piercing the skin sterile.
  • Dispose of any instrument that has pierced the skin or is contaminated with blood immediately, as infectious or biological waste. Alternatively, you can clean and sterilise it before you use it on another customer.
  • Keep yourself and your clothing clean.
  • Cover any cuts, abrasions or wounds and do not smoke during the tattooing process.
  • Provide adequate training for staff in all areas of hygiene, infection control and first aid.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B.

Ensure that the whole service is provided to an acceptable standard of hygiene to ensure your and customer's safety.

Use of safe dyes, pigments and solutions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently developed a standard, the “Tattoo and Permanent Makeup Substances Group Standard” to manage the chemical risks associated with tattoo and permanent makeup substances.

Check out the EPA guidelines which include a list of substances that tattoo inks should not contain.

Inks made from traditional materials should also not contain any of these substances.

Other relevant guidelines

The Ministry of Health provides “Guidelines for Cultural Tattooing”, primarily for Samoan Tattoo (Tatau), both in English and in Samoan.

These guidelines address measures to improve the safety of customary tattooing and are of relevance to tattooists.

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service also provides an information pamphlet in both English and Samoan including details about potential risks, what to expect when getting a traditional tools tattoo, and aftercare instructions.

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