Proper Tattoo Sharps Disposal

June 24, 2022

Few people would believe that tattoo parlors have a lot in common with doctor’s offices. Despite the differences in their clientele, tattoo shops, hospitals, and doctor’s offices all face the same problem: the waste they produce on a daily basis. Similar to professionals in the medical field, tattoo artists use needles in their work. These needles come in contact with blood and need to be properly disposed of at the end of the day. Because this is the nature of their business, it is important for tattoo parlor owners and managers to understand safe and proper methods of tattoo sharps disposal.

Kinds of Tattoo Sharps Waste

Although tattoo needles are the most common example of sharps waste in the tattoo industry, there are a number of instruments used by tattoo artists that are considered “sharps” and should be disposed of properly. Sharps are defined by OSHA as any object that can penetrate or puncture someone’s skin. This includes any razor blades or disposable razors that have been used to shave a tattoo site, as well as the needles used in the actual tattooing process and any glass that is broken near the tattoo station. If your tattoo parlor doubles as a piercing shop, there are a number of sharps associated with the piercing process as well, including (but not limited to) piercing needles. Because these sharps can puncture not only the artist’s skin but the skin of anyone who comes into contact with them, it is crucial to learn the correct way to dispose of these types of sharp waste.

safe disposal of hazardous waste

How to Dispose of Sharps Waste in Tattoo Parlors

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specific guidelines on the proper disposal of sharps and sharps waste. The FDA highly recommends that one use approved sharps containers for sharps and needle disposal. These containers are made of hard plastic that cannot be punctured by most sharp objects, are leak-proof to avoid the spread of any bloodborne pathogens present on the sharps, and are typically marked with a line to show when the container should be deemed full and disposed of. Many of these approved containers also have mechanisms that safely remove needles from syringes or special lids that prevent sharps from falling out or being removed from the container. FDA-approved containers can usually be purchased from pharmacies, local healthcare providers, and medical supply companies, but if none are available near you, they are also readily available online. 

If you do not have any FDA-approved sharps disposal containers available, it is possible to make an alternative container at home. These containers should be made of thick plastic, have a leak-proof and puncture-resistant lid, and have the ability to remain upright during use. The FDA recommends using a plastic laundry detergent container in the event that an approved container is unavailable. In all cases, be sure to clearly label the container to indicate that it contains hazardous waste, and always use personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling sharps and sharps waste.

Biohazardous Waste in Tattooing

While sharps waste is one of the more common forms of waste that come out of tattoo parlors, it is also important to consider the biohazardous waste that comes from the tattooing process. Biohazardous waste is defined as anything that comes into contact with bodily fluids. This includes all needles that come into contact with a client’s skin because the needles penetrate the dermis layer, which contains a person’s blood vessels. Tattoo ink is also considered hazardous waste because it comes into contact with the needle throughout the tattooing process. The same can be said for any wipes, gloves, masks, or ointment that comes into contact with the tattoo ink or a client’s bodily fluids. 

This form of waste has the potential to spread infectious diseases and bloodborne pathogens, such as Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Because of the dangers involved in the improper disposal of this kind of waste, it is vital for tattoo shop owners, managers, and even tattoo artists to inform themselves about proper medical waste disposal practices. 

tattoo equipment

Are Tattoo Tubes Reusable?

One common concern that people have when thinking about medical waste disposal in the tattoo industry is whether certain tattooing instruments are reusable and how to safely reuse tattoo equipment. While most tattoo equipment is not reusable and should be disposed of immediately after use, there are some reusable options available for tattoo artists. There are reusable forms of tattoo tubes, tips, and grips. Tattoo tubes are essential for the stability of a tattoo machine and are used to support the needle during tattooing. Tattoo tips come in different styles, such as diamond, round, and flat, to achieve different kinds of lines in a tattoo design. Tattoo grips are used for the comfort of the tattoo artist during long tattoo sessions. 

Each of these instruments comes in two forms: autoclavable and disposable. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to each form, such as cost, but the important thing to note is that only autoclavable equipment is reusable. Disposable tubes, tips, and grips should be properly disposed of immediately after use. Autoclavable equipment is sterilized by a machine called an autoclave, which effectively removes any biohazards on the materials. However, these instruments should still be thoroughly cleaned before being put in the autoclave for the safety of the artist and future clients, and for the longevity of the autoclave and the equipment itself. It is crucial to both clean and sterilize any autoclavable materials in between each tattooing session. 

How to Dispose of Hazardous Waste from Tattoo Shops

Careful attention must be paid to the disposal of biohazardous waste, due to its potential to spread bacteria and disease. These wastes must generally be disposed of in closable, leak-proof containers that are clearly labeled to indicate that they contain hazardous waste, but each state has its own rules and regulations regarding biohazardous waste disposal. It is important to research and keep in mind local, state, and federal regulations for the disposal of biohazards.

The responsibility of safely and properly disposing of sharps and biohazardous waste falls on the facility that produces the waste. The safest, most secure way to handle tattoo sharps disposal and other waste disposal is to go through a professional medical waste disposal company. This will help prevent any contamination or harm as a result of the waste in question. 

safe tattoo waste disposal is important

Tattoo Industry Waste Disposal Services

MedCycle provides a complete array of biomedical waste and sharps disposal services to a number of industries in the Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio areas, including tattoo parlors! We have safe and cost-effective waste collection, transportation, and treatment services, including compliance training and same-day or regularly-scheduled waste removal and disposal. Our online compliance training portal ensures that your business complies with OSHA requirements and provides certification for your workforce. 

Spend more time on your craft and let us handle the waste disposal for you. Contact us today to get a free quote for your sharps and hazardous waste management needs.


MedCycle is a full-service biohazard waste disposal company, providing safe and cost effective management of regulated biomedical and hazardous waste. We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service. We value our clients and will do everything possible to meet your needs.