Are Tattoo Conventions Sanitary? Helpful Guidelines–

I’ve been collecting tattoos since 1985, doing them since 1990, and publishing TAM since 2003.

Tattoo conventions certainly have a lot to offer tattoo enthusiasts and the local communities, starting with access to some of the best artists from around the world, without the expense of flights and accommodations. The question of sanitation at conventions has long been a topic of concern debated by artists and collectors in the community…how can you protect yourself?

As far as artists and sterility goes, you’re fine- the same professional level of cleanliness is mandated by the local governing bodies and health departments. In many places the artists are required to show proof of their own health licenses, if not acquire temporary ones from the city hosting the tattoo convention. So, that’s not the real problem. All the same sterilization techniques are used, their machines and equipment is covered, cleaned and/or disposed of between each tattoo. And all tattoos done at the convention site should still be properly cleaned and wrapped prior to anyone leaving the booth. No problem, right? So what’s the concern, then?


Not much at all, until you visit the bathrooms and find dozens of those fresh, bloody, tattoo bandages discarded in the waste receptacles, lying around on the floors or even sitting on the sink countertops! Cross-contamination concerns abound! Once that bandage is removed, the safety barrier protecting their bloody wound from the outside environment (and vice versa) is gone.


Without proper knowledge on sanitary procedures, everything those people touch after that bandage becomes a possible reservoir for disease- doors, sinks, stalls, mirrors, walls, furniture, bars, stools, counters, etc, etc, etc. Then multiply that risk exponentially by the size of the crowds, all pushing and rubbing into each other for 12 hours a day, three days in a row, and you can start to see the risk factors for what they really are. I know a lot of tattooers who simply don’t work conventions anymore because of the risks, which greatly center around the general public’s rather profound levels of ignorance, apathy, and negligence when pertaining to the realities of blood and potential disease transmission.


So…how can you protect yourself?
Don’t despair. The risk is real, but with common sense you can minimize any potential cross-contamination.


Here are some suggestions:

1) Don’t add to the problem. Follow your artist’s directions after you get tattooed. Keep it covered!

2) Cover any open abrasions you have with bandaids/bandages. Clean and wash them several times per day.

3) Wash your hands as often as you can! Use the surgical approach, scrub up to the elbows.

4) Don’t touch your face or any open abrasion after you touch anything in common areas.

5) Carry and use liquid sanitizer often.


6) Try to avoid contact while in a crowd.

7) Use paper towels to open doors, (or carry some gloves).

8) Look for distant bathrooms to use…or go to your own room.

9) Don’t touch disposed bandages.

10) Clean your stool and table with sani-naps at dinner or at the bar.

READ MORE about tattoo conventions:

Pros and Cons of Tattoo Conventions-

Crash’s First Tattoo Convention-


Tattoo Artist since 1990 and creator/publisher of Tattoo Artist Magazine since 2003

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