News release

May 31, 2013

Make sure your tattoo artist has a license to ink

OLYMPIA — Before getting the tattoo you’ve always dreamed about, the Department of Licensing recommends you choose a tattoo artist and shop carefully so you don’t leave with more than just a work of body art.

“Getting a tattoo can be a great experience if the tattoo artist is properly licensed and following all of the safety and sanitation rules,” said Teresa Berntsen, Deputy Director of the Department of Licensing.

State law requires all tattoo shops and artists to be licensed. Tattoo shops must follow very strict safety and sanitation rules to protect customers from the spread of disease and infection, and are subject to inspection every two years, or upon receipt of a consumer complaint. Tattoo artists must be at least 18 years old, and have a current blood borne pathogens certificate.

It’s important to remember tattooing presents a potential for infections and allergic reactions. Berntsen recommends customers take a few common sense precautions:

  • Look at shop owner and tattoo artist licenses to make sure they are current.
  • Check the shop for overall cleanliness. Make sure that work surfaces, equipment, and towels are clean.
  • Feel free to question the shop owner and tattoo artist about their sanitation and safety procedures.
  • Make sure that items such as needles, stencils, pigments, dyes, razors and products used to control blood flow are only used once and disposed of properly. Some equipment may be re-used if the parlor follows proper sanitizing and sterilizing procedures.
  • Make sure the artist properly covers equipment that might come in contact with the customer, including tattoo machines and electrical cords.
  • Be sure the artist washes their hands and wears gloves throughout the tattoo application.
  • Do not get a tattoo in someone’s kitchen or living room. The shop should have an outside entrance separate from any rooms used for sleeping or residential purposes.
  • Do your homework when choosing your artist. Every artist has their own style so be sure to choose the artist who will give you the tattoo you want.

A video with consumer tips about tattooing is available on the department’s YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/WALicensing.

If you have concerns about whether or not a tattoo shop or artist is licensed, go to the department’s website at http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/checkstatus.html. Consumers can file a complaint by calling 360.664.6660.

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