Tattoo Home Parties


Tattoo home parties are illegal in Erie County.  Anyone working outside of a licensed tattoo shop is breaking the law.  An artist’s license to tattoo is only good for the shop that they work at and that’s it.  Also, the Federal Government is working on legislation that will make these acts federally illegal and automatically punishable by law.  Besides have you ever thought about how unsafe these parties are?

Tattooing and piercing is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly and a true artist takes their craft very seriously.  This is how we make a living and we love what we do.  Part of this is doing things the right way and keeping our clients’ safety and health at the forefront of every decision we make.  Sure, there are many ways to cut corners and save money in this business, but those ways involve potentially putting you at a lot of risk.

So why don’t I want to have all my friends over and have some “professional” tattoo artist come and tattoo us?  Well, firstly that artist is not a true professional.  If they were, they would know that they are breaking the law and could lose their license, if they even have one.  (Most of the time they do not. Why would they bother doing “house parties” and jeopardize their profession?)  More so, when the government finally steps in, and they are almost there, they will be doing time behind bars if they get caught.  (And the person who organized the party could possibly also face legal ramifications.)

What else should you worry about?  The cleanliness of the environment you are being tattooed in, sterility, disease contraction, cross contamination, and the ability of the artist who will be doing the work (if they are so good, why aren’t they working in a shop?) are all things that you need to consider.  When you get tattooed or pierced at a reputable shop with good artists, there are numerous things they do to make sure that everything is done properly so you and they are safe.  Some of these things you see while they are working and others you don’t see.


An autoclave is the device that we use for sterilization (a procedure that destroys all forms of microbial life including highly resistant bacterial spores) of materials that will be used during the process of your tattoo or piercing.  There are many types of sterilizers, but the most common type is a steam autoclave.  It produces temperatures as high as, or higher, of 275o F, with a pressure of 31 PSI for at least 12 minutes.  Based on what you are sterilizing and how they are processed these may vary.  A proper functioning autoclave is the only really way that we know any possible bacteria was killed.

How do we know the autoclave is functioning properly?  A spore test should be performed no less than once a week.  A spore test works by running a package of living spores through an autoclave.  This package is then sent to a laboratory that will attempt to incubate these spores and see if anything is still alive.  If there is anything alive then the autoclave did not reach sterility.

Erie County Legislation requires each shop to test their autoclave once a quarter.  We think this is unacceptable.  If you were to run a spore test once a quarter and it happens to fail, then it is possible that you were working on your clients for the last four months with contaminated equipment and putting them at serious risk.  At RedHouse we spore test once a week and will have no problems showing you the results at anytime.  Any reputable shop that is regularly spore testing their autoclave will also have no problems showing the results to you.  Knowing how to properly use an autoclave is just as important as having a functioning unit.  An autoclave is a very expensive piece of equipment that your average “home” tattooist probably does not possess.  If you ever find yourself at a “home tattoo party”, ask the artist about their autoclave and spore tests to see what they have to say.

Just because their tools came out of packages and were opened in front of you does not mean they were ever sterilized.  It just means that someone put them in pouches - it does not mean they were run in an autoclave.  Pouches are cheap – autoclaves are not.  Records should be kept for every single item that is sterilized.  These records should include information such as who ran the cycle, what was sterilized during the cycle, date and time of the cycle and what parameters the cycle was run at and also include indicators that show whether or not the autoclave reached the parameters for sterilization.

It is also very easy to break sterility if you are not careful.  Sterilized packages should never be touched with bare hands.  Only with washed and gloved hands should packages be handled and opened.  Assuming that this tattooist has sterilized their equipment for you, they have to transport the equipment to their car, drive it over to your place and then cart it into your place.  What else are they carrying in those containers and in their car when they are not tattooing? What are the conditions that the packages are being subjected to during transport?  The combination of heat and humidity at certain levels can negate the sterility of packaged materials. Can they really guarantee that everything is still sterile? 


The environment at a reputable shop that cares about your safety should be closely monitored and frequently cleaned with the proper level of disinfectant on a regular basis.  Surfaces that may be utilized during the tattoo or piercing process need to be properly cleaned to ensure that no cross contamination may occur.  A kitchen table that has been wiped down with Windex or rubbing alcohol does not meet this criteria, nor does someone’s bed or someone’s bathroom. Where are you getting tattooed or pierced at these parties?  Are there animals or kids running around?  Are you willing to take these risks? 


Cross contamination is the physical movement or transfer of harmful bacteria and microbial life from one person, object or place to another.  When applying a tattoo or performing a piercing, there are many steps that should be taken to minimize the possibility that the equipment, materials and surfaces that will be used will not be contaminated and thus will not jeopardize the cleanliness of the procedure.  Tattoo artists place barriers on their equipment that are disposed of after each tattoo.  Examples of these are; a machine bag that covers their tattoo machine except the grip, tube and tip (Note: the grip, tube and tip go through a sterilization process after a procedure and before being used on another client), a wash bottle bag which covers the bottle that is used to frequently rinse your tattoo, a clip cord bag which covers the cord from their power supply to the tattoo machine, barrier film to cover knobs on their power supply, a dental bib or other barrier film to cover their work surface, and all of these get disposed of after the tattoo and the equipment will be wiped down with a disinfectant.  Latex or nitrile gloves should be worn and frequently changed.  Being constantly aware of what you are doing and knowing what you are able to touch before changing gloves is also important.  Doing this in a shop that is set up properly is much easier than in someone’s living room or kitchen.

The bottom line is, “home tattoo parties” are never a good idea.  Not only do you have to worry about the artistic ability of the artist or the technical ability of the piercer, but also you need to be concerned about the safety of the whole process.  Like any other open wound, your fresh tattoo or piercing is susceptible to infections.  In a clean shop environment steps are taken to reduce and potentially eliminate any possibility of potential problems.  Outside of a shop environment, these risks are much more prevalent.  It is not only the contraction of hepatitis, HIV and staph infections that you need to be concerned with, but with much worse problems such as MRSA. (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, is a strain of staph bacteria that is resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat staph and has been the newest worry of the industry.  Contracting MRSA can be fatal and there have been documented cases of MRSA that have been traced back to a home tattoo party.)  The easiest way to avoid these problems is to seek out a qualified artist or piercer to do the work for you.  Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions.  Anyone who cares will be glad to explain things to you. If they can’t, leave! It is not worth your health and safety.  We can’t even tell you how many of these “professional” tattoos that were done at “home tattoo parties” that we fix every day!!!