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Tattoo Tools: Autoclavable or Disposable?

Being a tattoo artist means being responsible for your client’s safety and satisfaction. One of the things a tattoo artist considers before starting their own tattoo business is whether to use autoclavable tools or disposable ones. Tattoo tubes, tips and grips are essential components in every tattoo artist's toolkit, so it's important to choose carefully and pick supplies that are economical without sacrificing quality.

 Pros and Cons of Autoclavable and Disposable Tattoo Tubes, Tips and Grips
Once you know all the pros and cons, you will have a better idea on whether to choose disposable or autoclavable tips, tubes and grips.

When purchasing disposable types, everything comes in a package, including the grip, tube, and tip. On the other hand, autoclavable tools are often sold separately. Buying tools separately might sound like a burden, but it can actually be a beneficial. There are actually several benefits in purchasing reusable tattoo grips, tips and tubes separately that may outweigh the convenience of all-in-one disposable units. The difference between an autoclave and disposable type are pointed out below.

  • Minimal Equipment Needed 
You need a minimum of one disposable tattoo tube/ tip/ grip unit for each tattoo you create--sometimes two or more, if you need tubes with different style tips for filling, line work, etc., on the same tattoo--but that isn't the case with autoclavable units.
Since they're reusable, you can use one set to ink an almost infinite number of tattoos. This means that you will need to have a couple sets on hand so you can have one running through an autoclave, while using another to tattoo your client. However, you wouldn’t need to buy more than you already have for each style. Since there are autoclavable tube-tip units available, you can consolidate some of the parts needed by purchasing those elements in combo units, as desired. Another option is to buy combo grips that contain three components in one unit, that is, if you prefer using an autoclavable all-in-one set.

  • The Cost Factor 
Autoclavable tools may be a bit pricier, than the disposables. However, choosing autoclavable may save you money in the longer run. Disposable units can only be used once then thrown away, which means you will be spending money over and over again. But you don’t have to pay for just these, you’ll also have to pay for the tattoo needles, grip covers or wraps, clip cord covers, gloves, tattoo ink, and all the other tattoo supplies you need to do your job
Autoclavable tubes, tips and grips will pay for themselves after just a few sessions, and then your only ongoing cost is the cost to clean and sterilize them in between uses.

  • Customizability 
Customizability is a big difference of the two types. Choosing a disposable tattoo tube-tip-grip unit, the only modification you can do is to wrap your grip with cohesive tape to pad it. Granted that there are so many different styles of tattoo tip-grip-tube units available that you can easily find one that fits your hand well. But, the tubes and tips are fixed parts, so you can’t combine parts to suit your preference like you can with autoclavable tools. Separate autoclavable components allow you to mix your preferred grip with the best style of tattoo tube and tip to get the best combination of tools for a particular type of tattoo work, such as filling versus line work.

Before you start narrowing down your options, you need to know what your choices are as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each option. I hope the comparison I've shared above helps you determine which one will work best for you.

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  • Matthew Nelson