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How to clean a rotary pen tattoo machine


Keeping your rotary pen tattoo machine clean is crucial to maintaining its performance, longevity, and ensuring the safety and satisfaction of your clients. Regular cleaning not only prevents the build-up of ink and debris but also helps prevent contamination and the risk of infections. 

In this Magnum Tattoo Supplies how-to guide, we'll walk you through the step-by-step process of effectively cleaning a rotary pen tattoo machine. Whether you're a seasoned pro or an aspiring apprentice, these tips will help you maintain a hygienic and well-functioning tool, the hallmark of any good artist ;)


Tattooing with a rotary tattoo pen machine


Gather your cleaning supplies

Now, before we dive into the cleaning process, we need to ensure you have the necessary supplies on hand. We have put together a small list that we believe will set you up well on your way to a spotless rotary pen machine.

Tattoo machine cleaning brush kit

Disassemble the rotary pen

Disassembling a rotary pen tattoo machine is a straightforward process that allows us to get into all the spaces a 'brief clean' just wouldn't be able to do. Safety first! Ensure that the machine is disconnected from the power source. Then, start by removing any cartridges or needles attached to the machine.

Next, locate the grip and needle drive system, which are typically attached to the machine's body. Unscrew the grip carefully, making sure to keep track of any small components.

Once the grip and needle drive system are separated, the rotary pen is effectively disassembled and ready for cleaning, lubrication, or any necessary repairs.

Remember to handle the components with care and keep them in a clean and organised space to avoid misplacing any parts during the disassembly process. Make use of the cleaning supplies that you have gathered and put any of the disassembled parts into a sanitised bag.


Disassembling a tattoo machine like the Bishop rotary tattoo pen


Clean the grip & needle drive system

We believe that this is actually one of the most vital aspects of a tattoo client's safety, so read carefully! After disassembling the machine, focus on these crucial components that come into direct contact with the client's skin. Rinse the grip under warm running water to remove any visible residue, ensuring a clean starting point.

Then, apply a mild antibacterial soap or tattoo machine cleaner to thoroughly clean the grip and needle drive system. Tattoo artists or their apprentices (you have to start somewhere guys 🤣) can then gently scrub these parts using a soft-bristle brush, diligently removing ink, blood, or any other nasty bits that get in there. Finally, rinse the grip and needle drive system under warm water to eliminate any of the previous cleaning products that we have added.

Clean the machine body

Cleaning the body of a rotary tattoo pen machine is more of an essential step to maintaining optimal performance with your rotary pen. Begin by using a disposable cleaning wipe dampened with a tattoo machine cleaner or an alcohol-based solution (Dettol etc...).

Gently wipe the entire surface of the machine body, paying extra attention to areas where ink and residue may accumulate. Make use of something like a small pipe cleaner to reach into crevices and inaccessible spots, ensuring a thorough clean.

Once the surface is clean, use a dry paper towel or a lint-free cloth to remove any excess moisture. By following these steps, you can actually extend the lifespan of your rotary tattoo pen machine and maintain an incredible level of hygiene. A win-win for everyone!

Reassemble the tattoo pen machine

And finally, we talk about the most exciting part for tattoo artists. The part of our blog where you can start to reassemble your pen, and get back to doing what you do best—creating! 

Begin by securely attaching the grip and needle drive system back to the machine body, ensuring a tight fit. Next, clean the power cord and any other external surfaces of the machine with a disinfectant wipe to maintain overall cleanliness in your studio.

To further protect against contaminants, place the entire machine in a plastic barrier film or a disposable bag until its next use. This ensures that your rotary tattoo machine remains sterile and ready for the next tattooing session. Once you have your client's appointment booked, start tattooing with a fresh, and CLEAN rotary pen machine 🙂


And there you have it! Our comprehensive guide to cleaning your rotary pen tattoo machine is complete. If you are still looking to get your own rotary machine, check out our wide range, including the Bishop Rotary sets and the Axys Valhalla.

We just want to say thank you for the recent support of our blog posts! We love providing value to our audience, whether that be tattoo artists, apprentices, or curious folk! If you are looking to get the blog posts direct to your inbox, don't hesitate to subscribe to our e-mail newsletter either.

We will see you guys in the next one!

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  • Sarah Crookes