You can't turn on the news today without hearing about Coronavirus, handwashing, quarantines - it's exhausting. Which song are you using to wash your hands? "Happy Birthday" is tried and true, but "My Corona" (hummed to "My Sharona") and "Stayin' Alive" are good ones too. You can't find hand sanitizer, masks, or Clorox wipes on the shelves within 50 miles of NYC much less in NYC itself. Seriously people - weren't you cleaning and washing your hands before this virus?!
Buildings, schools, subway systems, entire cities are closing down for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and touchpoints (hello, MTA, this can be done). However, a good tattoo shop shouldn't have to go to these extremes during this time because it's already being done. It is done daily at my husband's shop even when we are not in the midst of a global pandemic.
It makes me think that I've taken for granted my husband's sanitation and hygiene practices. Gallo has literally built his career on being the cleanest shop around. To this day he still cleans his floors on his hands and knees. He has made every apprentice and shop rat he's had clean floors on their hands and knees. A clean floor is a sign of a clean shop.
It's important to remember that tattooing is not only an art but a craft. There are many extremely talented young artists today straight out of art school learning how to tattoo with a kit purchased from eBay or Amazon. They learn from their friends or YouTube; they don't know the first thing about cross-contamination or think it's beneath them to clean. Let me tell you, you have to love cleaning if you want to be a tattoo artist. Not only do you have to protect your clientele you have to know how to protect yourself. Most people either don't know they have something or won't tell you if they do, so it's important to assume everyone has something and build your safe practices with that thought in mind.
Here's a shocking statistic: 40% of tattoo shops in New Mexico failed inspections over a two year period, in Southwest Florida almost 100 shops failed in one year period. A tattoo shop in Michigan potentially exposed clientele to HIV and Hep C. Let that sink a moment. I can't imagine tattoo artists and shops in New Mexico or Florida or Michigan are much different from artists and shops in New York.
Knowing all this, how do you find a clean tattoo shop? Here are 8 signs to look for:
Use your nose when you first walk in, does the shop have a slight hospital/doctor office smell (it might be hiding under the smell of burning incense)?
Is the waiting room clean and clutter-free?
Did you visit the bathroom - this is a great sign. A bathroom in a tattoo shop (in my husband's shop at least) should be cleaned as many times a day as there are clients using it.
Is the tattoo room and/or workstation clean and clutter-free?
Is the trash neat and tidy or overflowing? This includes waiting, bathroom, and workstations.
How does the artist set up before and clean up after the tattoo procedure? Are they using MadaCide (or similar hospital-grade products)? Are they taking precautions to protect you and themselves? While every artist has differing methods there are basics such as covering the workstations, bottles, etc.
Is the artist using single-use disposable tubes, needles, etc? Everything should be individually packaged and sterilized. Needles should never be reused and disposed of properly.
Does the artist practice good personal hygiene?
Remember, brand new does not equal clean. A shop can be old as long as it's clean!
Please, use common sense and practice good hygiene and handwashing until we have a better understanding of what's going on with this pandemic. Oh, and buy toilet paper.
Peace and love.
Historical NYC Tattoo Fact: Did you know tattooing in NYC was banned until 1997? Gallo was one of the few legitimate (also banned) tattoo shops in Queens in the '90s. He was part of the generation that (unofficially) set safe practices standards in NYC shops which paved the way to legalization and the explosion of shops and artists you see today (gee thanks, Gallo, LOL). Many tattoo artists in the NYC area have Gallo to thank either directly or indirectly for the acceptance you see today. But I'll leave that for another post!
Do you have any stories to share? Photos? (seriously, please share photos) Your first Gallo experience? Because let’s be real, Gallo is an experience like none other, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his wife. Let’s hear from you!
Follow our new shop on Instagram @northwindtattoony
Formerly known as Custom Corners ---> Painless Steel Tattoo ---> Hell Gate Tattoo ---> North Wind Tattoo