Ultrasonic cleaning involves removing contaminants from tattoo and piercing tools or other objects by immersing them in a tank of liquid with inaudible, high-frequency sound waves running through it. Within the fluid, the sound waves act almost like brushes on the tools or other items being cleaned, loosening any debris clinging to them and cleaning them thoroughly so that it's then safe to run them through an autoclave sterilization cycle.
It's possible to clean your tattoo or piercing tools well enough by hand, but it can be a lot of work--sometimes too much work in a high-volume tattoo and piercing shop. An ultrasonic cleaner will save you time and energy, and free you up to do more modifications while your tools are being cleaned automatically in your clean room.
Types of Ultrasonic Cleaners
Ultrasonic cleaners come in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from small ultrasonic cleaners you can use at home to clean jewelry to industrial-sized ultrasonic cleaners like the 10 Liter Genesis Ultrasonic Cleaner shown above. The type and size ultrasonic cleaner you purchase will depend on your needs and the volume of business you do in your shop. If you need to be able to clean large quantities of tattoo equipment and piercing tools simultaneously, then it may be wise to get an ultrasonic cleaner with a 10 liter tank. A 5 liter ultrasonic cleaner is a good option for smaller shops that still want an industrial-strength heated ultrasonic cleaner, but that don't need to clean as many tools at a time.
We also carry a special ultrasonic cleaner for tattoo artists: the PC3 Ink-Out Ultrasonic Cleaner tattoo rack system. This system has two cups in which you can soak your inky tattoo tubes while you continue working. It's a table-top unit you can set at your tattooing workstation, so you won't lose time going over to a sink and rinsing out your tattoo tubes every time you switch colors. It's a handy tool for your shop, but it's especially helpful when you're working conventions and there isn't a sink nearby. Learn more about the PC3 Ink-Out Ultrasonic Cleaner and view an instructional video here.
How to Use an Ultrasonic Cleaner
Although every ultrasonic cleaner is different and will need to be operated using slightly different settings, as a general rule, ultrasonic cleaners are incredibly easy to use. You can fill your ultrasonic cleaner with just water or add special detergent like Alconox or Tergazyme to it to get your tools extra clean. Once you've filled the ultrasonic cleaner's tank to the specified fill level for your machine, add your tools, close the lid, and turn on the machine following the instructions that came with it. After the time period specified has passed, the machine will turn off, and you can remove your tools and move onto the next stage of the cleaning process.
Read our Tattoo & Piercing Tool Maintenance article for tips on cleaning your tools thoroughly from start to finish.
Ultrasonic Cleaner Alternatives
If an ultrasonic cleaner isn't yet in your budget or you like to do things the old-fashioned way, we also carry Sklar Kleen for cleaning tattoo and piercing instruments by hand. Use Sklar Kleen with warm water and nylon or metal brushes to scrub your instruments until they're clean. Make sure to dry your instruments and then add lubricant to any with moving parts, like piercing pliers, before putting them in sterilization pouches and running them through an autoclave.