You may have heard that it's important for every tattoo shop to have an autoclave sterilizer, but what is it and why is it so important?
An autoclave is essentially a pressure cooker primarily used in the medical field for sterilizing medical instruments. An autoclave must maintain a temperature of at least 246 degrees for 30 minutes in order to fully sterilize the equipment.
There are two major types of autoclave sterilizers - steam and chemical. Most dentists use chemi-claves, but steam is really the only kind acceptable in the tattoo field. There are different styles of steam autoclaves, all acceptable to use in the sterilization of the equipment. It is a good idea to ask to see the autoclave. Is it clean? More importantly, was the shop personnel more than happy to show it to you, or did they act like they had something to hide?
Also, keep in mind that the presence of an autoclave does not mean effective sterilization. Autoclaves need to be regularly tested to ensure that they are working properly.