Disinfectants: Dude, Which One of These Do I Need?

Posted by Paris Parker on

WE ONLY SUPPORT LICENSED PROFESSIONALS. What you’re doing is permanent and without the proper training under a licensed professional, you can cause serious harm. We ask that anyone who is not working in a proper shop find information elsewhere. This is not a “how to” article and you will not find any on our site. This is to educate those who only wish to better understand the products that they work with every day. 

Remember – Work safe, work clean and work smart.

Today we will be talking about a critical part of the tattoo scene: Disinfectants - particularly the wide selection that we offer at Liberty Tattoo Supply. You may be wondering, “Dude, which one of these do I need?” Glad you asked.

Before we dive into the deep end, I’d like to open this can-o’-information with two common household cleaners that are less than ideal for your station. Sanitizing a counter for your toddler to lick off of is one thing, but we’re dealing with open skin, a direct line to someone’s bloodstream.


  • Antibacterial Wipes

Those nifty dollar store wipes do a great job in the kitchen when that half-cooked pancake you just tried to flip like Guy Fieri lands on the floor; however, they will not save your clients from the Hepatitis gang or other gnarly blood-transmitted diseases. Until the label can list off the exact “germs” it’s killing, we remain unconvinced.

  • Bleach

Liquid bleach is another solution frequently used for cleaning shop. It’s great for mopping, but not so much for your equipment or chairs. Why? Bleach (referring to sodium hypochlorite) is corrosive and it will leave behind a chlorinated residue on most surfaces. Rinsing can remove these impurities, but that seems like wasted time, especially when there are products made to get things clean in one pass.


So now that you know what’s not tattoo-kosher, let's move on to what is. Below we have products divided for Skin Sanitation or Equipment Sterilization and break down the best uses for each of the products in those categories. 


Skin Sanitation Products


Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK) wipes are perfect for sanitizing the client’s skin. Benzalkonium Chloride wipes are used as a surgical prep to reduce chances of infection from microbial contamination of the patient’s skin. It’s not intended to be a deep wound cleaner but is pre-diluted and ready to use before you set your stencil and start inking. While this is a great use of the product, it should not be your go-to for equipment or chair sterilization.

In tattooing, Dettol is frequently used for cleaning the skin and setting stencils. Keep in mind- Dettol contains pine oils. Clients with pine allergies, eczema, or dry skin conditions can be subjected to more irritation than normal or even have an allergic reaction. Dettol kills E. coli, salmonella, MRSA and the flu virus (H1N1), making it better suited for skin prepping rather than post-tattoo cleanup.

“Green Soap” is referencing the tincture made from vegetable or palm kernel oil, potassium hydroxide, and glycerine. It is gentle on the skin when diluted, and ideal for skin prep or stencil setting. This soap can be used before, during, and after the tattoo to keep your (bleeding) canvas clean while reducing the risk of infection. Green soap is great for cleaning your equipment and apparatus prior to final sanitation. Also, It smells great, that’s always a plus!


Station & Equipment Sanitation Products


Alconox is a detergent powder for manual cleaning or for your ultrasonic, as an alternative to corrosive acids. As a solvent, it will sanitize your equipment without leaving a residue behind. It can be used on a multitude of surfaces such as glass, metals, plastics, ceramic, porcelain, rubber, and fiberglass. Alconox is to be used as your final step in equipment sterilization.

Madacide is a hardcore germicidal surface cleaner. The FD formula (FD stands for FAST DRYING) is favored for apparatus and equipment cleaning, as it doesn’t sit on the surfaces to cause long-term erosion due to the chemicals involved. This is NOT something you want to use on your client's skin. Not only is this used in hospitals, but Madacide is a reliable product every shop should have. When used appropriately, it can kill even the most resilient of microbes (Polio, Herpes, Hepatitis, TB, HIV, Staph, and even fungus to name a few), making it a must-have for any cleaning regiment. Recommended dry time is 6 minutes to kill the pathogens in question. The FD formula is better suited for sanitation between appointments to avoid lingering residue.

Madacide 1 is the same cleaning agent as our buddy Madacide-FD, however, it is NOT fast drying. Estimated dry time is 15-20 minutes. While all the same perks apply (heavy duty Germicidal, Fungicidal, Antimicrobial surface cleaner. Used in hospitals and medical facilities.), this blend is designed to take longer to evaporate. Some diseases require a certain amount of time to be eliminated, so this would be better suited for your station and chair if you’re concerned about a pathogen surviving the Fast Drying formula.  It's also great as the final cleaning session before closing shop to allow proper dry time.

Our friends at AF3 developed something that makes Clorox Wipes drop to its knees and cry in envy. SaniCloths are a pre-mixed, alcohol based wipe that’s bactericidal, tuberculocidal and virucidal. You may have even seen these at your doctor's office - which is why you should reconsider those flimsy wet-naps, that are so popular with soccer moms. This is a dream come true for station sterilization.

Much like Madacide-FD, this product offers a quick way to wipe down and clean shop while killing any concerning pathogens. You may even use this as a pre-sterilization wipe down on your equipment. We love how there’s no dilution required, and because it’s not a spray there’s no need to stress over inhaling fumes or particles.


As always, please read and follow the instructions on the labels for proper use & dilution formulas. They’re there for a reason, don’t wing it. By using the proper materials and protocol you will have happy clients, Board of Health will stay off your dick, and your clients will have peace of mind. Fuck Yeah.

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