Green Soap for Tattoos: Protect Your Clients and Yourself From Infection
Safety needs to be at the forefront of any time you're tattooing a client. Professionalism doesn’t just extend in the execution of the design, but the materials that go into the execution. Green soap is considered the gold-standard in the tattoo industry because it keeps things like your skin and tools sanitary.
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What is green soap?
Essentially, green soap is just vegetable oil, glycerine, and a heavy dosage of alcohol(30% by volume). It is that concentration of alcohol that cleans and disinfects the area being tattooed. Since the dosage of alcohol is so high, it’s subdued in part by being mixed along with a carrier oil(in our case, vegetable oil and glycerine).
Most tattoo artists will dilute their green soap with water because the kind of green soap when you buy it, it will come very concentrated. How much you dilute it will depend on the level of concentration. A good rule of thumb, though, is eight parts distilled water to one part green soap.
Why is green soap... Well, green?
Green soap is manufactured from the green tint that comes from plants and made to stay green with the carrier oils inside of it.
Can you skip the green soap?
No. Disinfecting your clients is your responsibility as an artist. Infections can go from mild to severe. If you fail to sanitize the area properly, pus can accumulate under the tattoo and become irritated and inflamed, needing a doctor to drain the pus to treat the area properly.
Some substitutes are mentioned later in this article, but generally speaking, you need something to disinfect the area being tattooed before, during, and after. There is A LOT that can go wrong after your tattoo session if you don't properly sanitize.
How to use Green Soap for Tattoos
The area to be tattooed is sprayed over with the green soap. While damp, the tattoo artist will then proceed to shave the area while continuously wiping it over with a damp cloth infused with green soap. Blood is constantly wiped off with fresh green soap infused clothes, and that also helps keep infections at bay.
As previously mentioned, the alcohol content in the green soap is the disinfecting agent, so when the area of skin is being shaved, no harmful bacteria is introduced. Once finished with the process, the tattoo artist will wipe over the area with green soap before placing a bandage over it.
Each tattoo artist has some variation of what they think is best for the tattoo aftercare that should take place after a session. Being gentle with the area, rinsing it with green soap, and patting it gently is the best bet for keeping things sanitary.
Green Soap Being Used in Action
The video below demonstrates the tattoo process from start to finish. Here you can see the tattoo artist spraying the green soap starting at the 4:04 mark, and towards the end, putting on a pair of fresh nitrile gloves to finish the end process at the 8:58 mark. Watching these kinds of videos can help you prepare for your own tattoo session, as well as learning from other people's experiences.
Will green soap irritate skin?
It can happen, but it is not very likely unless alcohol tends to burn your skin. The alcohol that is used is not that strong, think of it like hand sanitizer grade alcohol. Also, alcohol readily dissipates in the air, so all that is left after wiping is the carrier oils it was manufactured with. Furthermore, the carrier oil acts as a buffer to prevent that extreme stinging sensation when alcohol comes into contact with an open wound.
Is there a green soap alternative?
Yes, but I don't recommend using anything other than green soap when you're tattooing. However, household grade hydrogen peroxide has been used as the preferred alternative. It disinfects well. However, it has no moisturizing agents as green soap does.
A lot of artists have talked about using Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap. Both have similar ingredients and alcohol content; however, Dr. Bronner's carries more of the essential oils. One thing to note about Dr. Bronner's if you decide to use it is that it is very viscous. You will have to dilute it to get it to spray from a bottle.
Neither of the two is cheaper than the other, and some tattoo parlors may not allow it as an alternative since green soap is considered standard. Iodine has been used before, but many people reported to having their skin tinted from the iodine, ruining their design. However, it works well as an antiseptic in case your tattoo is beginning to show the first signs of infection.
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From the Perspective of Clients
Choosing a tattoo parlor is not an easy process. Making sure that the artist truly knows what you want in the design is only the first of many steps needed for a successful session. If the artist cannot answer your questions on the products he or she is using, it is by no means rude to walk out. It wouldn't be the first time an unprofessional tattoo artist tried to cut corners in his/her business, and if they are cutting corners with the green soap and other products, imagine how well they are cleaning their needles.
Green Soap for tattoos is a must in any professional establishment and is vital in the prevention of harmful bacteria seeping into your skin. Be careful and know exactly what your tattoo artist is using if they are choosing an alternative to green soap.
Ask to see the bottle of what they are using, and look at the first ingredient. The first ingredient listed is the ingredient that has the highest concentration of that ingredient within the bottle. Look for agents such as alcohol, ethyl alcohol, Benzalkonium Chloride, Hydrogen peroxide, or any other known antiseptic/ disinfectant.
If one of these ingredients is last on the list of ingredients, it means that it is the least concentrated ingredient in that bottle of solution. Avoid this substitution because it will be extremely ineffective at disinfecting the area before, during, and after since it is only setting your skin up for a moist environment that will allow bacteria to establish itself during the tattoo process readily. This is why alcohol is listed as the first ingredient in traditional green soap.