What’s an Autoclave & Do I Need One as a PMU Artist?

By Emily M.| Last updated on April 19, 2024
what is an autoclave and do you need it in PMU salon
⏱️ 4 min read

Permanent makeup is a form of tattooing – you’re opening up people’s skin, you’re touching their wounds, lymph and blood, and you’re handling instruments used to do all this.

So, health and safety protocol is of the utmost importance for keeping your clients and yourself healthy and safe. And rules and regulations regarding this are very strict – as they should be.

But if you’re just starting out, all the requirements can get confusing. Information can be hard to find, and if you fail to comply with absolutely everything, you might not pass inspection, or have a problem with your insurance.

To help you clear up the confusion at least a little bit, let’s discuss the autoclave – what it is, how it works, why it’s useful, whether you need one in your salon, and which to buy if you decide to get one.

What’s an Autoclave?

Also known as a steam sterilizer, an autoclave does exactly that – it sterilizes using steam. It’s widely used in healthcare to sterilize medical equipment in laboratories, hospitals, clinics, at the dentist’s, etc.

But it’s also used in beauty salons, for treatments like manicure, pedicure, different skin treatments like extractions.

Wherever tools are reused on patients/clients for any action that opens up the skin or deals with body fluids in any other way, an autoclave is a must.

It’s the most effective way to prevent contamination from one patient to another via reusable tools.

what is an autoclave
Image source: Freepik

How Does It Work?

An autoclave uses heated, pressurized steam to kill off all microbial forms of life on equipment placed inside it – bacteria, viruses, fungi, you name it.

There are several types of autoclaves used in different industries. An autoclave found in cosmetic salons is usually a smaller device that looks a lot like a microwave.

It has a chamber where you put your supplies, either in a special packaging or without it, you close it up, start the cycle, and let the autoclave do its thing.

The machine will create a vacuum inside the chamber, then release extremely hot steam – 250°C or more – which will get into all the nooks and crannies of the instruments and destroy any microbes on them.

When you take your tools out, make sure you handle them properly so you don’t contaminate them in the meantime.

Do I Need an Autoclave in My PMU Salon?

In most jurisdictions, having an autoclave is not mandatory if you use everything disposable.

  • For microblading, this means that you’re using disposable microblades (holder too), ink cups, spoolies, everything that comes into contact with the client.
  • For machine PMU, this means that you bag your machine (and its cord if you’re not using a wireless one) before every client and wipe it down with disinfectant between sessions.

If you’re using reusable tools, like steel holders for microblades, then you will need an autoclave.

Blades and cartridges are always disposable – those must never be reused.


Health and safety protocols vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Some authorities require you to have an autoclave even if you use disposables. Some forbid using anything that isn’t disposable in the first place, so there’s no need for an autoclave.

Check with your local authority beforehand – an autoclave is not a small investment, and you may not even need it.

To Autoclave or Not to Autoclave?

With an autoclave, you can be sure that the tools you’re using are 100% sterile. This goes for holders, but also other supplies made of stainless steel.

Okay, your compass may not touch the client’s open skin and you probably wipe it with disinfectant regularly, but it may be a good idea to autoclave it every once in a while. The same goes for the grip of your PMU machine, even if you bag it.

But here’s the thing – autoclaves are expensive. The prices can go over $1000 for a high-quality machine, which is justified since it’s a piece of high-tech medical equipment, but it can be a huge expense for a PMU artist, especially for a beginner.

You also need to clean it regularly and in a certain way and in some cases file certain reports.

And if it’s prescribed by law for you to have one in your PMU salon, you’ll just have to cash out for it. But if there’s a legal way around it, most artists choose not to get an autoclave machine.

If you’re not required to have an autoclave, it’s easier to go full-on disposable, but it may not be more economical in the long run.

If you’re all-disposable, you have to keep buying not just your tools, but also additional disposables like coverings for anything that’s not disposable, and you’ll be using a lot more disinfectant products.

Write down your expenses and see whether it makes sense to invest in an autoclave.

It’s also worth noting that having an autoclave machine means less trash, so it’s definitely an eco-friendly solution!

Here’s a Couple of Autoclaves Available on Amazon:

Final Note

In case you’re just now equipping and furnishing your salon, here’s a couple of articles you might find useful:



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