Why can you Still Buy a Tattoo Machine on eBay?

The equipment recovered from the 15 year old scratcher’s bedroom. Note the Dettol.

I came across this horrible story while perusing the Mail Online this week. I found this article about a 15 year old in Blackpool who had been tattooing his friends in his bedroom with a tattoo machine he could easily have bought off eBay.

The article states: “It is believed the 15-year-old boy had attempted to sterilise the needles using household Dettol, hand gel and Savlon cream.” Well at least he vaguely understood about the need to sterilise equipment, and he gave it a shot. But clearly Dettol is just not going to cut it. I pity the poor kids who went there to get something awful tattooed on their skin and came away with a nasty infection, if not hepatitis.

The one good thing to come out of this story is that Blackpool Council is beginning an awareness campaign working with local schools to highlight the dangers of home tattooing.

Catherine Hill, vice principal at Blackpool and the Fylde College, said: “The College is happy to raise awareness among young people about the risks posed by illegal tattooing.

“There are many pressures on young people today and by keeping our students informed while in college, we will hopefully help to make sure that they can stay safe in the outside world.”

This absolutely misses the point. Only employed, licensed tattooing professionals should be allowed to buy tattoo kit on the internet. These are the ones who certainly won’t be buying equipment off eBay anyway, so why is this popular auction site even allowed to sell this stuff?

You can buy almost anything on eBay, whether it is a fart in a jar, an army tank, or someone’s virginity (although I’m pretty sure they are cracking down on the latter). Among the things you cannot buy are weapons including knives, knuckledusters and crossbows, some types of porn, and drug paraphernalia.

eBay also has a policy that it will not allow the sale of “items encouraging illegal activity”, which is defines as “a link to a website that provides information on how to hijack an aircraft” or “an eBook describing how to create methamphetamine” for example.

However, there is a ‘tattoo starter kit’ listed for sale on the site right now which includes machines, needles and inks (no Dettol though) for £25.90. Clearly this is something which could encourage illegal activity since there are no restrictions on who can buy and use this stuff, whether a minor or simply unlicensed. And it can of course lead to serious harm for the person who ends up at the end of that dirty needle.

Tattoo starter kit for sale on eBay

I am going to email eBay and ask them why they continue to allow the sale of this equipment to anyone who wants it, and how it fits in with their policies. I’m not meaning to pick on eBay here, I have used it as an example because it’s the largest auction site. I actually think there should be a ban on selling tattoo guns through any outlet open to the public.

Anyone who is serious about learning to tattoo should have to do it the hard way and learn from a professional. Otherwise, as tattooing grows ever more popular, we are going to be reading a lot more awful stories like the one above.



My name is Hannah Smith and I am a regular contributor to Tattoo Revolution Magazine, and now I blog for Tattoosday UK, as long as you dear readers don’t run me out of town! I am on the hunt for ideas for future blog posts so please send me your pics, news, views, whatever to hannahfranink@gmail.com or twitter.com/ hannah_fran_ink

Further reading: eBay: eNabling the Scratchers

5 Responses to “Why can you Still Buy a Tattoo Machine on eBay?”
  1. Unquestionably believe that that you stated. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the internet the easiest factor to take into accout of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while other folks think about issues that they just don’t recognize about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top as smartly as outlined out the entire thing with no need side-effects , folks can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  2. Crash says:

    You’re an idiot…first off they are called machines not guns..second needles are disposable along with tubes grips etc etc. however, I somewhat agree with you. Anyone with a debit card can gain access to tattoo kits. And there are many issues that can arise from the situation blood born pathogens, air born etc. the list goes on…if you want to tattoo draw your ass off and gain an apprenticeship

  3. DrBenway says:

    Who cares what people do by themselves. You’re up in arms about kids buying a tattoo kit off Ebay and think it should be banned. What else should be banned? Bongs? Knives? Pregnancy kits? Miley Cirus CDs? Anything you dont like?

    Grow up and let people do what they want and buy what they want. People like the ones you mention in your story will always be idiots. Suck it up.

  4. William Tersteege says:

    I am sorry but you make absolutely no sense regarding your article about ebay selling tattoo guns on Ebay. At the very least it is very narrowly minded.
    You have to consider that Ebay is a global business catering to the needs of people and cultures encompassing the globe. Your implying that either it is illegal to sell tatting equipment in every country on the earth. Or that if something were to become illigal in one city or state or province anywhere on the earth that it.should be Ebay responsibility to not only know the law but to pull all the sales for that province. Plus your arqentire that a professional shouldn’t be buying equipment off Ebay. Why is that. Ebay is an excellent source to buy equipment and supplies at well below retail.
    Providing that is the same equipment in the same condition you would hope that most people would choose to have there tattoo done by the artist smart enough to do price comparisons (hopefully passin the savings on to me)
    And by your arguments your esenti ally arGuin that it is the retailers resposibility to ensure that both the manufacturer/supplier and the customer are obeying all fedreal and local laws.
    And I won’t even get into the fact that in most cases it’s perfectly legal to own/posses the equipment and doesn’t become illigal until it is used.

    On the other hand some people are perfectly happy with the governmentire and big business telling them what they can buy and wear. Heck some people aren’t happy until they are being told what to think and at what time.

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