A Look At If Sumi Ink Is Toxic Or Not!

Although India ink has been a popular option for many years when it comes to traditional inks for calligraphy, tattoos, and various arts and crafts such as wash painting, we have noticed that sumi ink is seeing a spike in its popularity. It seems that we are seeing more and more questions about sumi ink with each month that passes as more and more people make the switch over to using it.

One of the more common questions that we have seen people asking time and time again is if sumi ink is toxic or not. With a number of people looking to use sumi ink for tattoos, we can see why this is such a popular question that is asked time and time again with its frequency becoming more popular.

Due to this being an important question, we have decided to publish this article going over the toxicity levels of sumi ink in the hope that we are able to help as many of our readers as possible. We have seen a fair amount of mis-information out there regarding sumi ink and its toxicity levels so we wanted to publish this article to clear a few tings up.

Is Sumi Ink Toxic?

The vast majority of sumi ink formulas on the market are non-toxic and clearly marked as such on the product label. Due to the spike in popularity of sumi ink products there are a number of counterfeit products on the market that duplicate the lable of the original product though even though their formula may be toxic.

One of the most commonly counterfeited brands of sumi ink at the time of writing is the Kuro Sumi Ink formula. It is counterfeited so much that we actually have a dedicated article going over how you can tell if your Kuro sumi ink is real or fake.

There are a number of other brands of sumi ink that are also counterfeited on a regular basis too and although the original ink formula may be non-toxic, the same can not be said for the counterfeited product. This is why we always recommend that our readers buy their sumi ink products from reputable vendors.

What Is Sumi Ink Made Out Of?

The vast majority of sumi ink formulas are based around burnt lamp oil or burnt pinewood with animal glue as its bonding agent. Some formulas have perfume in them too but this is becoming less and less common in the modern sumi ink formulas.

In this sense, sumi ink is very similar to India ink as it is based around natural ingredients with soot being its main pigment. Both India ink and sumi ink have been used for tattoo work for centuries and although we would always recommend you choose an actual tattoo ink for your body art, many people do opt to use sumi ink.

As we touched on earlier, the various counterfeit sumi ink products circulating will often use synthetic alternatives to these natural ingredients in an attempt to keep their costs as low as possible. This can make the counterfeit formulas toxic and result in a number of issues from their use.

What Sumi Ink Is The Safest To Use?

The most popular sumi ink product outside of Japan is probably Kuro sumi ink but there are a number of reportable, high-quality brands you can use for arts and crafts. These higher-quality brands tend to have lower toxicity levels and have a much smaller chance of causing any long term issues.

With sumi ink being Japanese, there are considerably more options available to any of our readers who are in Japan compared to the rest of the world. If you are in North America or Europe then going with Kuro Sumi Ink is probably the best option due to it being high-quality while also being easy to find.

Kuro sumi ink is an excellent option for arts and crafts with it being particularly good for wash painting offering a traditional look once dry. Although it does technically have a toxicity level, it is very low and close enough to be classed as non-toxic when used for general arts and crafts.

Is Sumi Ink Safe For Tattoos?

Although many people do use sumi ink for tattoos and other types of body work, we would always recommend that you use actual tattoo ink instead. The chances of having problems with a non-toxic sumi ink formula are low but it is just not worth taking the chance.

We went over this in our sumi ink vs India ink comparison and although they are rare due to the low toxicity level of the ink types, problems can occur with them during the tattooing process. If you do want to get a traditional tattoo using sumi ink then always go to a professional tattoo artists in a clean studio who uses sterilised equipment.

More and more people are starting to get tattoos done by their friends at home in less than ideal conditions. Many of the problems that we see involving sumi ink are not actually due to the toxicity levels of the ink but the lack of sterilisation of the equipment and the dirty environment the tattoo is actually done in.


That brings our article going over if sumi ink toxic or not to an end. We hope that you have found it helpful and although sumi ink does technically have a very slight toxicity level to it, it is so low that many people do class it as non-toxic, especially when used for arts and crafts.

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