All salon personnel must understand and practice the steps to properly sterilize, sanitize and disinfect before and after every service.
Since the Texas ruling that nail techs and salons need to sterilize their implements, I have gotten so many calls and e-mails from techs trying to find an autoclave. Texas is in a panic! After speaking with the Texas state board, I feel that this rule change is an indirect move to force nail technicians to execute proper sanitation during their services. However, this is not the solution. Autoclaves will be purchased, set up, and not used, just like disinfection systems. The problem is not about “sterilization,” it is about not being trained correctly from the ground level in beauty school and not stepping out of the box to learn more. Our entry-level education is just inadequate, bottom line.
Which leads me to my point: There are three different levels of cleaning. Sanitation is washing towels, wiping down manicure tables, and washing hands before the service. Disinfection is disinfecting your tools by washing and submerging them under the level of solution for 10 minutes. Sterilization is rendering tools sterile, a procedure that is going the extra mile in a salon environment — but is not necessary if you’re disinfecting and sanitizing properly 100% of the time.
What I still find today — after 25 years in the business — are nail techs, many friends of mine, who are “high-end” professional nail techs and sometimes even manufacturers’ educators who are not disinfecting properly. This makes me NUTS!
Here are the most common sanitation and disinfection mistakes made in salons today:
- Clients and techs do not wash their hands prior to the start of every service. This is disgusting and how we transmit colds and flu. Protect yourself and wash your hands between clients and ask them to do the same. This will provide a more sanitary environment for both of you.
- Disinfection solution is not mixed properly. Proper mix-ratio instructions are on every disinfection solution container and they are still not followed. A little blue liquid and a lot of water is not mixing it properly. Too much is just as bad as too little. Take the time to do it right.
- Implements are stored upright in a glass container on your table and only the tips of the implements are submerged. This is such a pet peeve of mine. Did you know that some strains of hepatitis can live on implements for up to two weeks and can move up the handle? See my point?
- Pedicure spa disinfection and cleaning procedures are not always done correctly. Pedicure spa cleaning is a 3-step process:
1. Wiping the surface with a surface disinfectant in between clients
2. Running properly mixed disinfectant solution through the pipes and jets for 10 minutes in between or prior to EVERY pedicure
3. At the end of each day the screens to the jets should be removed and a bottle brush should be used to remove any debris. This should be followed up by another 10-minute disinfection treatment.
Providing a clean sanitary environment is about one thing — using common sense.
We, as nail techs, need to be one step ahead of “clean” in our work environments; our clients want this. Being lazy or not knowing the correct procedures is unacceptable anymore because the information is all out there.
In the meantime the licensees of Texas need to rally and attend the state board meetings. The state boards need our opinions, feedback, and resolutions to problems like sanitation. We need to be heard so this does not happen in other states.
That’s just my opinion!
Editor’s Note: You can find the actual definitions of sanitation, disinfection, and sterilization in our September 2006 issue on page 119. You can also find updated Foot Spa Cleaning Guidelines online at www.nailsmag.com. Printable handouts available here include NAILS' Salon Safety Guidelines for Nail Technicians, the Foot Spa Cleaning Guidelines, and NAILS' State-by-State Guide to Disinfection Regulations.
Originally published in NAILS Magazine October, 2006.