Not only are the tools of our trade necessary to do a good job, they’re an investment in the career you have chosen. With proper care and maintenance, you can safeguard that investment and get the most out of your tools. Basically what it all boils down to is this: You need to take proper care of the tools so they can take the best care of your clients.


Metal Implements

Whether you use a pusher, curette, clippers, nippers, or any other type of metal tools, they are not meant to live in disinfectant liquid. Most implement manufacturers will instruct you to wash the tools with soap and water to remove any debris, then fully immerse them in an EPA-registered disinfectant for 10 minutes. Many salons are guilty of letting the tools remain immersed for long periods, only taking them out to be used. These tools may not be as costly as an e-file or autoclave, but that’s no reason to deliberately ruin them! Even stainless steel will rust if over-exposed to liquid for excessive amounts of time. The tools will become ineffective quickly and need to be replaced — that’s money you could have put toward a class.

Leaving the tools in the liquid longer than recommended is usually an issue of convenience. One way to solve the problem is to have enough sets of tools to service a day of clients. At the end of the day, scrub them with soap and water, place them in the disinfectant, go back to clean up your station, then retrieve the tools. Clean tools should be placed in a lined drawer or covered container; do not use airtight containers or bags as they can breed bacteria. Avoid dropping or throwing your implements into the sink as the blades or edges can bend and be ruined. If you’re using a jar (versus a tray) for disinfection, avoid dropping the tools in with the blades down, which can damage the tips.


Electric Files

Your e-file needs to be kept clean — no easy task considering how much dust it produces. As a start, you can use a shield on the bit to help cover the front of the hand piece, which will prevent dust from clogging the front bearing. A good ventilation system will also keep dust from entering your hand piece during use. Wipe it off after each service to keep extra dust at a minimum.

The hand piece houses the motor of your e-file; the control box is simply the circuit board and transformer, so take care not to drop or throw the hand piece. According to Bruce Atwood, president of e-file manufacturer Atwood Industries, “Your hand piece does not have to be serviced yearly. That’s a waste of money. Only send it in for servicing when you hear an unsettling high pitched sound, or when it begins to slow down and/or becomes too hot to hold.”

Your bits will also need to be properly cleaned to prevent breakdown or rust. Wash them with soap and water, use a brush to help remove debris, then disinfect or sterilize them with your preferred products. Make sure you follow the directions to the letter for the disinfectant; the bits should not be left in the liquid any extra amount of time. Leaving metal in the liquids too long can cause premature wear and rust.


Lamp Care

Whether you have a UV lamp using florescent bulbs or LED bulbs, it represents an investment, so you’d like to see it live a long and happy life. Not all lamps are created using the same materials, so you need to know if your lamp is solvent-resistant or not. Acetone or acetone-based products may melt some of the components of your lamp if you use them to clean with. A soft cloth and 99% isopropyl alcohol will remove most substances from your lamp. Lamps should be cleaned after each client, just like your tabletop and surface areas.

If you’re using a UV lamp with florescent bulbs, it’s important to stay on top of the bulb-changing schedule. You can also clean the bulbs with 99% isopropyl alcohol to keep any build-up of product or dust from blocking the UV light and causing service breakdown of your enhancement or manicure coatings. According to industry scientist Doug Schoon, you can flip florescent-style bulbs over halfway through their use. This places the clean side of the bulbs that had been facing the lid of the lamp down toward the nails, while the exposed side, which may have some cured product blocking the UV light, will now face the lid. These type of lamps need bulb replacements on average two to three times per year, depending on usage.

LED-style bulbs are not meant to be removed or replaced, so keep an eye on any spots the client may have inadvertently touched and left product on. You can do a quick bulb inspection when you wipe the lamp down after each client. Both UV and LED lights will generally need to be replaced after three years of normal use. 

Cords should be kept out of the way to avoid bends at odd angles, tripping and yanking the lamp off the table, and undue wear. If the lamp is stored in a place other than the top of the table, take care not to damage the cord and to protect the shell or casing of the lamp.



Autoclaves require constant maintenance to be effective. They are also pretty pricey, so think of ongoing maintenance as a way to protect your investment. Items placed in an autoclave should always be free of debris, so wash them first with soap and water and use a soft brush to clean them. The autoclave itself also needs to be kept clean. That means wiping down any surfaces and gaskets with a gentle cleanser and soft cloth daily.

Avoid overloading your autoclave so it will be able to achieve its peak performance each time you use it and so the components are not placed under any stress from misuse. You should be performing spore tests at least once a month, if not weekly, in order to verify that the unit is truly sterilizing your implements. Your autoclave should have come with instructions on the recommended frequency for the spore tests as well as how to do them. If you no longer have the instructions, visit the website of the manufacturer or contact them directly to get a replacement.

If the unit you use requires distilled water, make sure you use distilled water instead of tap water. Tap water can leave behind a film, residue, or other contaminants. Your autoclave should be thoroughly cleaned and inspected annually by a professional, who will test and recalibrate it if necessary. Some of the gaskets, seals, or filters may need to be replaced due to wear and tear. Your specific autoclave may have other care requirements; be sure you are aware of what they are.


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