Sanitation in the salon is of the utmost importance. We’re not here to preach to you (well, maybe we are just a little) but taking care of your clients’ health should be extremely important to you. There are stories of dirty nail salons using unclean implements all the time. Not only can you be fined for these violations, but you are also putting your clients at risk. We all need to make a concerted effort to help shift the public’s negative views of nail salons. Your station, pedicure chair, and implements must be cleaned before each client. And the thing is, it’s not that difficult to follow standard procedures. Below, we’ve included a checklist of the basics you should be following. This is only the beginning; you can find much more detailed information on the NAILS website (see “Find It All Online”). And we urge you to take our Pledge (download it at

Here are the basics of an effective sanitation program:

o Wash your hands and have your clients do the same prior to each service.
o  Use clean towels or manicure mats for each client.
o  Sanitize and disinfect all reusable manicuring tools in accordance with state regulations and industry “best practices.”
o  Any tools that can’t be disinfected are disposed of or given to the client after a single use.
o  Never use a blade to cut any skin, including calluses. Heavy callus needs to be taken down gently, sometimes over the course of a few services.
o  Use only quality, professional-grade, legal, and safe products.
o  Take steps to minimize your exposure to odors, vapors, and filing dust in the salon. These steps include using covered waste cans, keeping products tightly covered, and taking out only enough product to be used on each service.
o  Keep Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on all the products you use.
o  No matter what type of pedicure spa you use, always follow the proper safety procedures from the Pedicure Equipment Cleaning and Disinfecting Procedures for Nail Technicians. There are specific instructions for cleaning after every client, at the end of the day, and once a week.
o  Keep a log of your cleaning schedule, and make it available for clients to see if they ask.

If you’re looking for more information about salon sanitation, here are some articles you might find useful.

Next page: Definitions


Can’t keep the differences between sanitation, disinfection, and sterilization straight? The following are definitions put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Learn them, live them, love them.

sterilization  n. the use of a physical or chemical procedure to destroy all microbial life, including highly resistant bacterial endospores. (Endospores are thick-walled bodies formed within the vegetative cells of certain bacteria. They are able to withstand adverse environmental conditions for prolonged periods.) Sterilization is not required in the salon.
disinfection  n. the use of a chemical procedure that eliminates virtually all recognized pathogenic microorganisms but not necessarily all microbial forms (e.g., endospores). (Microorganisms are living organisms — good and bad — that are invisible to the naked eye.) All implements and equipment used on clients must be disinfected before use.
sanitation*  n. to wash with soap and water to remove dirt and debris and to reduce the levels of microorganisms to a safe, acceptable level. Before implements or equipment can be disinfected, they must first be sanitized.
*Generally accepted definition

(You can find more industry definitions at

Next page: Sanitation Marketing and Info on Autoclaves



Sanitation Marketing

Today more than ever, clients want to know that they are safe in your hands. Don’t assume clients know your implements and foot spa are impeccably clean. Explain to them how you clean your implements according to your state’s guidelines and focus their attention on all the ways you keep clients safe in your salon.

Promote your procedures every chance you get — both in and out of the salon. Make a note of it on your business cards, menus, postings, ads, mailings, website, and e-mails.


Autoclave? What's That?

In the past autoclaves in the beauty industry were for the super clean-conscious. As this medical-grade machine makes its way into salons and spas, techs should know just what they are.

An autoclave is an apparatus that uses superheated steam under high pressure to sterilize instruments. Although dry heat and chemical vapor are forms of sterilization, these types of machines are not autoclaves. Autoclaves come in three common forms.

To learn more about autoclaves, read our article “Full Steam Ahead."

Next Page: Free Sanitation/Disinfection Handouts

[PAGEBREAK]Find It All Online

> Pedicure Cleaning Log (in English and Vietnamese)

> State-by-State Guide to Disinfection Regulations

> Guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfecting Manicure and Enhancement Equipment

> Safety First [a guide to keep your salon safe]

> Salon Safety Guidelines (in English, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Korean)

> Pedicure Equipment Cleaning and Disinfecting Procedures for Nail Technicians (in English, Vietnamese, Spanish, Korean, Polish, and Russian)

> Client Handouts (What to Look Out for in Nail Salons, How to Choose a Quality Nail Salon, Caring for Your Nail Enhancements at Home, Facts About Salon Nail Polish Products)

> BONUS: Our Pledge to You: A Safe and Clean Salon (a customizable client handout for you to offer your clients for assured safety in your salon)

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