Once again, as we have done so many times before, we are explaining the finer points of and the differences between sanitation, disinfection, and sterilization. We’re trying to arbitrate a debate that continues to rage in the nail industry about what really is required to keep a salon, and all its equipment and tools, clean.

It isn’t just the media fanning the fear in the industry. It’s coming from salons, manufacturers, distributors, and even associations. Salons know that savvy consumers are wary of dirty salons and so they conduct their sanitation procedures with a great flourish. But there are also marketers who use fear as a technique to get you to buy their products. It makes it more confusing for nail technicians who are trying to do the “right thing.”

I continue to believe that it isn’t the problem of definitions bogging the industry down and it isn’t a genuine concern with diseases being spread by salon services. Rather, it’s simple non-compliance with the basics. Plenty of nail technicians follow the rules and set the standard for the industry. But too many aren’t adhering to the fundamentals, which are washing your hands, cleaning your station between clients, and disinfecting nail implements. Sure it’s confusing whether you need to soak your nippers 10 minutes or 30, whether your disinfectant system needs to be EPA-registered or not, or whether files can be used on more than one client if they’re sanitized. But from what I can see, those distinctions are not the problem. The problem is nail techs soaking the tips of their nippers in dirty alcohol or murky blue stuff and reusing them client after client. The problem is not whether a durable cushioned file can be effectively disinfected, but that a nail tech doesn’t dispose of it after nicking someone.

We finally have some commonsense and clarity on the “to disinfect or not to disinfect files” issue. The Abrasive Task Force has gone through drafts of guidelines from other industries and interviews with experts to come up with what makes sense (see our report in our May 2003 issue).

Our article this month spells out in a sensible way how to clean your tools and equipment in the salon. It’s not the first of this type and I assure you it’s not going to be the last ... until we have universal compliance in the nail industry as well as a confident and assured salon clientele. I somehow doubt we’ll see that during my tenure, but in the meantime, we’ll try to keep a voice of reason in the debate.

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