Salon Sanitation

Tools to Go

Fear of disease has prompted many clients to go out and buy their own tools. How do you handle sanitation when using those foreign tools?

Clients are afraid of contracting all sorts of maladies, from AIDS to green nails, when they come to the salon. Reports of unsanitary salon practices causing the spread of disease have been given wide coverage by the consumer media. Now more than ever, clients are coming to the salon more knowledgeable and more demanding- and they’re armed with their own manicuring tools.

In light of increasing concern over sanitation, many in the nail industry have come up with the ideal of take-home implements. Clients are often more comfortable with their own tools. “ In New York, there was a television show called Shame on You, where reporters interviewed  three or four salons on their disinfection practices,” says Lori Skroski, sales manager for Tweezerman, a manufacturer in Glen Cove, N.Y. “They found that some salons did not disinfect properly and several employees refused to talk to reporters about their practices. Salons were closing doors in reporters’ faces.”

The closemouthed behavior of the salon owners only heightened suspicion of them: One female reporter went undercover to a salon to see how the implements were handled and saw a technician dip a split second instead of soaking it, Skroski says.

Increasing negative publicity has prompted manufacturers to devise creative ways to help nail technicians regain client confidence.

“Instead of ignoring negative media coverage of salons, the president of Star Nail Products came up with the concept of each person having her own implements,” says Christina Jahn, marketing director for Star Nail Products in Valencia, Calif. “This way, you don’t move bacteria from one client to the next. Clients feel better because they don’t have to worry about whether the salon sanitizes correctly.”

Home implements are often sold separately or in kits that include orangewood sticks, nail brushes, buffers, and flies. Clients are free to use the tools at home or supply their technicians with them during their visits to the salon. Besides purchasing kits of disposable implements, clients can also purchase their own metal tools directly from manufacturers.

“When I go to the salon, I bring my own pusher, nipper, and file.” Skroski says. “It gives me a more confident feeling that nothing is being spread from client to client.”

However, despite the client comfort that these take-home tools and kits provide, not all nail technicians agree about how home implements should be used. In fact, the concept has generated some controversy in the industry. Technicians who invest in high-quality tools and exercise proper disinfection procedures aren’t necessarily happy about using tools they’re not used to. However, there are other technicians who believe the compromise between technician comfort and client confidence is fair. Here salon owners and technicians speak out about the advantages and disadvantages.



Clients feel very good about the implements. We provide clients with their own personalized box of implements.  The kits include files, buffers, cuticle pushers, orange-wood sticks, and brushes. We keep the boxes here in alphabetical order for the clients’ convenience. Every time a customer comes in for her manicure, we pull out her box. If the client is travelling, we give her the box to take with her. Clients have the comfort of knowing that the same tools will be used on their hands each time.

The boxes of implements are great retail items: 85% to 90% of our clients purchase and replenish them every six months. I go through two to three cases a month. If Clients come in with their own tools, I try to sell them my product. I tell them the benefits are they get more implements in my kit than they would get elsewhere.

If they try to buy the implements separately, it’s more expensive. One of our kits costs anywhere from $4-$6. To buy the implements separately costs around $8.

My clients rave about the implements. New clients, who may have been going to another salon for years, come in asking about the kits - never mind the nails!


I’m a nurse. I think it’s important that you have your own instruments and equipment. Sometimes you have sores and nicks on your fingers and you never know what you’re going to pick up when other instruments are used on you. Belinda (my nail technician) suggested I have the box and I thought it was a good idea. I once had a fear that implements weren’t used properly in salons. But here the salon is clean, and the box communicates that my technician cares about her customers and believes in a sterile environment.


I wouldn’t want my clients using home implements because that would put me out of business. I also don’t like the idea because everybody has different tools and technicians would be forced to use tools, they’re not familiar with. They also wouldn’t know the condition of the tools clients bring in. That means that technicians would have to disinfect each tool, which certainly doesn’t save any time.

My clients don’t like the idea either. They feel if they go to that trouble, they might as well do the manicure themselves.


None of my clients use home implements. They’ve been comfortable using my own. However, I think bringing your own kit is a great idea if your nail technician is not keeping up to standard. If my customers did use home implements, I would sanitize their tools because I wouldn’t know how they’re keeping them. I know how clean keep my implements, so I’m not afraid to use them. If I cut a client, I toss the file. I’ll also use an old file to dull the sides of a new file. This way, the sides won’t be so sharp and won’t cut clients. You have to be careful and super clean.


I think it’s a good idea to use home implements. A lot of times I’ve used a file and sent it home with the client to use. It teaches clients to do upkeep on their nails between fills. A lot of them don’t want to do it. I try to get them to realize they have to. It’s easier for the nail technician if clients keep their nails up between polishes.

On the other hand one of the problems with buying implements is that they’re really expensive. The clients here hardly want to pay for fill let alone the implements. A fill is between $22 and $28. A lot of people squeak at that buffer is $1, a file is about $0.50-$1 and nippers are $18 and up a pair. It’s  expensive even for manicurist themselves.


Home implements are fine clients are using simple file buffers, and orangewood sticks but not if the implements include acrylic nippers, cuticle cutters, are other metal instruments. The start doesn’t even allow us to cut cuticles. If you allow clients to do they’ll come into the salon with none left! It’s dangerous for them.

I explain the salon’s sanitation practices to clients to calm their fears. I let them know that we are trained professionals and that it is as much of a priority to us as it is to them to have a clean environment. I use hospital-grade EPA disinfectant systems on all instruments between clients. If I am filing on someone and I break the skin, I throw the file in the garbage. I take care to make sure there’s no cross contamination of anything in the salon. If the clients still seem uncomfortable, I tell them I can get them a set of implements that would be used only on them.


I don’t use clients’ home implements. My customers prefer me to use the implements here. Most of my customers have been with me for many years and are not worried about sanitation practices. The new ones inquire about that. They are concerned about the spread of AIDS, the common cold, and diseases that are transmitted by the hands. I explain to them that I use proper disinfection to kill the AIDS virus, colds, and hepatitis. I also wash my hands with an antiseptic between each customer.

I’ve been a hairdresser for 18 years and a nail technician for 12. I’ve had clients for as long as eight years and don’t have a lot of infection problems.

Home implements may be a concept not easily accepted by technicians who fear losing their clients. But remember, clients have to be comfortable with you and your salon. Their first priority is good health. Therefore, your number-one priority should be providing an atmosphere conducive to good health. Don’t take it personally if a customer wants to use her implements. Be willing to grow with an ever-changing industry that’s becoming more and more informed.

Like Creason says, “This is not a social country club anymore. It’s a serious, professional atmosphere.” People want to be serviced in a safe environment and want you to go the extra mile to take care of them.

By Felecia Ligon

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