Salon Sanitation

Something to Talk About: Washing Hands

Salon best practices include handwashing before every service — both for the client and the tech. But why bother when a squirt of hand sanitizer can kill the germs?

Despite its popularity and its ability to protect against many surface germs, hand sanitizer still doesn’t have the cleaning power of soap and water. However, because it’s so easily available and easy to use, many people have come to view the alcohol-based gel as an effective replacement.

Sanitizer does offer clients a level of protection, but it can’t replace that initial handwashing every nail tech and client should complete before the service begins. Cleaning and sanitizing are two separate things. Take the time to explain the difference to clients, including the benefits of both. That conversation could go something like this:

Client: Oh! I’m so sorry I’m late! My polish is already off, so we can get started right away.

You: No worries. We have plenty of time. Did you have a chance to wash your hands when you came in?

Client: Yes. I used hand sanitizer in the car.

You: Actually, would you wash your hands with soap and water before we start? You can choose your polish on the way back to the desk.

Client (back from hand washing): So why is it so important that we wash our hands? Are you afraid of germs?

You: It’s not just about germs. I need to make sure the hands are clean. Some clients come in after eating or gardening. Some bite and pick their nails. I want to make sure they wash with soap and water to remove dirt or debris from their skin. Also, if they have a cold, or if bacteria are present on their hands, I don’t want it to spread. I ask all my clients to wash with soap and water before sitting down, and it usually surprises them to learn I also wash mine before every client.

Client: I thought using sanitizer would be enough. The label says it kills 99% of germs.

You: It’s true the alcohol-based sanitizers kill certain types of bacteria and germs, though not all. But if sanitizers are used incorrectly, they won’t kill germs. Instead, they could even cause germs to develop a resistance to the sanitizing agent.

Client: Yeah, I’ve heard about that.

You: Washing hands with soap with warm water will clean the skin thoroughly. That’s the only way to remove grease and dirt, which can still be present on hands and under the nails even after using sanitizer. In fact, you’ll notice I spray your nails with sanitizer even after you’ve washed them. This way I know they are clean and sanitized. Of course, spreading germs is also a concern. Imagine what lands on our hands during the day from covering our mouths when we cough, using our phones in the bathroom, and touching railings and door handles.

Client: That’s pretty gross. I’ve never really thought of it.

You: Yes, and here’s something interesting about handwashing. Did you know you should wash for nearly 20 seconds? It’s not a quick rinse! The next time you wash your hands, give it a try. Sing the ABCs while you wash, getting under the nails and around the cuticles. It’s a surprising long time, but well worth the protection it provides.


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