Managing Nail Salon hygiene

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According to an investigation by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (which is cited on the Newark and Sherwood district council website):

"one in five nail bars could pose a significant risk to health.."

for factors including "dangerous procedures" and "poor hygiene". 1

In order to safeguard nail salon clients from harmful infections, the following factors need to be considered.

Sanitising, disinfecting or sterilising

When talking about maintaining hygiene in the salon and elsewhere, you may come across different words and definitions of what is deemed satisfactory and necessary for a clean environment / tools. The four important terms in this case are 'clean', 'sanitise', 'disinfect' and 'sterilise'.

Clean and Sanitise - Removing visible dirt, scrubbing with soap and hot water with the option of also using a domestic grade sanitation solution (lower concentration than hospital grade) then rinsing. All debris needs to be removed before a sanitation solution is used and proper pre cleaning needs tooccur before disinfection. Sanitising will destroy some micro-organisms but not all of them.2

Disinfect - Kills most pathogens but does not eliminate spores.In salons, hospital grade disinfectants are usually recommended with an immersion of approx 10 minutes or manufacturer's recommended time for tool disinfection. Disinfectant can be used for other areas of the salon such as surfaces, floors and foot spas. Most standards / regulatory bodies in the nail / salon industry recommend disinfection. You will need to check with your authority for guidelines.

Sterilise - Sterilisation kills all micro-organisms including spores. Using an autoclave that produces / releases pressurised steam into a chamber will achieve sterilisation and is the method most used by salons that require sterilisation.The pressure and extreme heat ensures that any items within the chamber will be fully sterile. Sterilisation will only be effective if the instruments have been cleaned first. 3

Some countries / localities will require sterilisation as standard whereas others will deem disinfectant to be sufficient.

The dangers

The salon dangers

Contaminated nail salon equipment (manicure tools, foot spas etc) and unsanitary conditions could infect customers with:

  • Fungal infections
  • Staph infections
  • Cold / Flu
  • Serious bloodborne infections such as Hepatitis

What the experts say

The health and safety executive state in their 'Health and safety in nail bars documentation' that:

"Electronic filing tools, clipping tools and other tools are used in nail salons and these may be inappropriately cleaned/sterilised in some salons. This practice can potentially increase the risk of exposure to dusts and pathogenic micro-organisms. Recently, two cases of acute hepatitis B were investigated by the Dutch Municipal Health Service and the most probable source was a nail studio (Worp et al., 2006). " 4

As well as this, Habia, the standards setting body for the nail industry in the UK say the following regarding Codes of Practice: "In the scope of nail professional treatments, disinfection is a sufficient level of pathogen control when skin is not cut or broken. Disinfectants should kill most bacteria, fungi and viruses and must be used in line with manufacturer's instructions." 5

"Sterilisation is a process which completely destroys all living organisms, including spores, most commonly by use of an autoclave. Sterilisation may only be performed on metal implements and is unnecessary for nail services unless the nails are infected or the skin has been cut or pierced, which is when the risk of cross-infection is at its highest." 6

Please note that the above information is based on the advise of UK regulators. The advise / regulations regarding disinfection and sterilisation will differ depending on location. Always follow local / national guidelines and regulations.

General cleanliness in the salon

As well as the cleaning of specific types of equipment, it is important that general hygiene in the nail salon / bar is maintained.

This can involve:

  • Good personal hygiene of salon staff - handwashing, clean uniforms etc
  • Cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, floors, workstations, chairs and other furniture.
  • Clean towels /linens for every client
  • Treatments not being performed on clients that appear to have infections.
  • No food being allowed in the salon.
  • Sanitisation / cleansing of client's hands / feet before treatment.
  • Single use / disposable tools only being used on one client and being disposed of afterwards.

Disinfecting manicure tools

Reusable Manicure Tools need to be disinfected after each use

Reusable Manicure Tools need to be disinfected after each use or disposable tools can be used. Disposable tools should only be used once and new tools should be used for every client.

A broad spectrum disinfectant that eradicates most bacteria, fungi and viruses should be used. Tools must be submerged in the disinfectant for a period of 10 minutes or more depending on local guidelines / manufacturer's advice. As mentioned above, tools must be cleaned / sanitised thoroughly before disinfection can take place.

Some countries / standards recommend certain types of disinfectant such as a hospital grade product or an EPA registered disinfectant. You will need to check with your regulatory body for advice on this.

It is important that the disinfectant used is non corrosive to tools and non hazardous / harmful to human health.

Some salons use Virkon disinfectant but there are many options available.

Foot Spa hygiene

foot spa equipment also needs special attention as infections can spread easily

Pedicure / foot spa equipment also needs special attention as infections can spread easily if good hygiene isn't practiced. After use, foot spas need to be drained, sanitised with soap / detergent and clean water. The spa then needs to be drained again before being disinfected. After this, the spa will need to be drained and rinsed again. This hygiene practice needs to be performed between every use. 7

In conclusion

A trip to the nail salon is a treat for most clients that book a manicure / pedicure. However, poor hygiene puts the health of clients at risk and can also ruin the reputation of a salon if the worst occurs. It is simply not worth risking the possibility of a fungal infection or even worse, a deadly virus / bacterial infection being contracted for the sake of a few shortcuts. All salons should consult the guidelines set out in their country and follow them to precison to ensure that the health of their clients and the reputation of their business are never in doubt.

5 & 6.

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