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Understanding the safety and sanitation standards set by your State Board of Cosmetology is a great way to educate yourself so that you may be able to spot a clean salon. As a Nail Technician I’m constantly being questioned on our (Utopia’s) cleansing and disinfecting habits with implements, nippers, cuticle pushers, and other tools. With all the stories we get from the news and social media about fungal outbreaks and bacterial infections, I definitely don’t blame anyone for being scared. I welcome these questions; it gives me the opportunity to educate my clients on a few things to watch out for.
Knowing the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting will protect you from infection. Sanitize, by definition, just means to cleanse and is the first step in the disinfection process. Sanitizing implements with liquid soap and hot water helps to remove the majority of bacteria, viruses, and fungi but it neither kills nor removes them 100%. That is when disinfection comes in. After sanitizing implements and drying them, they need to be fully immersed in an EPA registered, hospital-grade disinfectant for 10 minutes. The disinfectant needs to demonstrate bactericidal, virucidal, and fungicidal activity. After that the disinfectant needs to be rinsed off and the implements need to be dried. Implements should never be taken directly out of disinfectant and applied to skin because it is designed to kill micro-contaminants and is too toxic for application to the human body. While not required by WA State Board, we at Utopia keep them in a sealed bag and process them under a UV light to further maintain a cleanly environment for our nail implements.
It’s also important to know which implements are able to be disinfected and which are not. Nonporous, non-absorbent tools such as metal cuticle nippers and crystal files are multi-use, disinfectable tools. Porous, absorbent tools such as your run-of-the-mill files and buffers should not be used twice, nor should they be given to clients to bring back since they usually have a wooden or spongy center that, over time, collects and harbors bacteria and cannot truly be fully disinfected.
Remember – it’s always appropriate to ask about a salons safety and sanitation habits. The professional should be ready and willing to educate you on their safety and sanitation habits. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.