Committed to Cleanliness (Part 1)
Committed to Cleanliness (Part 2)

Salon sanitation regulations are most often mentioned with respect to nail salons, but cleanliness could be a point of difference for all salons. Say "hello" to the clean revolution. 

Claudia Iacovetto, owner of C-C My Nails in Newcastle, Wyoming, got into the nail business because of her own brush with unsanitary manicuring. A technician over-nipped her nail with a tool that was not disinfected, and Iacovetto ended up in the hospital, hooked up to IV antibiotics. Eventually, she lost her nail and a significant amount of surrounding skin because of the infection.

"I was more mad than scared," recalls Iacovetto, who loved getting her nails done. "I discovered there was a lot I didn't know about nail implements and disinfection."

Today, she says, she's compulsive about cleanliness. "I tell clients a nail service should never hurt," she says. "Then, I explain why I'm using a hand sanitizer on my hands and theirs before proceeding."

For pedicures she is even more diligent: One of her clients has permanent leg scarring from a previous salon that failed to warn her not to shave her legs before a pedicure and didn't disinfect the basin properly. Iacovetto recently worked with a Wyoming newspaper, Gillette News Record, to educate readers about safe manicures. Revisiting her history explains why she was disappointed in her recent salon inspection.

"I was asked three questions, including ‘Where do your store your files?' she says. "It took all of five minutes."

Compliance Confusion
Iacovetto's experience highlights common realities. Many salons either don't know, understand or follow their state's regulations. Sometimes, inspectors themselves are unclear, and the media is continuing to pounce. But don't blame the messenger.

"Despite the fact the information is available, a very small percentage of technicians and owners know what it takes to be in 100-percent compliance," notes Vicki Peters, a Henderson, Nevada-based master nail technician and international educator, who also helped write the Nail Manufacturer Council's (NMC) sanitation procedures.

"Some people say items like foot sponges can be disinfected and re-used, but it is physically impossible to get all the dead skin off them; they are single-use, disposable items."
-Vicki Peters

She acknowledges some gray areas. Most state boards say nail technicians cannot cut the skin, but don't specifically cite callous blades. So, when Florida technicians called their state board, they were told, incorrectly, that they could use the tools. But the bigger issue, says Peters, is non-compliance: zero hand washing before a manicure, cleaning a pedicure bowl but not disinfecting it between clients and re-using porous files.
"Some people say items like foot sponges can be disinfected and re-used, but it is physically impossible to get all the dead skin off them; they are single-use, disposable items," asserts Peters.
Why does she think total compliance is not the norm? For one thing, salons need one central place to find essential education.

When Time is Money
The NMC sanitation procedures Peters helped write along with Doug Schoon and others took every state's guidelines into account. They are available at, but Peters says other reasons they may get the short shrift are time and money.
"One high-end spa owner demands a pedicure every hour," says Peters. "If you deliver a very high-end service, that leaves no time for correct sanitation, which takes a minimum of 12 minutes because of the 10-minute disinfection."

Salon owners like Karen Kalberg, owner of Norma Jean Nails in Mission Viejo, California, say a segment of the public wants fast, inexpensive manicures but that the media put the focus on health issues, which benefits salons like hers.

Nail Manufacturer Council (NMC) and International Nail Technician's Association (INTA) complete cleaning and disinfection procedures are available for download at the Pro Beauty Association's website, Go to About, Committees, then NMC and click on downloads in English or another language. Free publications include: Cleaning and Disinfecting of Manicuring and Enhancement Equipment, and Pedicure Equipment Cleaning and Disinfecting Procedures

International Pedicure Association (IPA) offers members free webinars on sanitation, infection control and business issues, as well as a consumer awareness check list. Go to

For links to your state boards:

For online classes in safety and sanitation:

"The number one reason we get new clients is because our website focuses on our superior sanitation practices," says Kalberg. "Our fees are neither the highest nor lowest in the area: A manicure is $25 for an hour and includes massage, hand care, lamp-drying between layers and sanitation time."
Comments Roxanne Valinoti, a Creative Nail Design education ambassador, "Making a ceremony of salon safety is an opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. It assures client loyalty and supports premium-price positioning."

There's a clean revolution brewing and many salons are benefiting.

Model Practices
Every state board has its own guidelines, which are readily available online. The following, truncated overview is based on the Nail Manufacturer Council's procedures. In many instances, similar guidelines apply to razors, shears, tweezers and clipper blades.
Disposables: Single-use items must be disposed of after one use on one client. Examples include: cotton balls, gauze pads, toe separators, orange sticks, sleeves for electric files, wax applicators, and certain abrasive files and buffers.
Sanitation and Disinfection of Surfaces and Tools: This is a two-step process, and is the source of much confusion.
Valinoti explains, "Sanitation is thorough cleansing of an object or a surface. Sanitizing significantly reduces the number of pathogens. Disinfection should happen after proper cleansing and kills all surface pathogens. When done properly, it is almost as effective as sterilization. A disinfection system must have an EPA registration number from the Environmental Protection Agency for proof of the product's effectiveness. Sterilization completely destroys all living organisms on a hard or non-porous surface, and uses an autoclave."

Adds Kristi Galiano, education manager for Orly International, "Surfaces and hands can be sanitized: All tools, manicure and pedicure bowls or thrones need to be sanitized and disinfected.  Be clear what falls under each category.  Some salons treat sanitation as their way of disinfecting items, which opens the door to contamination."
Read Part 2 here >

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