Sterilisation, Disinfection and Cleaning

Hygiene in a salon is divided into three categories

1. Sterilisation this process kills all living organisms.

2. Disinfection this will kill all pathogens with the exception of spores.

3. Cleaning this will inhibit the growth of certain living organisms and must be used to clean hands and prepare nails for treatment.


This level of decontamination is commonly seen in operating theatres and surgical wards where every item and hard surface has a sterilisation and disinfection routine. However even this is no guarantee against infection. This level of hygiene has not been necessary in salons, but due to an increases focus on salon hygiene and the increase of pathogens that are more resistant to disinfection, a much higher level of hygiene is recommended.  The only safe method of sterilisation for metal tools is in an autoclave.


There are many disinfectants on the market specifically formulated for salons and nail services. The solutions are at different strengths depending on the job they are designed to do. The stronger concentrations are for metal tools and the slightly weaker concentrations for hard surfaces and the very low concentrations are for hand washes etc. The commonly used tools that will need to be disinfected or sterilised are cuticle nippers, cuticle pusher, nail clippers, anything with a sharp edge or blade. Tools that are not so easily disinfected and can sometimes carry the same risk are files and buffers. Occasionally a technician may break the skin around the nail plate with a file, if this happens the only safe procedure is to discard any files and buffers that have been used. Also discard any files and buffers that have been used on a  nail with a bacterial infection. As with all products the manufacturers instructions MUST be followed as there are rules for dilution and minimum contact time with items for decontamination. 

Different disinfection methods:

Metal Tools - In preparation of disinfection all tools should be scrubbed with soapy water to remove any grease or debris as these will create a barrier to the disinfectant. Then they should be immersed in the disinfectant solution following manufacturers instructions. Ideally this should be done after every client.


Work Surfaces - There are many areas  that require regular disinfection. This process will destroy many bacteria, viruses and fungi and is essential for general salon hygiene. All hard surfaces should be cleaned on a regular basis with disinfectant solution. For example, desks should be wiped over after every client, preferably with a weak disinfectant and they should have a thorough clean at the end of the day. Floors, light switches, sinks and basins should all be cleaned with disinfectant on a regular basis.

Towels - Any towels used during treatments and those used to dry hands should be washed in a washing machine with the addition of a suitable disinfectant solution. 


Files and Buffers -  Files and buffers should either be disposable, personal to specific clients only or be of a quality that can be submersed in water. Used files and buffers should be stored in a covered container until they can be cleaned of dust and the placed in the disinfecting solution. The most efficient method is to use a stiff brush to clean away the dust in the abrasive. Do this under running water to prevent the spread of the dust. 


This is a process that is essential of the cleansing of hands and the preparation of nails. Skin can not be sterilised or disinfected as the chemicals that can do this are irritants and sometimes corrosive. Cleaning is the lowest level of decontamination, but is necessary to avoid the spread of diseases.


Technicians - A technicians hands should be washed before and after every treatment for the safety of themselves and their clients. it not only limits the spread of bacteria and viruses, it also removes traces of artificial nail products and dust. Washing hands in soap and water isn't always enough. Ideally an antibacterial soap should be used that contains moisturisers to prevent the skin becoming dry. Hands should be dried with paper towels, as fabric towels and hand driers can become an efficient breeding ground for bacteria. Do not use a moisturising hand cream immediately before providing a nail service as the dust will stick to the cream.


Clients- Clients should also have clean hands and nails. A huge amount of debris can collect under the free edge and on the surface of the nail. As an extra precaution, both the technician and the client should use a hand sanitiser at the desk.