Is it time to clean up your act?

By Maree Alexander

If you have been doing nails for some time, it is easy to become complacent. As many of us work alone, we don’t have the benefit of co-worker feedback either. It is hard to be your own critic. Sometimes clients are more aware of the hygiene issues than the technician.

It shouldn’t be that way. You have to clean a client’s hands and nails before you start a service. You wouldn’t put makeup on a dirty face.

There is some confusion over the terms sanitation, disinfection and sterilisation which are used interchangeably in the salon industry.

Sanitation is low-level cleaning in which some micro-organisms, such as household germs, are destroyed. The simple act of wiping something down with soap and water is a method of sanitation.

Disinfection is the elimination of most micro-organisms on a surface, except bacterial spores. Spores are dormant bacteria waiting to grow. There are various levels of disinfection, the lowest level being the average household cleaner. This will do more than sanitise but it will not eliminate the more resistant strains that are killed by hospital level disinfectants.

Sterilisation is the elimination of all living organisms on a surface, including viruses, bacteria and bacterial spores. A sterile area or implement is almost impossible to get under these circumstances (working in a salon). Sterilisation is not required for implements that aren’t intended to enter body cavities or come into contact with body fluids.

If you are using alcohol or single phase quats, now is the time to upgrade to disinfection. Since it is impossible to determine bacteria levels, it is far safer to practice disinfection procedures between clients. This will help prevent cross-contamination of bacteria.

If you have never practiced fervently strict sanitary procedures, it’s not too late to start. Your supplier will have a complete list of products complete with their descriptions and their uses. They will be happy to discuss this at length with you to help you decide their potential benefits to your salon.

Have you read a good MSDS lately?
Suppliers also have, and will happily supply, MSDS to their clients. These are Manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheets and apply to all chemicals that you use in your salon.

The information that most interests the technician is the correct name of the product and its chemical name. It’s a good habit to get into calling products by their correct name or at least their correct “common” name. In the event of an emergency it is hard to help someone if they don’t know what they are talking about.

Emergency phone numbers should be included in case of questions. Your supplier and the poison control centre are two numbers you should have readily available.

The MSDS can provide you with information as to the products hazard potential, if any. If it is a cancer-causing agent it must be listed here. Not all product ingredients are listed, just those that are determined to be potentially hazardous to humans.

The sheets recommend storage and transport procedures for the product so that it won’t spill, spoil or cause an accident. Try to avoid conditions when storing your products which might cause them to spoil or activate. Cool, dark areas that are well ventilated and roomy are desirable.

Spills and disposals, personal protection, fire and explosion hazard, health effects and first aid are also included.

Re-reading these valuable information sheets helps to refresh your awareness and keep you focused on your chemical responsibilities. All technicians should have a complete folder holding MSD sheets that are regularly up dated and easily obtained from your supplier.

For further information, contact Maree Alexander 0408 163 696 or

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