A beginner's guide to cleaning, disinfecting and sterilising your manicure equipment

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Nail and beauty salons are in constant contact with a high volume of people every day. People come to get their nails done, and sometimes we can lose track of how clean we're keeping things for them- especially when the client has been coming for years or if you've just been running behind lately!

It can be a dangerous mistake to confuse and use ineffective methods of sanitation, disinfection and sterilisation and unfortunately due to lack of education, this can be a common occurence in salons. 

Each country, state and government will have their own guidelines which are paramount to follow. You must follow the legislation by HABIA in UK for cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation.

Sanitation (cleaning)

Cleaning is the physical process which reduces the amount of organic matter. This matter can contribute to bacteria and viruses.  Cleaning is the first step before disinfection or sterilisation of instruments and equipment as debris, visible or unvisible may remain on the surfaces of tools and cause issues with the effectiveness of the disinfection and sterilisation process. 

Methods of sanitation include:

  • hand washing
  • cleaning surfaces with sprays or wipes
  • washing tools in warm, soapy water
  • all varieties of wipes
  • anti-bacterial sprays
  • santiser sprays and gels.

The customer and technician must wash their hands with a liquid soap before starting every service. Additional infection control measures can be used, such as an automated dispenser for soap, hand sanitisers or alcohol-based wipes to make sure you and the customer stay safe.

Hand sanitiser is a good backup for when soap and water are not available. It's important to remember that just because you use it, hand-sanitising gel should never serve as an alternative in place of proper hygiene practices like washing your hands with soap and water.

UK Government legislation state that wipes are only sufficient sanitation if they contain 60% ethyl alcohol. These do not however disinfect or sterilise, and used towels should be washed at a minimum of 60C for best results.


Disinfection is a sufficient level of microorganism control when skin is not cut or broken.  Disinfection is the process or act of destroying pathogenic microorganisms and removes most viruses, spores and fungi present on surfaces. Disinfectants work by destroying the cell wall of microorganisms or interfering with the absorption.  Disinfection does not necessarily kill all microorganisms, especially resistant bacterial spores; it is less effective than sterilisation.

Disinfectants must always be used in line with manufacturers’ instructions. 

Methods of disinfection include hospital grade and approved disinfection solutions such as Barbicide or Mundo. 

In nail and beauty services, all disinfectable surfaces such as metal tools and implements and work surfaces must be disinfected following sanitation procedures.



Sterilisation is a process that eliminates or kills all forms of life, including transmissible agents such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and spore forms. Sterilisation should be performed on metal tools, e.g. scissors, cuticle pushers and cuticle nippers.  

Sterilisation can be achieved by applying chemicals, high pressure, heat, irradiation, and filtration or a combination, which include hospital approved Autoclaves, UV sterilisers and sterilising solutions. These must be bought from reputable manufacturers and not third party retailers as there is no way of being sure of its effectiveness. 

For those who are not already doing so, purchasing single-use items such as nail files can help reduce the risk of cross contamination.  You are making a difference in the lives of your clients by taking steps that will protect their health.  An unfortunate side effect to all this is increased rates, but you will be able put together some wonderful incentives for them.

It is important that we maintain high touch surfaces such as toilets, computer keyboards and chairs. These items have a direct connection with our health by making sure they are clean of germs which can lead to illness or infection!

It is recommended that you identify and record what requires cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation to keep your team safe. Ensure all members of the correct competencies can be successful with their jobs by providing instruction on how it should be done properly!

You can check out our recommended sanitation, disinfection and sterilisation procedures for Katie Barnes Tool Range here.







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