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Cosmetology Tool Sanitation

Your Guide to Clean, Safe Tools in the Beauty Industry


Maybe you’re the best-of-the-best in your industry when it comes to skills, talent, and creativity. Maybe everyone wants to work with you because you’re as artistic and crafty as beauty professionals come.

Maybe you’re in serious demand.

But if you’re not providing a clean, safe, and sanitized establishment, you can bet that all of those other factors won’t matter a single bit.

Why? Because no one—especially now in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic—is going to want to work with you if you run a dirty, unsafe salon, shop, or company.

Sanitation is hugely important – not just because it’s what keeps you in business and not just because of the coronavirus (although, that’s a pretty huge consideration, too), but because as a beauty provider, it’s on you to take care of your customers.

They rely on you to offer them kickass services and take away the stress of the process—when sanitation and cleanliness isn’t a part of the picture, that isn’t taking good care of your clients.

Not taking the necessary precautions or following the government or state- sanctioned rules for sanitation can result in awful things like lawsuits, fines from the health department, and a blight on your reputation, but more than anything it could put someone’s health and serious risk.

It’s important to remember that this isn’t just about cleaning dirt away from brushes, combs, and styling tools to make them look presentable, you’re disinfecting and sanitizing these tools to get rid of harmful bacteria, fungi, infections, viruses, and microbes that could cause serious damage to your client’s health.

Taking sanitation seriously isn’t just considerate, it’s something you’re legally and morally obligated to do. And though it’s something that’s always been important, it’s more important now than ever as we learn how to navigate running our salons during the coronavirus pandemic.

When it comes to keeping your tools clean and safe, there’s no messing around.


Sanitation Terms You Need to Know to Disinfect Properly

For starters, let’s throw a few key words out here to make sure you understand why sanitation and disinfecting are both such a big deal: microbes, bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses.

All of these gross sounding words are, well, gross sounding, but they’re also just gross and yucky in general. These terms all refer to living creatures that are microscopic and exist everywhere and on all of us. They can make people sick, damage their immune system significantly, and in serious cases, even kill people.

When you’re disinfecting, sanitizing, and cleaning, it’s to get rid of these guys – not just because there’s some dirt on your tools.

Let’s talk about the process of disinfection now. When you disinfect a tool, you’re using an antibacterial substance to destroy those microbes and fungi we talked about earlier. Think things like hydrogen, peroxide, Barbicide, bleach, alcohol, and more.

When you sterilize something, you’re both cleansing and disinfecting a product, so you’re using soap to remove oil, dirt, and other yucky stuff, as well as approved heat treatments or chemical treatments to disinfect, too.

Sterilization is the process for removing or destroying all living organisms and biological agents from an object, whereas sanitizing is like cleansing, will clean and remove oil and dirt from an object.

The most poignant example of why these differences matter so much? The coronavirus pandemic. Because the coronavirus disease spreads through both direct transmission (coughing, talking, sneezing, etc.) and fomite transmission (by touching infected surfaces), it’s now more important than ever to ensure every surface is constantly being sanitized and disinfected to kill those infectious microbes, droplets, aerosols, and virus-spreading germs.


Industry Sanitation Standards: Tips and Tricks

We understand that the industry care standards can seem overwhelming, but we promise if you take the time to learn them, they’re really pretty practical and involve just a little common sense.

We won’t list out all the industry care standards (we’ll link you to that later on), but we will include a few industry care standard tips and tricks we’ve mastered over time that can help immensely with sanitation.

Further, we’ve included a sanitation checklist that we believe you should complete before you open back up after the pandemic is over.

Clean First, Then Disinfect & Sanitize

Remember how we talked about both cleaning and disinfecting being important steps for keeping everything healthy and safe? Now that it’s time to implement those steps, you need to know which comes first.

Disinfectant will only work on a clean item—so, make sure that you’re cleaning your tools with soap, water, and chemical-free cleaners first before you sanitize and disinfect. Don’t skip either of these steps!

Liquid Disinfectant Needs to Be Changed Consistently

Though the standard is usually daily, if your disinfectant solution (you know, where you’re disinfecting your tools) becomes cloudy or has any debris floating in it, you need to change your disinfectant.

Our best advice? Change your disinfectant between every single client to ensure you’re keeping them as safe as possible.

Know Your Contact Times For Each of Your Tools

Every tool, piece of equipment, and surface is different, so know your contact times for each. Contact time is how long a particular tool must be in disinfectant or stay visibly wet with the disinfectant to destroy the pathogens on it.

When it comes to immersions or sprays, the time is typically 10 minutes. Wipes usually require 2-4 minutes.

Check Your Disinfectants—Are They Effective?

Not every disinfectant is created equally, so it’s important that you’re checking the stats on the one you’re using. IS your disinfectant EPA-registered? Is your disinfectant of choice labeled as viricidal? Is it labeled as bactericidal or fungicidal?

Sanitize After Every Use

This one goes without saying, but you absolutely need to sanitize all of your tools after every client. For your combs, brushes, tweezers, clippers, and more, you need to wash them with soap and water, and then totally submerge the in a wet sanitizer for the approved time.

If you wore rubber gloves, a cape, a towel – anything that even potentially touched a client – you need to either dispose of or sanitize right away! Never use a tool on someone that hasn’t been properly sanitized. Store all of your sanitized tools in a dry, sanitary storage container.

Go for Gloves and PPE

This is not required by law (in most states, but it does vary), but it can be a helpful way to show your clients you care about sanitation. Check to see if your client has any latex allergies before use, but if you feel so inclined, use gloves while you work on your clients.

They’ll probably appreciate the extra step toward sanitation and cleanliness, and they’ll certainly take note of your efforts.

Try to Use Single-Use Items Where You Can

While it’s not possible to buy everything as a single-use item (I mean, as nice as it would be to buy a new set of makeup brushes for every client, it’s just not feasible for anyone), there are some items that you can buy that are single-use. This will help with sanitation, cleanliness, and safety.

For example, if you can swing disposable towels, gloves, or neck strips, that might be a great addition to your sanitation checklist.


Must-Complete Sanitation-Savvy Tasks Before You Reopen

We’re speaking about this checklist in terms of the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s important to realize that these tasks are always important. Even in the future when COVID-19 isn’t as dangerous and we’ve figured out a way to cure it, sanitation is going to be just as important!

Why? Because no matter what’s going on in the world, it’s your job to always ensure your customers are kept safe and healthy when they come to your salon

So, sure, think about this checklist in terms of when you open your doors again after the pandemic regulations evaporate—but more seriously, think about these in terms of your everyday routine at your salon.

Get Recertified & Specialized

Keeping up on your sanitation certification is a huge deal! Even if the state you work in doesn’t require you to re-up your cert yearly, we recommend doing so as often as possible. Why? Because practices evolve and change. It’s your job to always be on top of the best ways to sanitize and disinfect properly.

Check out certification courses from big names like Barbicide—they even have a COVID-19 certification course that goes over short-term guidelines for keeping your salon safe.


Government-Sanctioned Rules You Need to Know

While we’re not going to list out every government-sanctioned rule, it’s important to talk about the importance of following them.

You need to make sure that you’re always up to date on the federal government’s requirements and regulations for health and sanitation in order to avoid fines, lawsuits, and damage to your reputation, but more importantly, to protect the clients you work with!

Further, make sure you’re up to date on your state’s regulations as well – these are subject to change, and you need to make sure you’re always up to code!


Remember, sanitation isn’t a static thing—especially in this day in age. Your best bet to stay on top of the best practices for keeping your salon safe and your customers healthy is to consistently check-in with the ever-changing guidelines, renew your certification, and stay informed.

We hope these tips and tricks will help you on your sanitation journey—remember, it’s one that never ends. 

Happy disinfecting!


Cosmetology Tool Sanitation FAQs:

How Often Should You Sanitize Cosmetology Tools?

First and foremost, you should be sanitizing all tools after each time they are used.

Common cosmetology hand tools that should be sanitized after every client include: hair brushes, tweezers, nail clippers, scissors, hair clips, and others that have come in contact during the session. 

You should also be wiping down the electrical equipment, sinks, chairs, and counters with an alcohol-based wipe in between clients to keep your tools and equipment sanitized and safe.

Can You Use Barbicide On Makeup Brushes?        

Barbicide® is one of the most popular cleaners in salons, spas, and of course, barber shops around the world. It is a registered hospital-grade disinfectant for the tools used in cosmetology.

That’s because it’s a wide-spectrum disinfectant as a germicidal (kills germs), fungicidal (kills fungus), virucidal (kills viruses), and pseudomonacidal (kills common bacteria). You can use Barbicide® to clean makeup brushes and hair brushes but you should generally dilute the solution so you don’t harm the bristles.

It is recommended that you follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Is Cosmetology Safety And Sanitation Required By Law?

Absolutely. Cosmetologists are duly licensed professionals that have demonstrated they have the skills and experience to safely deliver their services to the general public, including instituting the proper sanitation techniques to keep tools clean and safe to use.

State boards outline the sanitation techniques required for cosmetologists but state law dictates the liability that exists for professionals offering services to clients.

Diminishing that liability as a cosmetologist means being able to demonstrate the steps taken to prevent a mishap. Cosmetology insurance thus provides protection when liabilities result in a claim event.

Where Can You See How To Sterilize Tools In A Salon?

You’ve come to the right place! As a beauty insurance company, we understand the unique risks faced by these professionals so developed pages like this one with useful information our members can use to better protect themselves and their career.

We’ve outlined here some of the best techniques we’ve found that beauty pros can use to keep their tools sanitized. Sterilization techniques that work include washing tools with warm soap and water, soaking them in a cleaning solution such as Barbicide, and then drying the tools with clean towels.

What’s My State’s Sanitation Rules For Cosmetology?

Your state board will outline the specific sanitation rules pertinent to cosmetologists operating within their state.

Some boards may require specific certification in sanitation and others may just require general knowledge of sanitation procedures in order to obtain licensure and also renew.

Are Sanitation And Disinfection The Same Thing In Cosmetology?

Cleaning is obviously the best way to make sure that the spread of viruses and germs are controlled but an important distinction is that cleaning and disinfecting are two different things. Sanitation is just another word for cleaning.

It means the removal of contamination and/or the debris you can see from the surfaces of objects. This should be done first so that disinfectants can get past this debris and make it in to kill viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

Taking it a step further is sterilization which means the absolute destruction of all microscopic life on the surface of the object. As an example, the autoclave can be used to sterilize nail clippers and files.