Hair Salon Sanitation Guidelines

A hair stylist's tool belt
Photo: Shutterstock
Q: When I get my hair cut I’m always worried that I might get some disease because the same scissors and combs are used on several salon clients. Do hairdressers disinfect their tools and how are the tools disinfected in hair salons?
A: Yes. Actually hairdressers and salons have very strict guidelines that they must follow to maintain their licensure to operate. These guidelines are all about sanitation and cleanliness in the operations they run.
In my home state, Georgia (U.S.A.) the rules on sanitation practices for multi-use items for use on more than one client are:
“After cleaning, all tools, implements and equipment must be disinfected by complete saturation or immersion (enough solution to cover all surfaces of the item) for 10 minutes in an EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant that is bactericidal, viruscidal, fungicidal, and pseudomonacidal. The disinfecting solution must be changed daily and/or prepared according to manufacturer’s directions.
“All tools, implements, or equipment that come in contact with blood or body fluids must be disinfected by complete immersion for a minimum of 10 minutes in an EPA-registered disinfectant that is effective against HIV-1 and Human Hepatitis B Virus, or tuberculocidal that is prepared and used according to the manufacturer’s directions. Autoclave is an acceptable method of sterilization.
“All disinfected tools and implements shall be stored in a sanitary manner in a covered container. The container must be labeled to show that it contains disinfected tools and implements.
“Soiled and dirty tools and implements must be stored in a separate and properly labeled covered container. Soiled and dirty tools and implements shall not be used again until properly cleaned and disinfected according to the procedures stated in this rule.
“Hand washing is required before and between providing services to each client. An anti-bacterial soap is recommended to sanitize the hands and the exposed portions of arms before providing services and after smoking, drinking, eating, and using restrooms.”

You are always within your rights to demand that a stylist clean any utensil before using it on your person. Linens and towels should always be freshly laundered and never reused between clients. Even the haircut cape should never be placed directly against a client’s skin without a protective barrier – either a paper strip, or a salon towel folded and draped around the neck, with the cape placed over that.
If you go to a salon and feel that they are not following sanitation guidelines, you can contact your state’s board of cosmetology and register a complaint which the board will investigate (usually by sending an investigator undercover) to check whether the condition was an isolated occurrence or a genuine laxity in the sanitation protocols. Remember the board is there not only to serve the professionals, but to serve the protection of the public.
See also:
Can contaminated scissors or shavers cause fungal infections?
Hairdressing industry and dermatitis
Occupational diseases among hairdressers