7 Signs You Might Be at a Dirty Nail Salon

Some cautionary tips

Nail salons are a dime a dozen in most cities, so picking the best one can be a little tricky. Though pricing and availability are undoubtedly important, cleanliness is actually king. Here are seven red flags to look out for when considering a new spot.


mani station list
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Their manicure stations are a mess
Aside from the obvious (noticeable dust, used cotton balls, scattered nail clippings), look at where they’re getting their tools. Are they coming directly from an autoclave machine (which looks sort of like a Crock-Pot or conventional oven and is the only method that is 100 percent effective at killing germs) or are they being pulled out of a jar of disinfectant or a UV sterilizer? If it’s the disinfectant, check to see that the solution isn’t cloudy. If it’s the UV “sterilizer,” politely walk out.

Their licenses aren't properly displayed 
The salon itself should have a license of certification up front (near the entrance), along with one for each of the nail technicians who work there. While you’re peeping for creds, make sure that they aren’t expired. If you don’t see their credentials up front, don’t be afraid to ask.

pedi tub list

Their pedicure tubs are questionable
Jet-free bowls are best (because even though they feel nice on your tired feet, Jacuzzi filters trap and circulate dead skin from previous customers--blech). The next best option is to look for salons that use disposable liners in their tubs, which they should swap out after each service.

Their bathrooms are unkempt
It signals that the rest of the space isn’t clean. Floors and countertops should be spotless. And toilet paper and paper towels should be freshly stocked. You wouldn’t eat at a restaurant with a dirty kitchen, right?

nail tools list

Their tools aren't new
Certain tools like nail files, buffers and toe separators should never be reused, as they can’t be completely sterilized. Your technician should unwrap new tools for every customer. The rest--like nail clippers and metal cuticle pushers--should be coming straight out of a sealed pouch (which means they were disinfected in an autoclave).

nail polist list

The polishes are separating
Many salons will dilute old, clumpy bottles of polish with acetone or remover to thin out the lacquer and make it easier to apply. This weakens the formula and makes it more likely to chip faster.

magazine list

Their magazines are raggedy
Think about the number of hands that flip through the pages over the course of a month--or even a week. That’s a lot of shared germs. Tattered, grease-stained pages and out-of-date mags are a clear sign of neglect--which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in their salon maintenance overall.

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...