Are Those Pedicure Tools Really Sterile?

Pedicure season has well and truly started, and with it comes the influx of new clients who are presenting with un slightly fungal infections in their toes after a dodgy pedicure last summer at a cheap nail spa.


As a Podiatrist I often hear the comment – “But I was sure it was safe, as the tools came out in a new bag stamped – clean instruments –  and they said they sterilised them”


Unfortunately, the beauty industry is completely unregulated when it comes to proper infection control and standards. This means most spa’s lack the equipment, knowledge and motivation to make sure adequate safe guards are put in place to prevent cross infection during their services.


There are different types of sterilisers on the market, and different grades – with different levels of effectiveness.


The most common steriliser at a cheap nail spa looks like this….

These cost roughly $245


These sterilisers use UV light to sanitise instruments, and although they kill some microbes, they can not guarantee full sterilisation – especially from any blood bourne diseases and not all strains of fungal infections.


The National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Guidelines state:


Sterilisation destroys all microorganisms on the surface of an instrument or device, to prevent disease transmission associated with the use of that item.


  • Reprocessing of heat resistant items is recommended by steam sterilisation due to the safety margin, reliability, validity and lethality.


An example of this is a Mocom S Classic Series (This is what we use). Prices for these sterilisers start at approximately $6500.

Before going into a steriliser all tools should be wash and cleaned adequately. The best standard for this is by using an UltraSonic Cleaner with Clinident, which uses vibrations to shake and clean any debris from the tools. If this is not being used they must be scrubbed in a sink, using a steel brush and Clinident instrument cleaner.


I know what steriliser I would prefer to be trusting when having my Manicure + Pedicure.


Quick Check List to know if your Nail Bar is using the right steriliser –


  1. Ask to see the Steriliser
  2. Ask to see how the instruments are cleaned and packed
  3. Check the “Clean Instrument Packet”  – there are indicator makers that will change colour when correct sterilisation has been achieved. Most commonly blue to brown.
  4. Double check that all disposable tools  – nail files, buffer blocks, pedicure paddles, and cuticle sticks are new when used on you. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to take the nail file home with you. It can’t be used again