Last night a friend came over to visit my husband who is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. She’s usually the bubbly personality type, so I was shocked when she hobbled into my living room and plopped down on my leather sofa.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked.

“Pedicure disaster,” she replied. “Bacterial infection.”

While I sympathize with my friend’s medical condition, I wasn’t shocked by her news. We’ve all heard the horror stories. I won’t rehash the fact that nail salons are perfect breeding grounds for bacterial infections, nail fungus, plantar warts, and hepatitis.  The tiny nicks that may result from a mani/pedicure, expose you and the salon implements to viruses and infections.

Below are my three steps to a safer pedicure.       

    1.      Take your own tools.

The technician may not like it, but if she wants your business she’ll use your tools.  Don’t compromise. It’s impossible to know if a salon’s communal tools were “properly” sterilized in an autoclave. Clean your tools with hydrogen peroxide in between visits. Throw away emery boards after every use.  

2.      Avoid whirlpool footbaths.

Who knew that pampering your feet in warm, luxurious bubbles could create disaster!  But bacteria thrive in the bath’s connective pipes.  Even more frightening, motorize baths often refilter the water. In other words, you could wash my feet, your feet, Jack’s feet, and Jill’s feet in the same water. Disgusting! It just takes one contaminated foot to infect everyone.

            A few salons are now using portable footbaths to avoid the pipe issues. While this is the best option, there’s still a risk if the baths aren’t cleaned and sanitized properly. So bring along a disposable tub liner.  

3.      Technique is everything.

If the technician doesn’t know what she/he is doing, nothing will protect your precious toes and fingers.  Make sure the tech cuts your nails straight across instead of at an angle. This prevents ingrown nails.  And never, never, never--let me say it again-NEVER allow a tech to exfoliate dead skin with a razor.  The moment you see a razor I suggest you get up and leave.  

By following my handy tips you lessen your chances of contracting infections. A great place to buy a pedicure kit is the store Ultra. Or search the internet. You’ll need clippers, cuticle cutters, toe separators, nail brush, cuticle pushers and nippers, orange stick, pumice stone, file and a buffer.  

Watch your step at the salon. After all, like Forest Gump says, you never know what you’re going to get.  

Do you have any tips or mani/pedicure stories to share?


  1. Nightingale // August 9, 2011 at 11:06 AM  

    What a horror story! Makes me rethink my plan to start getting regular pedicures.

  2. Pamela Varnado // August 9, 2011 at 3:12 PM  

    I stop getting my nails done when I noticed that none of the techs in the salon I went to had professional manicures. It's scary that they don't use their own services.

  3. Tamara LeBlanc // August 9, 2011 at 3:47 PM  

    I knew most of those things, but had no idea some salons recycle their foot bath water *o*
    That's horribly, terribly, unbelievably DISGUSTING.
    I guess I'm feet look like they belong on Sasquatch's body right now. Haven't gotten a pedi in months, but I'll be sure to remember your rules.
    I'm gonna Tweet this!
    Thanks Pamela.

  4. Debbie Kaufman // August 9, 2011 at 4:24 PM  

    Mass pedicure places scare me for all these reasons! Great advice. I suspect more disease is transferred there than we know.

  5. Pamela Varnado // August 9, 2011 at 4:45 PM  

    Scary stuff. Just looking at my friend's toes convinced me to pick my salon wisely.

  6. Pamela Varnado // August 9, 2011 at 4:47 PM  

    If you can catch a staph infection in a sterile environment like a hospital just imagine what's floating around a salon.

  7. Mona Risk // August 9, 2011 at 5:34 PM  

    Pam, good luck to your husband.

    You are telling my story, a two-year old story that's not finished yet. I used to have regular pedicures every couple of months and noticed that my big toe turned green then black on the side. Didn't pay much attention since it didn't show under the nail polish. Bad, bad.

    When I finally went to a podiatrist he diagnosed a bad case of fungus that we've been treating for two years. I gave up on the podiatrist and went to a dermatologue. I lost almost all of the nail and it's spreading to the other toes. Needless to say, I completely stopped pedicure and manicure, and have the worst nails in town, short, sliced, and so dry.

  8. Pamela Varnado // August 9, 2011 at 5:43 PM  

    Mona, infections are real nasty things. And they're not always easy to detect until they've evolved into something big. I'm glad you stopped getting pedicures and I'm praying your feet heal and the infection stops spreading.

  9. Scarlet Pumpernickel // August 9, 2011 at 10:59 PM  

    I try to be very selective about where I get pedicures. My daughter warned me the first time I had one done not to let them use the razor. The place I go is reasonably clean and they disinfect between clients.Still, I can't help but worry. Hope Joe will soon be feeling better.

  10. Hildie McQueen // August 9, 2011 at 11:46 PM  

    I am a regular at my salon, I watch the clean the bowls after each client, they sanitize their equipment and use fresh 'clean' towels. I have been in salons that were not clean and never returned. Good points!

  11. Mary Marvella // August 9, 2011 at 11:56 PM  

    Wow, Pam! Yerk! Hug Joe for me. Hope all goes well!

  12. Mary Marvella // August 9, 2011 at 11:56 PM  

    Wow, Pam! Yerk! Hug Joe for me. Hope all goes well!

  13. Judy // August 10, 2011 at 8:16 AM  

    Awful story, Pam! I'm very careful about who I go to for nail services. If you don't see the techs washing out the whirlpool baths and getting clean utensils ... get out of there!

  14. Pamela Varnado // August 10, 2011 at 1:39 PM  

    Just the idea of someone taking a razor to my feet sounds dangerous. I'll never understood why some salons do this. My feet are not brillo pads.

  15. Pamela Varnado // August 10, 2011 at 1:41 PM  

    Hildia, props to you for at least watching to see that everything is done properly. Most clients just sit back and go with the flow. I've learned the hard way never to do that. I even question my doctor. Blind trust will get you killed these days.

  16. Pamela Varnado // August 10, 2011 at 1:42 PM  

    Mary, I'll let Joe know you're thinking of him. That'll cheer him right up!!!

  17. Pamela Varnado // August 10, 2011 at 1:44 PM  

    Judy,after seeing my friend's foot, I'll choose a nail salon like I do a doctor. Very carefully.

  18. Josie // August 17, 2011 at 12:42 PM  

    First, what a frightening story for your friend. I hope she's recovering well.
    I have a mani/pedi money-saving hint.

    Ask for a toe polish, instead of the full manicure. It's usually about $10.00 rather than $30.00. For another $5.00, you can usually get a manicure, also, if you ask for a "polish".