Relaxing Pedicure without the bacteria!

We all love to get a good pedicure when we can, but there are some things you should know before you make your next appointment. I ‘m very choosy about where I will get a pedicure, and that’s probably why I end up doing them myself.

At first, it was because I am a cosmetologist and I know the proper procedures for a basic pedicure.

I’d leave unhappy most of the time because I knew they were taking shortcuts or that it was completely unnecessary for my cuticles to be bleeding.

Who wants to pay $40 for a halfway pedicure and sensitive cuticles for a week? I certainly don’t, and I definitely don’t want to end up with mycobacterial skin sores on my legs!

As if that wasn’t enough to keep me away from nail salons I learned even more about public pedicure stations. They are some one the most unsanitary places in salons even though we think they are being cleaned properly. To the eyes of the general public, sure it looks clean. They spray and wipe in-between clients and that’s enough for some people. For me it’s definitely not enough…sometimes knowing too much is a good thing!

Mycobacterial Skin Sores

I used to work for a spa that was very strict with their sanitation procedures and now I understand why.

Spraying down a jetted pedicure tub is only the beginning of the sanitation process. Sure, nail technicians are supposed to check for infections before proceeding with a service, but do they turn every questionable client down? Probably not.

We hope they do because it’s for the health and safety of the following clients but you really never know. Some of the worst infections are invisible to the naked eye and nail techs are not thoroughly trained on all conditions.

Of course, we know a few signs but we can’t assume that every funny looking toe is an infectious disease. It’s hard to tell a client that you can’t continue with their pedicure, especially if you’re not even sure if what they have is contagious.

For the most part, the safest way to get a pedicure is at a salon or spa that uses large bowls for the pedicure rather than a jetted pedicure chair. I know, it doesn’t seem as pampering but that chair could be your worst nightmare. I’ll tell you why….

The proper way to sanitize a jetted pedicure tub takes AT LEAST 5 minutes, 10 if you want to be more than sure that it’s clean. I know you’ve all been to those little nail chop shops…it’s one client right after the other. They do a quick wipe down and immediately refill the foot bath.

Spraying the inside is necessary but it only cleans the tub walls. The tub must be refilled with hot water and a cap full or two of bleach, then the jets need to cycle the hot bleach water through the pipes for long enough to properly sanitize the entire system. Have you ever seen that before your pedicure service? Some of you may have, but not many. My spa gave us time to properly sanitize between each client and it wasn’t a 30 second deal. I’m not even going to get into proper sanitation of implements right now!

I’m sure you’re thinking no biggie, I never hear about people having issues. It happens all the time and it can be a lot worse than a little fungus.

Lets say they nip someones cuticle too close and it bleeds

(It happens more often than not!).

We all know that it will bleed a lot and it takes a while for the bleeding to subside. Now, lets say that person had a disease of the blood or a bacterial infection. Their bodily fluids have contaminated the jet system and all of the nail techs implements.

Flesh-Eating Bacteria

That’s pretty gross and I’m not willing to risk it. I don’t know the probability that the next person will be infected, but I’ve heard of much more bizarre things happening in this world.

Aside from worrying about bodily fluids, there are so many other things that you can pick up from getting a pedicure. I heard a story on Oprah a few years ago about a young girl that got a pedicure and now she won’t even show her legs because of what she caught from the salon. I couldn’t find the video of the episode online but hopefully everyone will want to google it after reading this!

I’m not sure exactly what she caught, but now her legs are covered in what looks like craters from a flesh eating bacteria.

Yes, it’s possible.

Just because you didn’t travel overseas doesn’t mean someone else didn’t, and pick up something. These things are real and it’s important to protect yourself. Here are a few things to look out for before your pedicure service:

  • If the place doesn’t even look clean when you walk it, just leave!
  • Look for porcelain foot baths, and beware of rubber soaking tubs!
  • Does the nail tech was his/her hands after performing a service and before yours?
  • Are jetted foot baths only being sprayed… ?!?!
  • Are implements being thoroughly sanitized, or only dipped in barbicide?
  • Be weary of sanitizing UV microwaves, the tools must still be properly washed and sanitized before placing them in the light sanitizing device. In my opinion, a light does not properly clean an infected implement, good old fashioned procedures are best!
  • Always remember…if you have any broken skin, don’t get a pedicure until it is healed!

I hope this information makes you think more about where you go to get your next pedicure. Or maybe even do it yourself, it does save a lot of money! If you notice that a salon or spa isn’t using the proper sanitation procedures don’t be afraid to speak up! They are the ones taking shortcuts and not doing their job properly.
You are paying for a quality service and your health is much more important that being afraid to say something. I’ve been looked at like I’m being a huge you know what but I’ve also been thanked by other clients for saying something. Most people don’t have the information and you may be helping others as well as yourself!

For help on how to do your own pedicure at home you can refer to Mani’s & Pedi’s at Home!

If you’re still not convinced….check out this video!

About The Author


Professional Hairstylist | American Board Certified Haircolorist | Makeup Artist | Beauty Blogger

17 Responses to The Truth About Pedicures

  1. I will be going into a salon suite type of set up soon and I will be doing the pedicure bowl instead of the whirlpool spa. The size of the room is small, which would be better suited for a lounge chair and pedi bowl type of set up anyway, but even if it were not I have reconsidered my stance on whirlpool bowls for sure with all the recent foot health concerns.

    Thanks for the article, it just confirmed what I was thinking.

    • Erika says:

      Thanks for your comment! It is possible to use whirlpool spas for pedicures safely, but most salons/nail shops just don’t follow sanitation protocol properly(mostly because it takes at least 15-20 minutes after each service). Personally, I don’t feel any less satisfied with my pedicure experience with a bowl rather than a whirlpool spa!

      Thanks for reading!

      • The Traveling Pedicurist says:

        I have a new found appreciation for pedicure bowls. As a mobile pedicurist my clients have never made reference to me that they felt like the bowl was less pleasurable than the whirlpool spa. Matter of fact they truly enjoy their pedicures even more. It give them more confidence that they are receiving a more healthy and clean Pedi.


        • Erika says:

          Thanks for your comment! In my opinion, the whirlpool spas give “emotional satisfaction”….it’s the illusion that you’re being pampered because the mind relates the feeling from the jets/sitting in massage chair with pleasure. I am just as satisfied with a regular bowl pedicure….and I’m not worrying the whole time about sanitation!

          Personally, I do not like those chairs. Aside from sanitation worries….I always have to turn the massage function off because there are too many buttons and I can’t get them to just do something normal and light. It’s frustrating, so I just turn it off(plus-those chairs make me itch).

  2. […] That’s no excuse for skipping steps, especially when it comes to your health and safety. I’ll never forget the teenage girl that I saw on Oprah one afternoon….her legs had been eaten away by a flesh-eating bacteria that she caught from getting a pedicure. It spreads quickly, and you won’t be able to tell that your at risk unless you know what to look for when you get a pedicure. Click here for more about her story and others that have had nightmare pedicures. […]

  3. […] Pipe-less pedicures check out this great blog post from confessions of a cosmetologist :  Click HERE to […]

  4. j says:

    I just started working for a salon as a cosmetologist and didn’t agree with their way of sanitizing which is rinse the tub,spray alcohol wipe it out that’s it! Than they scrub foot file n toe file with soap n water n re-use them!! Also for waxing eye brow they dubble dip the stick n they do not santize eye brows first but they make everything look very clean! Don’t ever be afraid to ask how they santize n watch them do it! I deff will be finding out these answers at every salon Iapply at from now on!

    • Erika says:

      I’ve only worked at one salon that double dipped the wax stick….I was cringing! Salons that do that are just cutting corners to lower expenses. I think it looks unprofessional and most clients do notice that sort of thing. Cleaning the brow area before waxing is beneficial to the client…it lowers the chance of a post-wax breakout!

      About the pedicure sanitation….

      My salon re-used the foot files, but we had plenty of them and they were high quality. After each pedicure the tools went in our sink, then we scrubbed them with a nail brush/dawn/hot water. After that we soaked them in barbicide, rinsed, and dried them.

      If your salon has jetted tubs then they should be running a quick water cycle in-between clients with bleach to sanitize the jets.

  5. Thacharya Lucero says:

    I am a Master Aesthetician, & literally everything said in this post is absolutely true, & people have no idea usually until it’s too late unfortunately. I would like to add however, that jetted spa tubs need to be sprayed down with a medical grade disinfectant (such as Barbicide) but also MUST be filled with hot water and also the same Medical Grade Disinfectant, NOT BLEACH. the reason being is that only Medical Grade Disinfectants are designed to be anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, & anti-viral, bleach is not…it used to drive me nuts when a spa I would be working in would use bleach to clean their pedi thrones, bleach is better than nothing, but not an OSHA approved disinfectant, that’s why cosmetology/esthetic schools cannot use it to clean their pedi thrones or other tools and implements….

  6. learn more about the recovery act says:

    Generally I do not learn post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, quite great article.

  7. Candace says:

    Wow! Thanks for the info! This is very scary. Do you recommend any good products for doing your own pedis? Thanks.

    • Erika says:

      Of course! I should probably do a follow up post on this but in the meantime you can click here to see what I like to use from amazon.

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