Pedicure Dangers

Just say no to fancy pedicure tubs! As you probably know, I have been a nail tech for nearly 20 years (along with lots of other things on the side). I have never, ever been comfortable with pedicures – not performing them, mind you – but with the sanitation process. If you have anything at all but a non-moving bucket of water (very unappealing to the clients), there is no good way to clean them. The nicer and fancier pedicure units are, the harder they are to clean. We do the best we can with the products that are available, but if there is any plumbing at all in the pedicure tubs – any movement of water, any bubbles – it is a breeding ground for bacteria. I saw this article this weekend, and not only is it extremely relevant for those in my MRSA community, but it is very relevant for all of the rest of us beauty-loving people. You need to be aware of this danger:

From Dallas,

Hall is among several women who confirmed to News 8 that after they got pedicures in whirlpool foot spas at Beverly Hills Nails, skin infections broke out on their legs.

Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed there is a complaint against the salon.

Beverly Hills Nails manager Victoria Tran said state regulators came in and took water samples for tests that are not yet back. “But we’re not 100 percent sure that it’s from unsanitary of the whirlpool, or if it’s caused by something that they have done or happened before,” Tran said.

An aggressive bacteria can grow quickly in water if a whirlpool foot spa is not cleaned frequently.

The bug enters the skin through shaving cuts or abrasions. The infection leads to painful lesions that can last for months and leave scars.

Doctors call the drug resistant staph bacteria MRSA—methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.

Let me tell you, as a nail tech, it IS due to the pedicure units. And I am sure that they do everything they can to clean them properly, but it is just not possible, unless you run straight bleach through the pipes, and you know how fast that would clear out your salon (not to mention make everyone sick)? If you remember several years ago, there were similar breakouts in some salons in California. I always suspected it was MRSA, but it was never revealed what bacteria it was. This is an extremely dangerous bacteria that is virtually unknown in the United States, but is becoming more common every day. Just like the old Staph infections, MRSA breeds rampantly in dark moist areas, and can live on surfaces a very long time. Along with the salon, watch out for it at your gym as well. Many athletes get MRSA.

My advice is to not get pedicures in a salon. Truly. Learn to do your own pedicures, or, find a nail tech that will use, as I mentioned earlier, a plain ol’ bowl of water. No plumbing, no whirlpool, no bubbles no moving water. I don’t care how clean you think that salon is, or how clean they insist they are, those pipes are dirty, and the salons can’t help it. Take it from one who has been there from both sides. You do not want to get MRSA.
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    • Sharon

      This news about nail salons and bacteria certainly makes me pause to think before going back! Nail care is very important and I appreciate the warning.

    • tanya

      This is great info. I don’t think I do it as well as the professionals, so I do it myself regularly and then got to the professionals every few months.

    • Christina Jones

      Sharon – I hope it will make you check around to find a nail tech that doesn’t use fancy plumbing. That is a good article on nail care, thanks for letting us know about it!

    • Christina Jones

      Thanks Tanya…I know it is awfully nice to get pedicures, and it is really something that I miss. I did find a spa that did a 30 minute leg and foot massage though, and that was very nice, without the dangers. I hope you will read my pedicure info at Nail Tech Secrets, and maybe pick up on some tips that might help you out a bit more! Please feel free to email or comment if you have any questions, ok?

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    • T. Wright

      I went to the same nail salon in the past 7 mon.
      and I’ve been dealing with these sores on my leg
      for 5 mon. Now I’m seeing a dermatologist about my skin, I mean this is rediculous. I never knew about this, I guess I found out the hard way. Is there anyway to be compensated for this?

      Dat’s Wright

    • Christina Jones

      I’m sorry to hear that – have you been diagnosed with MRSA? So far, to my knowledge, I haven’t seen anyone win an MRSA case yet, but most are brought against hospitals. You will have to contact an attorney if that is the path you wish to take. Good luck to you, and if you do have MRSA, please come join our group at, we have a great support community growing over there. Feel free to email me anytime if I can help!

    • Anonymus

      You must not be that experienced to actually suggest that you disinfect a tub with bleach. Experienced nail techs know that bleach only masks bacteria, you have to use a hospital grade EPA to completely sanitize anything in a nail salon per state law!

    • Christina Jones

      Anonymus (sic),

      20 years and a husband who nearly died from this infection last year. I don’t know how much more experience you are looking for. I am not talking about sanitizing the tub itself, but it is the plumbing that is the problem. Unless you can remove the pipes and clean them thoroughly, no amount of disinfectant is going to get them bacteria-free. Have you seen the insides of your kitchen drain pipes? I hope you are aware of that and don’t open yourself up to problems by using a plumbed pedicure tub any more.

      And, FYI, bleach kills just about every bacteria known. You just can’t use it in a salon because of the dangerous fumes.

      I was awaiting the flack from these pedicure posts, I knew it would come. ;)

    • susanne carney

      My son performed his own surgery for an ingrown toenail, it got infected, we got antibiotics, we thought it was well…….he spent 37 days in the hospital, 9 days on life support and got toxic shock due to mrsa in the bloodstream…….this stuff is deadly

    • Christina Jones

      Yes it is Susanne, thanks for sharing your story. My husbands story is frightenly similar. Thank God they are ok now, they were lucky – many, many more aren’t. I just found an article this morning from a woman who passed away from it, thought to have been acquired from a pedi tub. Scary scary stuff.

    • Steph

      Hmm. Any suggestions for salons that do use normal tubs?

      I live in NYC, if anyone knows of a good place there.

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    • Anthony

      ladys put bleach in your tubs and run thru jets after every client for 10 min. (fill with water and about half cup of bleach my wife is a nail tech and this is what they do.
      Dors any one know what not wearing a mash can do to nail techs i’m trying to get my wife to wear one can someone help me out?

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    • Beth

      I went today to get a pedicure and came home with a cut. At the salon I regularly go to, they use a Dremel-like tool to file down your heels.(After looking at this, I realize that’s a HUGE no-no!) And when she was filing my heel, she cut the side of my foot with the edge of the sandpaper. I didn’t really pay that much attention to it until I was putting lotion on my feet tonight and it stating burning like h*ll!! I washed it really well and slathered antibiotic ointment on it and then covered it. But, now I’m kinda freaked out after seeing this site and a few others! Please tell me what to do to keep from getting a bad infection!! PLEASE, any information or suggestions?!?!

    • Debra

      I would like to know if anyone can help me with how to perform a “waterless pedicure”? I heard about this from a local Spa, and would like to try this myself. It seems like a much cleaner way of performing and receiving a pedicure, but I would like to know if you get the same benefits from hot towels as you would a soak.

    • jenny

      I had a bacteria infection (casued from a pedicure) back in 2000. It took a year and over 40 doctors to determine what I had. This was horrible and very painful!!!!!! I will never have a pedicure or manicure ever AGAIN!!!! I have also spent thousands of dollars on surgury to cover my scars and you can still see them.

      Please know that having cute toes can change your life drastically.

    • Liz

      I watched the Tara banks shoe just flipping through the channels, and It was about beauty disasters. A 23 year old girl had the worst infection the spread to her leggs. It literally ate a hole in her leg!! I havn’t had a pedicure at a salon since! I get most of my supplies at Sally beauty supplies and do my own. Much cheaper, fun and no risk of infection!

    • Cindie

      Glad that a nail technician is TELLING THE TRUTH about pedicures. I never did think it was a good idea, because I never observed the tubs being cleaned out between clients (YUCK!) I have my own foot tub at home that is only used by me, and I clean it out with bleach after each use! MRSA is a very dangerous bacteria….it killed my ex-father-in-law in 1998! Do your own pedicures at home, or take your own foot tub (and implements) to the salon with you.

    • Marla

      I’m glad that I came across this forum. I recently opened a salon and have pedicures offered. I’ve worked in a private salon previous that had a chair with the pipes and whatnot. It was very nice but I agree with what has been said. I myself can’t afford one of the expensive pedi chairs and thank God I didn’t. I’m looking for a way to do it sanitarily. I was looking for a tub but since reading this I’m going the old fashioned way and using a stainless steel bowl that I can sanitize after each client. ( I don’t have many as of yet but want to be prepared)

    • Jeff Billbon

      Let me tell you, I am fighting this MRSA myself. I am a very healthy 35 year old man until about once every couple of months I get a very painful red lump or boil that literally grows until it pops on its own or I stick a razor blade in it. Most painful thing I ever experienced and once I think its gone, there one is in the morning. Anyway, be very careful ladies, this is a very serious deal!

    • Jamie_D

      I work as a manager at an upscale salon/spa where we offer pedicures. I’m not sure you work at exactly, but dallas was mentioned in the article and per the state board requirements you are suppose to circulate a bleach/water solution through the piped for at least a half hour every week, on top of the state approved sanitizer used between clients. I am very aware of MRSA, and am always warning my clients or friends that if you pay less than around $30 for a pedicure, there is no possible way that the shop could be cleaning the pedicure basin properly. Maybe it is that this article is outdated, because the DPS has since taken over the responsibility for cosmetology regulations and are much more strict. We also use an autoclav, this is what ours looks like – If it’s a big metal looking device they call an autoclave, that is just a warmer – and only sanitizes through heat – NOT ENOUGH. The actual autoclave is FDA approved, so if you can eat off it you should definitely be able to do your feet with it. Prestige is actually the brand used in hospitals, just fits less utensils at one time.

      Here are my tips for looking for a up-to-par spa
      1. Look or ask for an autoclave – If they don’t know what one is, run!
      2. If possible watch the client before you, and check if they are using a commercial grade cleaner (ours is pink, looks a little like grapefruit juice)- If it’s just clorox or anything you can purchase without a cosmotology license, say no thanks.
      3. You pay for what you get – If they are not charging enough, there is no possible way to keep up with the cleaning products necessary per client.
      4. Also make sure your utensils come in a sealed bag, that’s a good sign they are using their autoclave.
      5. You can also ask for a pedicure log – As per state requirement, they are suppose to keep a log for EACH pedicure chair. So if you walk into a nail salon with 12 chairs, they should have 12 separate logs. – It should be no problem to ask for this, and it will show exactly how they clean their stations. They are required to keep up with this daily. So if it’s not up to date, that’s a good sign they are not keeping up with regulations.

      ALSO IF YOU HAVE BEEN CONTAMINATED, and know for sure it was due to a salon, I would call the dps and ask what it is you can do, I’m sure if it is not their department they can point you the right way. It might be ten hours before they get to you, but according to some of your complaints, it would be well worth your time. You can also file a sanitation complaint and have someone check their salon, and most likely shut it down or for sure fine them. The fines for not following these procedures are hefty and will cause most nail techs to go out of business. It can be up to $5000 for EACH failure to comply.

      Hope this was helpful!

    • David Anderson

      You are correct that bacteria and fungi left from one person receiving a pedicure can cause an infection in the next person. Trouble is, there is misinformation about proper cleaning and disinfecting. My company manufactures whirlpools for nursing homes and the main reason for cross-contamination is failure to follow proper protocol between baths. For salons such as yours the device, especially if it has a whirlpool feature, should be cleaned, then disinfected. While many think this is the same process, it is not. Disinfectants specifically state that for soiled surfaces a pre-cleaning step is required. Once the surface is clean, the disinfectant needs to be applied then sit wet for 10 minutes. No exceptions. For information on proper cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces check out

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