The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

How to Find a Clean Nail Salon and Avoid Pedicure Foot Infections

Posted by on Friday, May 13th, 2016


As podiatrists, we love pampering our feet as much as you do and find pedicures a great way to unwind. But we’re always cautious about the risk of foot infections, especially since they can escalate so quickly. In worst-case scenarios, a weekend spa trip can turn into a Monday hospital visit, which is anything but relaxing.

pedicure foot infections
Choose your nail salon carefully to avoid infections and keep your feet happy. (Image Credit: Flickr CC user TownePost Network)

One unlucky Arkansas woman visited a day spa on a Friday. Over the weekend, her ankle became sore and red, and by Tuesday, she couldn’t put weight on it. After a trip to the ER, doctors diagnosed her with a cellulitis bacterial infection, and she spent four days in the hospital.

We wouldn’t say NYC spas are rampant with pathogens, but we’ve treated a number of pedicure foot infections. If you regularly visit a nail salon, here’s what you need to know.

Infection Needs a Portal into the Body

Normally, your skin and nails provide a protective barrier against infection. If there aren’t any openings, viral, bacterial, and fungal microbes can’t get inside your body to do damage. So what constitutes an “opening”? We advise patients to hold off on a spa visit if they have:

Our offices might not be as zen-like as your favorite spa, but if you’re concerned about any of these issues, we can address them in a sterile environment – and you can get your next pedicure worry-free.

Find a Clean Spa

Licensed salons and technicians are more likely to meet state-mandated hygiene standards. Look for a state license when you enter the salon. The best salons also:

  • Use new files, buffers, and sticks on each client.
  • Disinfect clippers and other tools with a pressurized steam “autoclaving” process.
  • Cleanse foot basins with hospital-grade, EPA-approved disinfectant or UV light sterilization.
  • Use foot files or pumice stones, rather than razors or callus cutters, which are not safe.
  • Offer jet-less foot baths, or glass or metal bowls, rather than jacuzzi baths that can harbor bacteria.

For maximum cleanliness, we recommend going earlier in the day when foot baths are usually at their cleanest – before multiple customers have come through.

Avoid Certain Practices During Your Pedicure

First, don’t let anyone cut your cuticles. While it’s a common practice, cuticles are there for a reason – to protect your nail beds from infection. It’s also easy to accidentally nick the soft, delicate skin in this area, allowing harmful microbes to enter your body. Even pushing the cuticle with a wooden stick can be enough to injure your protective barrier. Pedicurists should also cut your nails straight across and leave the nails above the corner of the toe, so the nail doesn’t dig in as it grows out. Skip trendy salons offering fish pedicures, as these setups cannot ever be adequately disinfected.

Take Extra Precautions if You’re a High-Risk Candidate For Foot Infections

As The Washington Post points out, certain high-risk individuals should always see a podiatrist for foot needs. “These people include anyone with immune problems or poor circulation, such as people undergoing chemotherapy or with heart trouble or diabetes,” states the newspaper, adding that”people older than 65 are also more susceptible to infection, since the immune system declines with age.” These groups should all see podiatrists for their foot care. Some of our patients come in just for regular nail trimmings and callus removals – and we’re happy to help! Our NYC foot care specialists are here for needs big and small. Contact us for an appointment.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.