Spa sanitation is a critical issue that continuously needs to be discussed. The simplest way to review techniques is to go back to the basics: Cleaning, drying and disinfecting are the first steps in proper sanitation of all areas of the spa. The most basic of all principles is that every employee on the staff must wash his or her hands frequently with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, being sure to scrub all areas, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry. The general cleansing ingredients found in soap and antibacterial hand soap will remove most bacteria from your hands.
General cleaning of the facility is a basic necessity. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, so make it a clean one. The front door should be washed frequently and should be free from fingerprints. The reception area should be neat and free from dust. The reception desk should be neat and professional with no cigarettes or ashtrays, and no unnecessary items. The telephone is the one item that breeds germs and should be cleaned frequently. The magazines should be neatly stacked or placed orderly in a rack; old issues or torn magazines should be discarded. Display racks or shelving should be free from dust and fingerprints. The pictures on the wall should be straight and free from dust; the walls and ceiling should have a clean appearance with no scratches, scrapes, or peeling, and should be free from cobwebs and dust webs.
For general cleaning use a natural antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal product that kills germs like MRSA, Influenza A (H1N1), Staph, Salmonella, and E. Coli on contact. You want a product that contains no caustic chemicals that would irritate the skin or omit an offensive smell. This product can be used to kill germs in many areas of the spa, especially on frequently used public items like telephones and doorknobs, which never seem to be addressed and are the most active carriers of germs.
Other adequate disinfectants are isopropyl alcohol (70 – 90 percent solution), ethyl alcohol (70 – 90 percent solution), Clorox solution, and white vinegar. Each has its positive and negative qualities. Spray bottles containing disinfectants must be freshly prepared everyday. Keep a logbook to record the freshness. Candace Griesel, Proprietor of La Bella Vita Studio, a quaint little spa in New Hope, Pa., tries to stay “Green” in her spa and disinfects with white vinegar. Candace says, “Dilute and wipe all surfaces with white vinegar. It is a natural product that leaves a clean scent and no film.” She also uses a medical grade disinfectant to disinfect all of her stainless steel implements and places them under a UV light after washing the implements.
Another important area of the spa that must frequently be monitored for its cleanliness is the bathroom. Clients want to walk into a clean, sanitary bathroom. Clients are the biggest culprits in contaminating bathrooms by leaving the vanity wet or paper towels and toilet tissue dragging on the floor. A spa staff member should frequently inspect and tidy the bathroom. At the end of each day the bathroom should be cleaned and sanitized.
Floors should be kept clean and free of hair, paper, and debris throughout the day. In the evening, the floors, including the corners, should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. A bi-monthly deep cleaning or waxing is also recommended. The spa should record these scheduled cleanings. Dust and dry-mop all walls and ceilings at least once a week, but check daily for uninvited guests, such as spiders building a home. Ingredients for disaster are dark and damp environments; this could mean the heating and cooling units. These units should be serviced, and the filters must be changed on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly, as well as the heating and cooling vents. The vents could harbor bacteria, mold, and fungus, which could cause respiratory ailments.
Make sure to clean and sanitize your washing machine and dryer, as well as keep your refrigerator clean and free of spoiled food. Wipe appliances with a disinfectant. You may want to consider a filtered water system for your spa or salon, which could prevent the build up of minerals on showerheads and drains. All spa piping and drainage pipes in wet areas should be cleaned monthly, and all drains should always be free from collected hair and debris.
Pat Plover, owner of Serendipity Spa and Wellness Center, Souderton, Pa. writes: “ ‘Your spa is always so clean’ is one of the nicest compliments I receive from clients. It reinforces to me as the owner that offering a comfortable and clean environment where clients can enjoy their spa services is just as important as the services we provide.” When providing services such as massage, skin care, and nail services, Plover believes it is critical that good sanitation procedures are always followed. She adds: “Businesses always look for the niche that makes them stand apart from the others and here at Serendipity Spa & Wellness Center we feel that we achieved that distinction. From the moment
you enter our doors you see a very clean and comfortable welcoming environment that puts new and existing clients at ease.” Plover feels the old adage “You only get one chance to make a first impression” is more important than ever! She is confident that a good first impression may also turn into a returning client. She states: “A clean and sanitary environment is not just a good idea, it is critical to your success!”
Individual staff members need to take pride in their facial and massage cabins, nail and hair areas, and other treatment rooms for waxing and wraps. After each treatment all hard surfaces should be wiped clean with a disinfectant. Clean, disinfect, and store tools and implements in a clean, dry storage container or cabinet. Sheets and towels should be changed. Let each client feel that they are the first client of the day.
Pedicure units and chairs should be cleaned and disinfected after every service. In some states it is required to keep a journal of proper cleaning and dates of service. All motorized and pipeless jets need to be deep cleaned by filling the basin with warm water, including a half cup Clorox and one application of antibacterial dish detergent. Run jets for 20 minutes, then drain. Fill unit again with warm water and run jets for 10 minutes to rinse. Drain, wipe dry, and spray with a disinfectant. Nail care tools
that cannot be sterilized, including nail files, porous buffing stones, and toe separators should be disposed of or given to the individual client to take home.
All implements must be properly disposed of or sterilized. Wash all implements in warm water with an antibacterial soap, rinse, and air dry.
Use an EPA-medical grade disinfectant with bacterial, fungicidal, and virucidal properties. Ultraviolet light cabinets are not suitable replacement for liquid disinfectant solutions. These can be used for storage after properly cleaning and disinfecting. Wet sanitizers like Barbicide should be changed daily. You should replace the bulbs on a dry sanitizer according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
After each treatment the hot wax container or pot should be cleaned, and the surrounding tabletop should be sterilized. Dispose of applicators and waxing material.
If you own a spa that launders your own linens, including sheets and towels, take special care not to overload the washing machine. Your sheets should be free of stains, tears, and offensive smells. If the sheets smell rancid, then you need to change your massage oil. Choose a water-soluble oil. This type of oil washes clean from sheets and towels. Be aware that sheets coated with oil could ignite a dryer fire. Sheets should be neatly folded and stacked in an enclosed shelf, or in a cabinet, and not open on a shelf to collect dust. Sheets rolled in a ball are unacceptable. Blankets, duvets, comforters, bolsters, and pillows should have a washable cover or should be laundered after each client if they come in direct contact with the client.
The most controversy about cleaning occurs with massage stones in spas. Massage stones are valuable tools used by massage therapists, aestheticians, reflexologists, and nail technicians. With more than 13 years of experience teaching seminars in many modalities for stone therapies, we recommend washing the stones after each use in hot water with an antibacterial dish detergent. They should then be rinsed, air-dried, and sprayed with a disinfectant like alcohol. The water in the massage stone heater should be changed after each use and the water reservoir should be washed with soap and water, rinsed, and sprayed with disinfectant as well. The mat or towel that is at the bottom of the water reservoir in the heater must be replaced with a clean one.
Cleaning of the stones and heater is made easier by using the proper lubricant. You should not use a cream, lotion, gel, or heavy oil like jojoba. While these products are great to massage with, they are too heavy for stone massage and tend to stick to the stones and heater surface. They are difficult to remove, even with scrubbing, and aid in harboring bacteria. The therapist should use light oil that is water-soluble, that will wash off stones and heaters easily without scrubbing.
Many therapists think that if they do not put the stones back in the water, they do not have to change the water each time. This is not the best practice. Each time you reach your hand into the water you contaminate it. In addition, water grows bacteria even when it is still. As a result, the water in the heater must be changed after each treatment.
Joanne Graves, owner of My Sanctuary Spa and Salon in Wilmington, Del. says, “Sanitation is vital. Your clients trust you to provide them with a safe, clean, environment.” To support her statement, after each client Graves requires her nail technicians to dispose of all nail files, wipe the pedicure chair, and thoroughly sanitize the pedicure basin. She further states, “I am not confident sponges can be completely sanitized so we send them home with each client.” As for her floors, she requires her massage therapists and aestheticians to spray the floor with Isopropyl Alcohol 70 percent and Swiffer mop them to kill any possible germs that could be transferred from bare feet.
After a review of your spa, would it pass the “white glove” test? A clean, healthy, sanitized spa is as important as the services you offer.
Lynne Zsido owns and operates Park Avenue Salon and Spa in Hershey, Pa.. Lynne has extensive experience in innovative product and treatment design, incorporating “green” initiatives in her work. With over 25 years in the Day Spa, Resort Spa industry, Lynne’s work has been seen in one of Americas top theme resort spas, “The Spa at the Hotel Hershey.” She understands the importance of educating men and women on the benefits of cutting edge treatments. Her artistic flare makes Lynne a perfect spa owner.
Pat Mayrhofer is president and founder of Nature’s Stones Inc., an international massage-stone, education and supply company. She is a massage therapist with more than 15 years of experience, having taught for 13 of those years in Italy, Austria, the Dominican Republic, and the U.S. Mayrhofer and her staff have created a comprehensive series of live, hands-on training programs, educational DVDs available for distance learning and a line of associated stone and textile products. For more information, visit