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What is Covid-19?

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. It originates from China and has spread around the world, including all the United States.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Some people who are infected will not show any signs. Those who are sick with COVID-19 disease may have high fever, cough, shortness of of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell.

How does it spread?

  • Infected people can spread the virus even if they show no symptoms.

  • The chance of spread is higher when people are in close contact with one another. 

  • The virus spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.

  • The virus can stay suspended in the air for hours.

  • The virus can live on surfaces for several days. 

  • Person can become infected by touching mouth, nose, or eyes after contact with surface contaminated by the virus.


Who is most at-risk for COVID-19 disease?

  • Everyone is at risk of COVID-19 but 

  • Older adults and those with medical conditions listed below are at highest risk of developing severe illness and should be especially careful 

    • Lung, heart, kidney, and liver diseases

    • Obesity

    • Diabetes

    • Weak immune system (e.g. by cancer treatment, organ transplant, HIV)


Hierarchy of Controls to Prevent COVID-19

The hierarchy of controls is a safety approach that is used by environmental and safety professionals to recommend measures to prevent and control hazards in the environment or workplace, from most to least effective. The same hierarchy can be applied to control for COVID-19.

In this hierarchy, control methods at the top are more effective and protective than ones at the bottom.  The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last resort.  In the case of COVID-19,  it is best if we can eliminate the virus but we currently do not have the vaccine for COVID-19 so elimination is not an option.  We also cannot substitute the virus in the same way that we could with replacing toxic chemicals with safer alternatives.  The next best control methods are to change the way we work through administrative controls and create engineering solutions to separate the COVID-19 virus from people as much as possible.  Lastly, PPE should be used to further protect people from the virus.  In the workplace, we can create policies to reduce the spread of the virus such as having people from from home, encouraging sick employees to stay home, creating physical distancing, and requiring people to wear face masks.  A combination of control measures along this spectrum are used to create a comprehensive COVID-19 protection plan below.

COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan for Nail Salons


The U.S. labor laws requires that employers (owners) are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace.


The  Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) recommends that each salon has a written COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan that  outlines policies and measures that the salon will implement to ensure the safety of the employees and clients. In addition to the recommendations related to COVID-19, salons should continue follow your state board of cosmetology rules for safety and sanitation, and any guidance from your local or state board of health or health department (see our reopening by state page for state-specific requirements) .


The COVID-19 best practices on this website is a compilation of guidance from the CDC for nail salon employers and employees, guidance from the State of Minnesota for personal care services (it is featured here because it is one of the most comprehensive that we have reviewed), and guidance the American Industrial Hygiene Association (a  highly respectable professional organization of environmental and occupational health professionals).  Each state will publish their own guidance that may have more or less recommendations than what is listed here. Salon owners should check their state's reopening requirements and guidance (see our Reopening by state page) to make sure that you meet your state's minimum requirements.  If possible, salon owners are encouraged to implement as many best practices as possible to ensure the best protection for your employees and clients.

The safe re-opening COVID-19 best practices covers 12 key areas where salons should have procedures in place:

1.  Ensure sick employees stay home;

2. Maintaining physical distancing

3. Worker hygiene and personal protective equipment

4. Workplace building and ventilation;

5. Workplace cleaning and disinfecting; 

6. Drop-off and deliveries practices;

7. Communications and training workers;
8. What clients can do to minimize transmission;

9. Receiving and exchanging payment with clients;

10. Managing salon's occupancy with clients;

11.  Limit face-to-face interactions with clients; and

12. Create physical distancing and barriers between workers and clients.

Here, we will highlight some important recommendations under each categories.  Be sure to download the COVID-19 Preparedness Plan for more details and use it in your salon.  

1.   Ensure sick employees stay home

  • Use the screening questionnaire and temperature check to identify sick employees prior to starting their work day.​

  • If an employee experiences symptoms of COVID-19 or tests positive for COVID-19 or is caring for a household member who is a confirmed COVID-19 case, the employee must stay home and self-isolate following the CDC guidance about when you can safely be around others or return to work.  

  • If there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 that has visited the salon (e.g., a client or an employee), salon owner/manager must:

  • Encourage employees to stay home when they are sick or are caring for a family member with COVID-19.​

  • If possible,owners/managers should maintain the privacy of workers who are ill while informing other co-workers of possible exposure to COVID-19.

  • Evaluate and adjust sick leave policies to reflect the need for isolation and incentivize workers who are sick to stay home.

  • Offer flexible work schedules to accommodate employees with underlying medical conditions.

  • Clearly communicate sick leave policies to all workers.

2. Maintaining physical distancing 

       Workers must be at least 6 feet apart

  • Ensure manicure tables and pedicure stations are at least 6 feet apart. Or tables/pedicure are not movable, skip tables to ensure physical distancing between work stations.

  • Operate salon at occupancy required by your state to ensure physical distancing (this requirement may vary by state)

  • Avoid crowding and ensure 6’ distancing between workers and clients in hallways, cleaning/preparation areas, kitchen areas, restroom, general area in the salon.

  • Stagger shifts and breaks to reduce the number of employee per shifts.

  • Require employees to wear masks in the salon.

  • Limit the number employees or clients in restrooms or waiting for the restroom to maintain 6’ of distancing

  • Post signage in common areas such as break/kitchen area to remind employees and clients to physical distancing.


3. Worker hygiene and personal protective equipment

  • Post “handwashing”  and “cover your cough” signs  in the salon and restroom to remind employees and clients frequently wash hands.

  • Make sure you give employees enough time and access to soap, clean water, and single use paper towels for handwashing many times during the day and in between clients.

    • Remind employees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, they should use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

    • Provide hand sanitizer, tissues, and no-touch waste baskets at the cash registers and in the restrooms.

    • Use moisturizers on hands regularly  to prevent dry skin from hand-washing.

  • Provide personal protective equipment (face mask, safety glasses, work uniform, face shield ( needed to perform close face-to-face services like brown shaping and facial),  gloves, and training on how to use them.  

  • Cloth face coverings are not an appropriate substitute for respirators or facemasks when performing job tasks (like applying acrylic nails) that normally require respiratory protection. Nail salon workers should continue to wear all PPE required for their job.

  • Disposable gloves should be changed between each client.

  • Employees should wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol after removing their gloves.

  • Nail technicians should always wear a face mask when working with a client. 

  • Bring clean clothes to change at the end of shift and wash them immediately.

  • Shower immediately after work.

4. Workplace building and ventilation

  • Prior to reopening, salon owners should check the status of the building for potential issues such as mold, pest, and mildew.

  • Turn on the HVAC ventilation system that has not been active for at least 2 to 3 days to flush out the air before reoccupying the space.

  • Replace and upgrade your air filters.

  • If your HVAC ventilation system has not been professionally cleaned and checked for awhile, consult a HVAC professional to check your ventilation system and learn how to use it properly.

  • Have the general ventilation (also known as HVAC ventilation system) on throughout the day to continuously circulate fresh air in the salon.

  • Consider buying a portable HEPA filter air purifier for the salon.  Regularly replace filter as recommended by the manufacturer.

5. Workplace cleaning and disinfection

  • Disinfect work area, nail tools, physical barriers and client’s chairs using EPA approved cleaning products  against coronavirus after each customer and at the end of the day.

  • Clean the surfaces first with soap and water first before using the disinfectant.  Cleaning with soap and water first will remove dust particles and most viruses.  Using disinfectant after that will be most effective as dirty surfaces that contain dust particles make disinfectant less effective.  Read the disinfectant manufacturer's instruction for recommended contact time (i.e., time you should let the disinfectant remain on surfaces to inactivate the viruses before wiping clean).  

  • Ensure regular housekeeping and disinfection of the bathroom and other areas of the salon throughout the day.

  • These enhanced precautions, along with the salon’s regular infection prevention practices, should help keep salon safe from infectious agents including blood-borne pathogens, fungal infections and COVID-19.

  • Disinfect pedicure spas following the EPA recommended procedures.

  • Train all employees of nail infection control measures and cleaning and disinfection protocol.

6. Drop-off and deliveries

  • Receive deliveries via a contactless method.

  • Deliveries are dropped off at the doorway or in an isolated area to minimize deliveries inside the salon.

  • Maintain 6 feet during interaction while receiving or exchanging deliveries.

  • Use your own pen and avoid unnecessary exchange with delivery personnel.

7. Communication and training employees

  • Communicate and train employees of new COVID-19 procedures.

  • Post salon’s COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in an areas where all employees can read.

  • Remind employees that people may be able to spread COVID-19 even if they do not show symptoms. Consider all close interactions (within 6 feet) with employees, clients, and others as a potential source of exposure.​

8. What clients can do to minimize transmission.

  • Communicate with clients about the new COVID-19 prevention measures at the salon

  • Require clients to wear facemask while in the salon.

  • Encourage customers/clients to bring their own face coverings, or offer face coverings for use

  • Screen clients and check their temperature prior to service

  • Post signage to remind clients to stay home when sick.

  • Ask clients to wash hands with soap and water or supplied hand sanitizer before starting service.

9. Receiving and exchanging payment with clients

  • Use contactless payment whenever possible; allow clients to pay remotely.

  • If contactless payment is not feasible, allow at least 6 feet of distance between clients and workers and or other clients.

  • install clear plastic barrier (sneeze guard) at front desk/check-out area.

10. Managing salon's occupancy with clients

  • Limit the number of clients and children in the salon

  • Take appointments only; no walk-in

  • If a client arrives early, ask them to wait in the car and text them when service is ready. 


11. Limit face-to-face interactions with clients

  • Install sneeze guards at manicure stations and front desk

  • Evaluate services that involve very close face-to-face interaction

       like facial waxing/massages, eye brown shaping whether it can be

       done safely (wear face mask and face shield). Otherwise, consider not

       offering those services if you do not feel safe offering those services

       up close.  Wear face masks, face shield, gloves when performing those services. 

  • Require clients to wear face mask.


12. Creating physical distancing and barriers between workers and clients

  • Place hand sanitizers at the entrance and front desk for clients

  • Instruct clients to wash hands with soap and water as soon as they enter the salon before starting service (to conserve hand sanitizers)

  • Mark areas at check out or waiting to provide 6 feet distancing (use tape to mark the area)

  • Continuously evaluate the flow of the salon to allow for physical distancing of 6 feet for all workers and clients.

  • Products for sale should be stored and maintained in the back. A limited number of products should be maintained “on display” for clients.  Employees bring products from the back to clients and display products should be sanitized regularly.

  • Salons should sanitize returned products before putting it back on the shelf.

  • Post instructions for clients at entrances:

    • Not enter if they have symptoms

    • About the salon’s occupancy limits

    • They are required to wear masks while in the salon

    • They are required to adhere to hygiene, physical distancing and signage and markings.




Minnesota Employment and Economic Development. Guidance on safely reopening Minnesota businesses. 

AIHA. Back to Work Safely.  Reopening guidance for hair and nail salons 

CDC. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). 
EPA. List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 [Overviews and Factsheets]. 


Image source: NIOSH

On This Page

Downloadable Materials

Covid-19 Preparedness/Safety Plan

Each salon should have a comprehensive COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that outlines policies and protocols that your salon will implement to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your salon. 

The Preparedness Plan contains policies and protocols that salons will implement in each of the 12 key areas. It also contains appendices of templates and procedures such as health screening questionnaire and instructions, cleaning and disinfecting checklist and protocol. Total pages are 23 pages.

Down load English, Vietnamese

Useful templates in the Preparedness Plan


Suggested screening questionnaire to screen clients and employees before entering the salon (English, Vietnamese).

A template letter to communicate to customers about the new changes to the salon due to Covid-19. (English only).

A suggested cleaning and disinfection checklist template (English, Vietnamese)

Clients' contacts record keeping for future contact tracing if a COVID-19 case has been in the salon. (English, Vietnamese)

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