You may think you know how to spot a grimy salon, but there are some sneaky red flags that you don't want to overlook.

By Melanie Rud Chadwick
May 16, 2016

Getting your nails done at a grimy nail salon is not only gross, it can also lead to some serious health issues. And while it may seem like it's easy to tell whether or not your go-to spot is spic and span, sometimes the signs are much more subtle. So we asked salon owners and manicurists to weigh in on what to look for before you sit down for your next nail service. These are six of their most surprising suggestions. (Related: 5 Ways to Tell If Your Waxing Salon Is Legit)

The nail techs pick up the tools and wipe them off

This one is totally counterinutivite-wiping off tools is a good thing, right? Not so much. "This is a sign that the cuticle nipper, pusher, or file hasn't been sanitized since the last use," explains celebrity manicurist Geraldine Holford. Similarly, if there are random tools lying around on the carts near the pedicure stations or at the manicure tables, it's highly likely that they aren't being properly cleaned, she adds.

Sticky polish bottles

Ever grab a polish off the shelf, only to realize that the lid or bottle is totally gunked up? You have bigger things to worry about than picking the right color. "If the staff isn't taking the time to wipe the neck of the bottle after each use, chances are that the other areas in the salon will also be overlooked when it comes to cleanliness," points out Holford.

Watermarks on the tools

"Water stains on any of the implements may be an indication that the salon isn't using an autoclave to sterilize their tools and achieve the highest level of cleanliness," says Ruth Kallens, Founder of Van Court Studio in New York. If they're only using a UV light or barbicide (more on that next), there's no way to ensure that all the bacteria has been killed.

Foggy barbicide

Barbicide, that jar of blue liquid, is the only proper way to clean tools before they're sterilized (rubbing alcohol won't cut it). So yes, it's a good thing if there are jars of barbicide around...but not if the liquid is foggy or cloudy, which happens when it hasn't been changed or cleaned, says Zach Byrne, manager of Juko Nail + Skin Rescue in Chicago.

A jetted pedicure tub

That whirlpool may feel nice on your feet, but the motor -an optimal environment for harboring fungus-can never be fully sterilized, says Kallens. Ideally, getting a pedicure at a salon where they use basins of still water is safest. If that's not an option, ask that they turn on the jets and run the tub with bleach and hot water for 10-15 minutes prior to your service, not just spray it with disinfectant, says Byrne. (Psst...Have you tried these 7 Sole-Saving Products for Pretty Feet?)

Gloveless nail techs

Here's a fact that will seriously gross you out: It's estimated that almost half of the people in the U.S. (48 percent, to be exact) will have at least one toenail affected by fungus by the time their 70. So, if your nail technician isn't sporting latex gloves, the odds are good that he or she has come into contact with either nail fungus or a skin disease like ringworm or athlete's foot-both of which are highly contagious, says Kallens. Ask that they put on a pair (or pick a new salon). (Check out these 5 Dos and Don't for Strong, Healthy Nails)