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HOME > WHAT WE DO BY TOPIC > HEALTHY HOMES AND ENVIRONMENT > SAFE SHOPS > Nail Salons > Dry Heat Sterilizers and Autoclaves

Dry Heat Sterilizers and Autoclaves

On October 17, 2013, regulations on the sterilization of multi-use tools were passed in the City of Boston.  As of October 17, 2015, all salons must install and use either an autoclave or a US FDA registered dry heat sterilizer to sterilize multi-use tools. In addition, salons may not use or possess in their salon ultraviolet (UV) light boxes.   

Single Use Tools vs Multi-Use Tools

Single-use tools are tools that can only be used on one customer before being thrown away. They can't be used more than one time. Examples include buffers, toe separators, and nail files.

Multi-use tools are tools that can be used on many customers, but only if they are sterilized in an autoclave or dry heat sterilizer between uses. These are metal tools like cuticle pushes and nail clippers.

For more information on single-use and multi-use tools, click here (English) or here (Vietnamese).

Autoclaves and Dry Heat Sterilizers​
Autoclaves sterilize tools by using high levels of heat and pressure. They kill all forms of microbial life, such as bacteria, viruses, and even spores. Typically, autoclaves run at a temperature of 270 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty (30) minutes.

US FDA registered dry heat sterilizers sterilize by using high levels of dry heat. Just like autoclaves, dry heat sterilizers kill all forms of microbial life, such as bacteria, viruses, and spores. Because they sterilize by using heat alone, dry heat sterilizers need more time to sterilize  than autoclaves. Due to these high temperatures, dry heat sterilizers may not be appropriate for all multi-use tools, such as those with plastic or rubber parts. You must operate your dry heat sterilizer at 340 degrees Fahrenheit for sixty (60) minutes in order to sterilize tools. For more information in both English and Vietnamese about how to correctly operate a dry heat sterilizer, c​​​lick here.

autoclave dry heat sterilizer     

Autoclave​​​                                                      Dry heat sterilizer

Required Documentation

Regardless of whether a salon chooses to use an autoclave or a US FDA registered dry heat sterilizer, the salon is required to document that their equipment is working properly.

There are two (2) options from which a salon owner can choose.

Option 1: Maintain a daily logbook

a. The logbook requires salons to log when they use a dry heat sterilizer​ or autoclave, and whether it is sterilizing your tools properly. This is noted through the inclusion of the dry heat sterilizer or autoclave indicator strip or tape in the salon's logbook.

b. A dry heat indicator strip can ONLY be used in an FDA-registered dry heat sterilizer and autoclave tape can ONLY be used in an autoclave. Autoclave tape and dry heat sterilizer indicator strips work by changing colors when exposed to a certain temperature (and pressure for the autoclave tape) for a certain amount of time.  

​​​​  autoclave tape.jpgautoclave pouches.jpg   autoclave indicator test strips

Autoclave tape, pouches, and steam indicator test strips may only be used in an autoclave

dry heat indicator strips.jpeg   dry heat sterilizer pouches.gif

Dry heat sterilizer pouches and indicator test strips may only be used in a dry heat sterilizer

c. At least once a day, a piece of autoclave tape or a dry heat sterilizer strip should be included with the tools that are being sterilized. If the autoclave or US FDA registered dry heat sterilizer is functioning properly, the tape will change colors. The autoclave tape or dry heat sterilizer strip should be taped in the logbook as proof of proper sterilization.

autoclave tape changes colors to indicate tools have been sterilized
Autoclave tape changes color to indicate tools have been sterilized

d. Each log book entry should include the following:

    • Date and time the multi-use tools were sterilized with the autoclave tape
    • Sterilization method (US FDA registered dry heat sterilizer or autoclave)
    • Model and serial number of the device used
    • Brand and product name of the autoclave tape used
    • Printed name and signature of person operating the equipment
    • Actual autoclave tape or indicator strip should be included in daily log

Salons may make their own logbook, or they may access a template logbook page here

For more information about how to use a logbook, click here (English) or here (Vietnamese).

Option 2: Have an independent laboratory perform monthly spore testing on the equipment.

a. If the autoclave or US FDA registered dry heat sterilizers fails the testing, there must be a provision in the contract which states the laboratory will notify the Boston Public Health Commission immediately.

Regardless of what method a salon chooses, they must keep their logbook documentation for one year. During city inspections, Boston Public Health Commission Inspectors will look for and examine these documents.

Why were UV boxes banned?

Contrary to popular belief, UV boxes do not sterilize tools. A UV box will only keep tools clean​ if they have already been properly sterilized prior to being stored inside the UV box. 

Bacteria and other organisms can still grow on tools that were not properly sterilized when the tools are placed in a UV box. Tools do not become sterilized through placement in a UV box. Instead, use can cause the unintentional spread of infections from client to client. Because of these risks, the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have banned the use of UV boxes. Boston requires the use of autoclaves and/or US FDA registered dry heat sterilizers, which sterilize multi-use tools when used correctly.

UV boxes like these ones have been banned​ from use or salon presence in the ​City of​ Boston since October 17, 2013.

For more information, call the Safe Shops program at 617-534-5965.
Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: