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Posted on May 26, 2015 in Blog

Nailbrushes: To use or not to use?

The FoodSafetyGuy team spends time teaching people how to safely handle food. Topics discussed in the classroom, this Newsletter, and other FSG events, spur conversation. Afterwards participants often have residual questions rolling around in their heads. I’d like to share a few of these questions and responses:

Hi Lars,

I am hoping to pick your brain on this topic.You have been in food service for a while and teaching sanitation, so I have a few questions for you about nail brushes. 

  1. Is there an issue with contamination from one person uses it then another comes along and on and on?
  2. Running through the dish machine at the end of the shift takes care of issues but at the end of the day.
  3. Should they be kept in a sanitizer solution?  I’m thinking a few scrubs and the dirt will do away with the effectiveness. 

A school district up north said they have a separate brush for each employee.  I am thinking that the user contaminates from use to use so it doesn’t matter if each person has  their own brush.

Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you!

Thank you for asking. Here is my take on your questions.

Most states do not require nail brushes and part of the reasoning is the concern around cross contamination from one person to another. The other part is that when glove use is mandated there seems to be less likelihood for finger nail contamination since they are covered up.

A well designed nail brush should be decently cleanable. Notice that brushes are non absorbent and have no crevices to harbor physical gunk, chemicals or even give microbes anything to cling to. You have probably noticed that some nail brushes are very flimsy and don’t meet these standards. Be sure to install good nail brushes.

Good practices for keeping the nail brush reasonably clean include:

  • Rinsing the brush off as soon as you are done using it
  • Running the nail brush through the dish washer
  • Wash, rinse sanitize, air dry in the 3 compartment sink
  • store the nail brush in sanitizing solution between uses

If you store in sanitizing solution, it must be kept clean and at strength. A good practice is to change out your nail brush water every time you every time you change your sanitizing sink or at the beginning of each shift.

I have also been in kitchens where every employee has their own nail brush. How cool is that! Yes, they still need to be kept clean so yesterday’s dirt isn’t added to today’s hands. Imagine my confusion when I walked up to the sink and saw 3 nail brushes with initials written onto them! I didn’t know which one to use. It felt like I was borrowing somebody’s tooth brush.

When our Food code updates the requirement for nail brushes could well go away. Many places will still use them, I think, and these guidelines will still be very helpful.

Does this help?

Thanks for asking!