Barbers – Are Your Tools Sanitary?

The Guide for Safe, Clean Tools That All Barbers Need

As a barber, it’s your job—wait, nope, scratch that, it’s your responsibility – to provide people with fresh cuts, fades, and styles they’ll be proud to sport walking out of your barbershop.

In a way, you’re indebted to the customers to provide a great, satisfactory, and enjoyable service.
But your responsibility to your clients doesn’t just stop at aesthetics and experience – it, without a doubt, includes safety, which also includes doing everything in your power to keep them healthy when they walk into your shop.

We don’t mean safety in the ‘don’t go all Sweeney Todd on your clients and wield razor in a threatening manner’ way, we simply mean that you have an obligation to provide a safe, clean, and sanitary experience for your customers—especially in the COVID-19 era we’re all living in.

If you’re licensed, you likely know the drill on this, but if you’re working toward your barbering license, simply need a brush up on the requirements, or are hoping to really know your stuff so you can re-open when the coronavirus regulations begin to loosen, then this is the article for you.

Whether you’re a novice or a professional, it never hurts to check in on safety regulations, tips, and tricks, or barber tool sanitation advice, especially if it means providing a safer, cleaner experience for your client base.

First Things First, Know Your Terms

First of all, know this, we’re not saying this to enforce some kind of vocabulary lesson on you (trust us, we’re not into that and there’s no quiz at the end of this blog). We’re so insistent on knowing these terms in and out because they’re key to helping you understand the difference between a clean barbershop and a properly sanitized barbershop.

Anybody with a broom and a dust buster can clean a barbershop—get rid of the debris, straighten some shelves, tidy up, etc., etc. But only someone who understands the terms disinfect and sanitize can ensure a properly cleaned barbershop that’s tidy and safe for your customers (especially in the era of COVID-19).

So, if you don’t know the difference between the three, now’s the time to learn. Understanding the differences among these could help you up the cleanliness and safety of the tools you’re using.

Typically, metal instruments are sterilized with dry or steam heat. Other instruments that are reusable (like brushes, combs, clips, and more) are sanitized in a special solution that chemically kills off the germs and contaminants.

Sterilization is a process for removing or destroying all living organisms and biological agents from an object (usually with heat or chemicals), whereas sanitizing will clean and remove oil and dirt from an object.

Disinfecting is an application of anti-microbial agents that will clean and disinfect, but not necessarily remove all of the living organisms from an object. Disinfection, one of the most accurate terms for the barbering industry, has the goal in mind to remove as many fungi, viruses, yeast, and bacteria as possible between clients.

This also is accomplished using heat and chemicals for metal, plastic, and other tool materials.

Industry Standards: The Tips, Tricks, and Insight You Need to Sanitize Properly

Clean First—Then Disinfect

Remember all those fancy terms we just discussed? Now’s the time to employ them. Make sure you’re cleaning first before you disinfect and sanitize.

Disinfectants will only work on a clean item, so it’s important to make sure you tackle the debris and dirt part before you tackle the gross stuff that’s happening on the bacterial level. Invest in some chemical-free cleaners to use in conjunction with soap and water to clean everything thoroughly before you disinfect.

Liquid Disinfects Need to Be Changed on the Reg

You already know this, but there’s no reason not to be a friendly reminder—change out your liquid disinfectants daily. Heck, change them out more often than that, if you can.

When liquid disinfectants become cloudy and have debris floating in them, they’re in desperate need of being changed. Keep an eye on this and change them out regularly.

Know Your Contact Times for Your Tools

All of the equipment you use—the tools, the countertops, the bottles, everything—is different, which means their contact times will be different. A contact time is the amount of time a particular tool or surface must have visibly wet disinfectant on it to actually destroy pathogens and bacteria.

That’s right, it’s not as easy as spraying and wiping off right away. Do a little responsible digging and figure out the proper contact times for your tools!

PSA: when it comes to immersions or sprays, effective contact time is usually 10 minutes. Wipes and other types of disinfectants are anywhere from 2-4 minutes.

Do a Disinfectant Check

This one’s quick and easy—double-check the date on your disinfectants. Are they good? Are they EPA-registered? Is it labeled as bactericidal or fungicidal (or both?).

Make sure the disinfectants you’re using are actually effective and are doing what they’re supposed to.

Opt For Gloves, Masks, and other PPE

Yes, we’re making this point because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we truly believe that this is a good practice to uphold even in the future. Even if your local and state governments don’t require you to wear masks, you’re working closely with people and touching an awful lot of questionable things—wearing gloves and masks can help keep you and your clients safe and virus free.

Don’t forget to double-check with your clients first about any type of latex allergies—the last thing you want to do is don a pair of latex gloves when working on a client with a latex allergy.

Always Employ the Single-Use Rule Where You Can

While there are some tools you simply can’t use and throw away (I mean, unless you’re rolling in dough and can buy a new pair of shears for every client), you should try to employ the single-use rule wherever you’re able to do so.

We don’t mean buy a ton of clippers and throw them out after every use, we simply mean that you should buy disposable necks trips to act as a germ barrier, or disposable towels and wipes instead of using the same towels (that you wash every day).

By purchasing single-use items, you might feel like you’re throwing away money. Instead, look at it as an investment in your client’s experience and safety. Be wise about which single-use tools you purchase.

Some Barber Tool-Specific Tips


You will need to disinfect and sanitize your razor after every single-use.

Cleaning and disinfecting a razor, especially a straight razor, can be difficult because you want to avoid getting the scales or handle of your razor wet.

Clean your blade carefully – don’t cut yourself—with an approved sanitizing agent. For best results, try to avoid as much as moisture as possible, add oil to your cleaning regimen, and strop your blade whenever you can.


Shears, like razors, must be disinfected and sterilized after every single-use.

Using an approved chemical cleaner, rub a cotton ball to remove styling residue and other debris. You can also clean and oil them at the end of every day to maintain their quality.

Then, drop your shears for an approved amount of time into an approved sanitizing agent.

Brushes and Combs

These need to be sanitized and disinfected between every single use.

Brushes with long bristles need to have the hair and debris cleaned from them with cleaning brushes and a cleansing cream to disinfect. Store in a dry sanitation container until the next use.

Combs can be used in liquid sanitizer and should be inserted after every use. Check the product specifications for a time limit.


You’ll need to clean and disinfect your clippers before every single-use as well.

Remove all the debris from your clippers, disassemble your clippers, and use an approved liquid disinfectant to wipe down the blades, teeth, and accessories of the clippers.

Then, drop all of the pieces into a container of disinfectant to soak. Be careful not to submerge any electrical components of your clippers!

Government Sanctioned Rules You Need to Know

As you know, there are government-sanctioned rules for sanitation when you’re a licensed barber that you absolutely have to abide by. From workspace rules to tool cleanliness, there are certain things you, by law, are not allowed to skimp on.

Some of the highlights?

You need wet sterilizers and dry sterilizers. Your brushes need to be sterilized after single customer use. You need to meet the chemical and heat standards for sterilization purposes. Every tool you use needs to be disinfected before used on a patron. Etc., etc., etc.

But that’s not all. Click here for the government’s general rules on barber sanitation.

If you’ve never read them, now’s the time, and if you have but need an update, this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Take note that there are specific regulations that for each state, too, so you’ll want to become overly familiar with the regulations and rules your state has in place! Don’t let this fall to the wayside, your business, and your customers’ health and wellness all depend on how well you’re caring for your tools and your workspace.

It's important to realize that sanitation isn’t static—especially in the COVID-19 era we live in. The right procedures and protocols might change and it’s up to you to stay as on top of it as possible. 

Keep checking on the ever-changing guidelines that you need to abide by to keep your shop safe and to keep your customers, employees, and anyone you come into contact with as healthy as possible.

Happy disinfecting!