Pre-Service: Steps to Take Before Starting Each Service

Pre-Service refers to the steps a professional nail technician takes before starting every service. While some of them may seem obvious and simple, it is for that reason that they can be overlooked or forgotten – even by experienced technicians.

These steps are important for sanitation, presenting a professional atmosphere, and ultimately for building your business. Use the suggestions below to design your own SOP’s (standard operating procedures), and incorporate them into your salon’s training procedures and employee manual. These are small steps that go a long way in presenting a polished and professional image.

Clean and Organized Station

A clean, sanitized and stocked station is essential. This step is also considered part of post-service – in that you would complete these steps each time you finish one customer and before you start the next.

  • Clean and sanitize all tools and implements that are re-useable (see “Sanitation” section of this website for more details). Throw out those that cannot be sanitized.
  • Remove dust, nail clippings and filings from the tabletop. Check to be sure any items that remain out on the station – such as disinfectant jars or nail polish displays – are free from dust and grime. Also be sure to check under the table for any large debris.
  • Change table towel and wipe down table. Spray table with a disinfectant type spray according to label directions.
  • Stock and re-stock supplies. Leaving your station to get supplies during a service wastes time and looks very unorganized and unprofessional to clients. Replace any disposable tools (such as nail files that cannot be soaked and sanitized), and be sure all other tools and materials needed to do services are easily accessible in or on your station.
Greet Client By Name

No matter how busy you are, always take the time to acknowledge your next client by name. If your salon has a receptionist, she will take care of the initial greeting.

When she approaches your table, be sure you have checked the appointment schedule so that you know her name. If she is new client, be sure to introduce yourself. Let the client know approximately how much longer it will be until you will start her service – especially if you are running behind schedule.

Client Card

If she is a new client, have her fill out a “Client Card." This card will contain basic contact information and any other pertinent information you may wish to collect. Use this card to document the date and type of service each time you see her.

Use the card to record other useful info such as polish color used, number of repairs done, retail sales, etc. If this is a repeat customer, then be sure to pull her card before the service starts (or pull her info up on the computer if that’s your method of data collection).


Discuss and confirm the service you are going to perform. A new client may say she wants a manicure when what she actually wants is maintenance of her nail enhancements (a fill). This is also a good time to up-sell from a basic service to an upgraded one (such as basic manicure to deluxe), if time permits.

Wash and Sanitize Hands

Both you and the client should wash your hands before each service. Be sure to stock clean nail brushes at the sink so that each client uses a new one; also provide a receptacle for them to put the used one in after using it. If washing at a sink is not practical, then use a waterless sanitizer.

Remove Polish

Remove her nail polish in preparation for starting the service. Acetone works much faster then non-acetone (MEK). Contrary to popular belief, using acetone to remove nail polish will not melt acrylic nails. If such brief exposure to acetone does affect the acrylic, then you should consider switching brands! Also, acetone polish remover is no more “stronger” or “damaging” to natural nails than non-acetone types.

  • Apply remover to a lint-free type wipe or cotton ball or strip.
  • Hold the wipe between your 1st and 2nd fingers.
  • Set the wipe on the nail to deposit remover to the polish. Allowing the remover to sit on the nail for a little bit makes removal easier as it starts to break down the polish.
  • Using a little bit of pressure, pull the wipe toward you. You may also “twist” the wipe slightly as you pull it off the end of the nail. However, do not rub the polish into the nail sidewalls or into the cuticle. Push down at the cuticle, and with your fingers each pressing down on the sides, pull it off.
  • Continue this procedure on each nail. Be sure to use a clean section of the wipe or a new wipe for each nail.
  • If necessary, go back and re-wipe each nail one final time with a clean, fresh wipe to remove any residue from the nails or skin.
Now that your client's nails are clean, you are ready to go with your service!