If you are looking for a professional ventilation system for your salon, there are two main possibilities. Either you buy a system that vents the air to the outside, or you buy a recirculating filter system that cleans the air and returns it to the room. Recirculating filter systems have the advantage that they are not a fixed installation, so you can move them around the room or to a new salon if required later. Fixed systems that vent the air to the outside can be less expensive if you have many nail stations, but the running cost are higher, it is expensive to change your room layout and if you move to a new address it usually not economic to take the ventilation system with you.

Recirculating Filter Systems for Nail Salons

A Swedish company called Filtronic was the first company to produce an effective recirculating filter system specially designed for nail salons. Their Beauty Line Exclusive Nail Salon Filter System can be seen in the photo above. We use the Filtronic filters in our own salons and schools.

The thing to note about this filter is the size. When it comes to cleaning air effectively size matters! What you want from a filter is that it sucks in enough air to take nearly all particles and chemicals, gives you a large enough working area, but is quiet enough to not be irritating when used all day. It is simply not possible to design a small filter system that can remove 99% of all dust and chemicals from the air. I will explain why later in this article.

Low-cost tabletop filters are only capable of capturing the largest visible dust particles. But it is the invisible dust particles and chemical vapours that are the most dangerous. The smallest particles can stay in the air for weeks (think of the pollution haze over LA) which means you are exposed to them all the time you sit in your salon, not only when you are making nails. If you don't have adequate room ventilation, then the concentration of airborne dust and chemicals will increase over time, further increasing the risk.

While a few small filters do contain an activated carbon filter to remove the chemical vapours, the amount of activated carbon they have is far to small to be effective. There are two reasons for this:

  1. When the chemical vapours pass through the active carbon, the active carbon is slow to neutralise the chemicals - the technical phrase for this is the "dwell time". So if the active carbon filter is thin, most of the chemical vapours won't be caught by the filter and they will simply be vented back out into the room. To remove all the chemical vapours in one pass through, the active carbon filter has to be deep; between 10 to 15 cm (about 6 inches). Even then, the air speed has to be matched to the carbon depth. If the air speed is too fast, again the carbon won't have time to neutralise the vapours (and the fan will make too much noise). However, if the air speed is too low then not enough suction is produced over your work area. That can mean that the system doesn't catch dust particles flying off the e-file when you work. A good filter system design considers both of these issues.
  2. Only the outside surface of the active carbon granules can be used to neutralise the chemical vapours. This means that only 10-20% of the weight of this filter is useful. So a carbon filter that weighs 5 kg (11 lbs) is able to remove between 0.5 to 1 kg of chemicals from the air. That's enough for between 400 to 500 customer services before the carbon filter has to be replaced. However, a carbon filter that weighs only 0.25 kg would have to be replaced every 12 to 27 customers which is impractical and too expensive for most salons.



The Filtronic system has been tested by the SP Laboratory in Sweden - an independent test laboratory. The test results showed that the Filtronic system removed 99.95% of all dust and chemical particulates when making either gel or acrylic nails. The unit is so safe that it is the only recycling chemical filter system to be approved for use in nail schools by the Swedish Heath and Safety at Work department. That's important because in Sweden there is a law that all nail schools and any nail salon where the nail techs are employees, must have a professional air-quality ventilation system. 



In the diagram above, you can see the three different stages of a recycling filter. The first filter catches the big dust particles (visible), the second filter removes the smaller dust particles (invisible to eye) and the third filter uses activated carbon to attract and retain the chemical vapours. Notice the depth of the gas filter containing the active carbon relative to the other two filter stages.

An investment that pays back

At the end, a good filter system is more than a tool to remove dust, smells and vapours. It is an investment to protect the nail tech from potentially developing health problems to the extent they can no longer work in the salon. If your health is damaged, it is usually irreversible. If you develop an allergy, there is a strong possibility that your sensitivity increases and other allergies will follow.

A filter like this may seem expensive at first. But apart from ensuring that you can keep earning money doing a job you love, is also a great marketing tool because it shows your professionalism and that you have a safe salon both for yourself and your customers. There is a cost to replace the filters every 200 to 400 customers, but in our nail salons we found that customers were willing to pay a little more for each service knowing that we had invested in the filter system also for their safety. This extra money not only paid for the replacement filters, after one year it had also paid for the purchase price of the filter itself!