Sterilization procedures

Good morning. My electrologist does not sterilize her needle holder tip. This is the plastic cap that she attaches the needle (probe) to. She only wipes off the holder between clients. She always uses a new probe (that’s a given), but the probe holder I am worried about.

Everyone seems to recommend that sterilization is done, including soaking it. Here:

and here:

I just thought about this now and searched for it online. Even though the risk of infection is minimal, is this something I should bring up? I only had 1 treatment with her so far and I am worried about this.

Thank you,

Hi yes I would bring it up as it is a general rule sterilize need holder and cap. Although its highly unlikely infection would spread its still better to be thorough.

Needle holder tips cost anywhere from $1.50 to $2.50. An electrologist can purchase one or two dozen and sanitize them according with their state or national standards. We use CDC guidelines at the national level. The complete CDC guidleines can be found at

Some needle holder caps can be put in a dry heat sterilizer (they will melt at temps above 350 degrees, by the way) or an autoclave. They can be wiped with a proper disinfectant between use. The first option sounds better to the client, I’m sure, but if the second protocol is used, the risk of anything happening is very, very low. Nothing has been reported as far as spread of infection in the century and half that we’ve been doing electrolysis.

You can ask your electrologist to purchase some caps for you that are compatible to her epilator and bring one with you each time you go if you want further piece of mind. It will cost you under $5.00.

Great question. Thanks for asking.

And now that problem has been solved… if you think she otherwise does a fantastic job, you should give her a review here :slight_smile:

@emilily, I will speak with her when I see her and see if she is OK with my putting her name here.

@dfahey, thank you. I see that the risk is low.

Hmmm. This is a good question. I will find out what people do, and ask my electrologist what she does. Really good question.

Thank you. And please share names here if your electrologist allowed. I found my electrologist through word of mouth recommendations. They were a great starting point for me. :slight_smile: And when I went in, it confirmed all that people had said…

Technically speaking, most probe/needle holder caps can only be “sanitized” They can only be soaked in solution. As many (most) probe holder caps would melt in a dry heat sterilizer, and, or autoclave, (and plastic is a porous material) true sterility is not usually an option.

Additionally, if the treatment protocol is that of the average practitioner, the probe holder never actually touches your skin. It only comes in contact with the practitioner’s hand that is holding it. The hand that touches your skin is the opposite hand. (Or to be technical, the probe holder cap touches two or three fingers on the hand that touches you with only one to two fingers while stretching the skin.)

This is not really what is termed “A critical item.”

It is true that tips that hold the needle in are not critical as the definition of critical items is: Instruments or objects that will come in direct contact with the bloodstream or other normally sterile areas of the body.

However, tips can be sterilized in a dry heat sterilizer if they are made of the right material. Quite a few years ago manufacturers provided us with black tips that can withstand dry heat sterilization. I may be wrong, but I thought that tips for all epilator cords were now available in the heat-stable material. Either type of tip (heat-stable and heat-sensitive) can be sterilized in the autoclave. The minimum requirement for these tips is an exposure to disinfectant after being properly cleaned (enzyme soak and ultrasonic clean). These tips have threads that allow them to be screwed on to the needle holder. In the event of a drop of blood coming to the top of the skin, there is a potential for the blood to “wick” into the threads. Without proper decontamination after every single treatment, there is a risk of contamination.

Sterilization is the option that should be taken with any item or instrument that comes in close contact with potentially non-intact skin. Electrologists should be doing the highest level of decontamination available.

On a personal note, I run my sterilizer hot (usually reaches 350 degrees) and my heat-stable tips are not being ruined.

Hi Barbara,

Do you change your tips for the epilator needle holder after every client?

It would interesting to do a survey on the AEA discussion forum to see how many electrologists sterilize and have plenty of caps on hand for each individual client. In school, we were taught to wipe the cap with an intermediate disinfectant. I never heard anything about sterilizing caps in my school’s curriculum, but have heard snips about cap care recently.

The Infection Control Standards for the Practice of Electrology from the AEA membership roster states that "the tips for the epilator needle holder are considered non-critical items, but on occassion may come in contact with blood, so they should be cleaned and treated with an intermediate-level disinfectant before use. Seventy percent or 90% alcohol is an example of an intermediate-level disinfectant. Should we be doing something different? Like sterilization?



The Silhouet-Tone VMC is the only machine that I am aware of that ships with black tips. Even that is a black tip on one probe, and not the other (though the Ibis system wants to convince the practitioner to throw away every tip after every treatment) All other machines I have seen come with white tips standard, and the higher heat tolerance tips are optional equipment that must be purchased separately.

Hi Dee!

Yes, I change tips between each client. I have about as many tips as tweezer/forceps and package them together for sterilization. I probably have around 30 tweezer/forceps and that many tips. AEA members see the next JOE for an article about this very subject!

The minimum decontamination for tips would be submersion in a disinfectant (after soaking and ultrasonic cleaning). Alcohols are not the best choice for disinfectants because alcohol hardens proteins, but there are appropriate disinfectants available.

I believe it is important to provide clients with the highest level of decontamination of instruments and items used during their treatments.

Hello James!

The tips are available from our suppliers at a very low cost and they are reusable…makes sense to me to use these and to sterilize them. My clients deserve the best.

That’s a great idea about sterilizing them in the same package with the forceps. Thanks for that tip on the tips! I presently follow the guidelines set forth by the AEA and use an intermediate disinfectant that is bactericidal,virucidal,fungicidal and tuberculocidal. Among other uses, I use this as a pre-cleaning solution in my ultrasonic cleaner for disinfecting, before the items go in the sterilizer. It wouldn’t be that much work to sanitize and disinfect those caps/tips after use.

I will eagerly look forward to the next Journal of Electrology that addresses this subject and thanks Barbara for all the detailed work you do in behalf of the AEA (Barbara is 1st Vice President and heads the Infection Control Standards committee at the American Electrology Association).

On behalf of the poster who brought up this subject, yes, you should talk to your electrologist. Refer her or him to this thread if you feel the need to or copy this thread and give your electrologist a hard copy. I would think she/he would want to do everything possible to ease your mind.

And what are You doing about the probe holder itself, notably not its tailpiece but its cord?!? Actually there is an (admittedly very small) probablility that the cord of the probe holder gets in touch with the skin of the customer. Consequently, there would be the need to sterilize it as well.


PS: Anyway, changing the tips with the tweezer (don’t forget the sponge of the anode!!!) appears economic in the way that they can be cleaned together at the end of a working day. Doing it this way this is less easy forgotten after long and exhausting epilation sessions.

The needleholder and cord should be cleaned and subjected to an intermediate- or low-level disinfectant. It would be unnecessary to sterilize this. Cleaning would require a simple wiping down with mild detergent in water, and disinfecting would require a timed exposure to the disinfectant.

My state prohibits the use of reusable sponges on the indifferent electrode. I use non-scented baby wipes, cut into quarters with salt water added to the container. Makes it a disposable item! If you have an epilator with a moisture sensor, you can do an experiment with this. Paper towels will work, too, but colleagues have argued that baby wipes have too much lanolin (or something)…so I thought this made them a good thing to experiment with. Let one dry out a bit. Use one fresh. Use some soaked in various amounts of salt added to water. Set the epilator on “moisture sense”. Wrap the indifferent electrode with each of the moistened wraps and touch the uncapped (and without needle) needle holder to the indifferent electrode. Then consider the results!