HOUSTON —

If nails are your thing, then going to the nail salon is a treat. But sometimes it can go bad.

We started looking into nail salons after a viral story out of North Carolina where a woman got a nasty foot infection after her pedi.

Getting a pedicure is a personal favorite treat of mine. I get to enjoy quiet time without a small child attacking me and I get some pretty polish on my toes. So delving into state records and learning what kinds of violations are at nail salons made me cringe a bit. But I learned some tips that will help you from potentially becoming the next viral story.

Before you dip your toes in the water these are some things you need to check out:

If you’ve ever walked into a nail salon and been overwhelmed by the smell of polish and other chemicals it could mean your shop might be violating the law. The state requires salons to have proper ventilation. It can also be the first red flag that the nail salon isn’t up to snuff.

If it smells okay, before you pick your polish, check to see if there is a visible license at or near the front desk. For many salons they’ll have no problem pointing it out. Also peek at the expiration date. I found three shops with prior violations who didn’t have a current license operating in the Houston metro area. That’s just shops that had violations in the past few years. The first salon I went to when working on this story had a license that expired back in 2016! Speaking of licenses, your cosmetologist should have one displayed at their workstation or available at the front desk.

If your spot checks out so far, then pick your polish and head to your chair. But before you soak those toes in the water you should know that fancy whirlpool is actually the spot where we found most nail shop violations occur. The number one violation we found in our areas was salons who failed to clean or sanitize the whirlpools properly. Salons are required to keep tubs cleaned a specific way and also keep a log of the cleanings. A short summary is drain, clean with soap and water, disinfect and towel dry. If you see them do this then they’re following the law. They’re supposed to keep a record of every cleaning too. You can even ask to see it. If you’re wondering if those plastic liners are okay to use, they are as long as they replace it for each customer.

As far as tools, they should be cleaned and disinfected between each customer. (Those nice freshly opened packs of tools are a good sign) Multi-use items like foot scrubbers are supposed to be disinfected after each use, including the callus rasp, the tool that was used in that North Carolina story that started our digging into local nail salons. In Texas, callus rasps, which look like hand-held cheese graters, are allowed in salons. The item you shouldn’t see is a callus shaver. It’s a razor blade-like tool.

So now you know what to keep an eye out for, get your polish on! One thing to remember is the state is only required to inspect salons once every two years. So there is a chance you might discover issues that haven’t been reported. Like the salon I went into which did almost everything on this list wrong. If you found some red flags or an unlicensed shop you can report them to the Texas Department of State Licensing and Regulation

RELATED: Map of recent nail salon violations in Harris, Fort Bend counties

Maryanne Hubbard is a freelancer for Tegna