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How to Clean Toe Nails

Cleaning and maintaining your toenails is an integral part of proper foot care. Since your feet are often out of sight and out of mind, it is easy to ignore the buildup of dirt and grime under your toenails. Establishing toenail grooming habits is an important aspect of your overall hygiene. It will also help you prevent toenail-related healthcare issues and increase your level of comfort.

Part One of Three:
Washing Your Feet and Toenails Daily

  1. 1
    Wet your feet. Wash your feet and toenails every day to help prevent odor and fungal infections. You can do this as part of your normal hygiene routine, such as while you are taking a shower or bath. Start by wetting your feet and toenails with warm water.
  2. 2
    Scrub feet as you would any other body part. Use your regular soap or body wash to wash your feet. You might also want to use a pumice stone or loofah to scrub away dry, dead skin. A washcloth also works well.[1] Just be careful not to scrub too hard because this can cause damage.
    • Apply some soap or body wash to your wet feet and then work it into a lather using your hands or a sponge or washcloth. Make sure to run the sponge or washcloth over your toes and toenails as well.
  3. 3
    Rinse off the soap. After you have washed all surfaces of your feet and nails. Rinse away the soap completely under warm water or by immersing them in a tub of clean water.
  4. 4
    Dry your feet completely after washing. Use a clean, dry towel to pat your feet dry after you wash them. Make sure to dry your toenails and get in between your toes as well.

Part Two of Three:
Using a Foot Soak and Scrub to Clean Toenails

  1. 1
    Soak your feet in warm water. Soaking your feet in warm water can help to loosen dirt and make it easier to clean them thoroughly. It will also soften your toenails, making them easier to clip. To soak your toenails, you can simply use lukewarm water. You can also add essential oils or a small bit of sea salt if desired. Soak your feet and toenails in the water for about 15 minutes.[2]
  2. 2
    Exfoliate the skin around your toenails. Once you get done soaking your toenails, exfoliate the skin around the nails. Exfoliation is the act or removing dead skin cells from a particular area of the body. This helps rid your feet of dead skin and cleans and revitalizes the area surrounding the toenails.
    • Use an exfoliating scrub or a nail brush to scrub your toenails.[3]
    • Some people use Epsom salt, sea salt, baking powder or other grainy substances to aid the exfoliation process. There are some beauty store scrubs that come with exfoliating micro beads, but such substances have received some criticism for being bad for the environment and do not necessarily work better than natural textured substances.
    • Gently massage your toenails and feet with your chosen substance. You might have to use some force to get the skin cells to loosen. Once you are done, rinse your feet off in cool or lukewarm water and dry them throughly.[4]
  3. 3
    Rinse away the soap and exfoliant. After you finish scrubbing and exfoliating your toenails and feet, dip them back into the water basin to rinse them. If the water is very soapy, then you may need to change it first. Rinse your feet until all of the soap is gone.
  4. 4
    Dry thoroughly. Your nails and toes need to be dried completely after washing them. Damp feet, especially when placed in shoes and socks, can encourage the growth of fungus. Dry your feet completely with a clean, dry towel. Then, let them air dry for a few minutes before putting on shoes or socks.[5]

Part Three of Three:
Removing Stains, Moisturizing, and Trimming Your Nails

  1. 1
    Remove any stains. If you have any stains on your toenails, you may be able to remove or prevent them. Certain common household products may be effective in removing stains on toenails. If you still have stains on your nails after cleaning them, then try using one of these methods:
    • Hydrogen peroxide can be used to remove stains on toenails. Mix one part peroxide with three parts water. Then soak your nails for 10 minutes and then rinse.[6]
    • Lemon juice has also worked for some to remove stains. Dab a few drops of lemon juice on each nail, let sit for a few minutes, and then brush off with a washcloth.[7]
    • If you paint your toenails, applying base coat before adding polish can help prevent stains in the first place.[8]
  2. 2
    Apply moisturizer. After your feet are dry, you may also want to apply a moisturizer. It's also a good idea to moisturize your feet daily because feet dry out easily. You can use your regular moisturizer or purchase a special foot moisturizer.[9]
    • Make sure to apply some moisturizer to your toenails and cuticles as well.
  3. 3
    Cut your toenails straight and moderately short. Trim your toenails straight across, but not too short. Cutting your toenails too short or at an angle can lead to ingrown toenails.[10] Keeping your nails at a moderate length can also prevent the development of fungus and other kinds of damage, such as lifting the nail off the nail bed if it gets caught on something.
    • Always use good, quality nail clippers to trim your nails.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • What can you do if your nails are beginning to change color and you want to get them bright and nice again?
    Answered by Jennifer Boidy, R.N.
    • If you regularly use colored nail polish, that may be causing the color change. You can try using hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice as recommended in the article and using clear nail polish under colored nail polish to prevent further staining. If change in color is accompanied by other changes to the nail, such as thickening or foul smell, this could indicate a fungal infection and you should see a podiatrist or physician.
    Thanks! 7 4
  • How can I get rid of dirt packed in my toenails?
    Answered by Jennifer Boidy, R.N.
    • After cleaning and drying feet and toes, gently clip toenails as described in this article and then use a nail brush or toothbrush to gently brush dirt from toenails.
    Thanks! 19 19
  • If the corners of my toenails are painful, is there a solution?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • This can be caused by an ingrown toenail, a buildup of pus or other debris, or a short hangnail. Soak in warm water, dry, and then examine your toenails. Try to discover what is causing you pain. If they are red and puffy with pus seeping out, you likely have an ingrown nail. Depending on the severity, you can extract it yourself, but you may need to see a podiatrist.
    Thanks! 19 5
  • How do I take out dirt packed inside the side of my nails?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Soak your feet in Epsom salt water, 1/4 cup to large pan of warm water, for 5 minutes. Then use a fingernail brush to scrub your toe nails. Smell good, no fungus, and easy!
    Thanks! 1 0
  • How do I clean the skin under my toenail?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Gently clip your nail. If you have a nail file with a sharp end, gently scrape away any dirt under the toenail. You can soak your nails in warm water to make the skin underneath easier to clean.
    Thanks! 6 7
  • Is it safe to use rubbing alcohol on toenails?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Yes.
    Thanks! 2 1
  • How do I clean toenails that have gone into the skin on the sides of my toes?
  • If I have an ingrown toenail, how can I get the dirt out from under it?
  • How do I treat my thick toenails?
  • I have very dirty and like extra skin around my big toes and my skin around big toes is very loose. How can I tightened the skin around my big toes?
  • Should I clean mucus under my nail bed?
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  • Keep in mind that anyone with diabetes should take special care with their feet, especially cutting toenails.[11] If you have diabetes, then seek guidance from podiatrist or physician for proper foot care.
    1 Helpful?  1
  • If you have a toenail-related medical problem, such as thickened or ingrown toenails, see a podiatrist or qualified healthcare provider.
    1 Helpful?  2

Expert Review By:

Registered Nurse

This version of How to Clean Toe Nails was reviewed by Jennifer Boidy, R.N. on August 17, 2017.

58 votes - 74%
Co-authors: 18
Views: 309,131
Categories: Hand and Foot Care

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