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How To Clean Under Toenails? [Step By Step Guide]

Without a doubt, keeping your toenails clean is a vital part of keeping them healthy and beautiful. Whether you’re just trying to look nice in open-toed shoes or you’re worried about a resurgence of a fungal infection, keeping toenails nicely maintained is important. But doing it the wrong way can cause problems, too. What’s the best way to keep your toenails clean and healthy?

So, how do you clean under toenails? To start with, wash your feet thoroughly and if you can afford the time, soak them too. Exfoliate your feet, trim your nails down, and then proceed to gently cleaning beneath your nails with special and safe tools to remove dirt and debris. Be careful not to force or use too much pressure as this can displace or cause injury to the nail.

It isn’t as complicated as it might seem.

Ready for a mini spa day?

Good, because that’s what we are all here for.

So let’s start with whether you should clean under your toenails before turning to the tools you need.

Then, we’ll be moving into the step-by-step guide, so do stick around!

The cleanliness of your toes depends on it!

Should I Clean Under My Toenails?

Yes, you need to clean under your toenails regularly. Getting rid of debris can lessen help prevent odor, as well as the chance that you may develop a fungal infection.

You probably think about cleaning your fingernails regularly.

It’s hard not to.

After all, you can see them and tell when they’re dirty.

But your toenails?

How often do people get a good look at those in their natural state?

Not having to worry about what others think about them can mean that they don’t get as much love as your fingernails.

But here’s the truth: your toenails need to be cleaned regularly, too.

And not just a wash in the shower or the occasional foot scrub.

They need to be cleaned underneath the nail, as well.

Your toenails often collect debris beneath them.

This can be anything from lint to dead skin cells, to sand, to mud, to anything else that has been on or around your feet lately.

Any of it can make its way beneath the nail and make itself at home.

When that happens, they might cause problems, such as odor or even infections!

No one likes that, so it’s best to avoid it altogether.

You can do so by cleaning under your toenails regularly and keeping them trimmed to the proper length.

Making sure that your toenails are the right length makes it more difficult for foreign items to get caught beneath them.

This ensures that they’re less likely to become a problem.

You should aim for moderately-short, and definitely not past the edges of your toes.

The velociraptor look isn’t good for you, and it isn’t a great style, either!

Aim to clean under your toenails after you’ve done something that may make them dirtier than usual, such as wear very linty socks, go to the beach, or worn open-toed shoes.

Other than that, you can judge by how dirty your toenails usually are how often you should clean them.

Once or twice a week might work for some people.

For others, it may be something needed almost daily.

What Do You Need To Clean Under Your Toenails 

All you need is a foot in the right state, toenails the right length, a nail-cleaning tool, and a towel, napkin, or tissue to wipe the debris onto.

Good news! You don’t need much to clean under your toenails.

It’s fairly easy, and you can do it with basically whatever you happen to have on hand.

If you have nail clippers, you likely have the right tool for cleaning beneath your nail.

It helps if you have your feet and toenails in the right condition before you begin.

In other words, be sure that you’ve soaked them and thoroughly cleaned them before getting started.

This adds nothing to the equipment list but makes it far easier to remove any debris caught under the nail.

The same is true of having your toenails the right length.

When your toenails are clipped, any debris caught under the nail being clipped will be discarded.

At the same time, you’ll find it easier to reach anything caught deeper under the nail.

So trimming your nails is an important part of the procedure.

Before beginning, you’ll want to be sure that you have a decent cleaning tool, as well.

Many nail clippers come with one, and you can use that if you want.

Otherwise, an orange stick should work.

Some use the flat end of a cuticle-pusher or even a toothpick.

If you use anything but an orange stick or specialized nail-cleaning tool, you need to be very careful when doing so and consider sanitizing it with soap and water or alcohol first.

Lastly, you’ll need something to wipe the tool off with since you might reintroduce debris and bacteria under the nail if you don’t.

Tissue is good for this, as it’s disposable.

Paper towels are, as well.

If you’d rather not use something that can’t be washed, you can also choose a rag, washcloth, or towel.

The Right And Wrong Tools For Cleaning Under Toenails

The tools used under your nail should be small enough not to lift the nail from the bed, clean, and not sharp enough to hurt you. A nail-cleaner included with clippers or an orange stick is best. However, you can use items such as the flat end of a cuticle pusher or a toothpick. Just be careful, and clean them if necessary!

There are many objects you can use to clean under your toenails.

However, you need to be smart about what you choose and how you go about using them.

If you’re not careful, it’s completely possible to injure yourself in the process.

You should always look for an item that isn’t going to lift your nail from the nail bed while cleaning, as it can cause injury or trauma or even cause it to fall off!

That means finding something that isn’t too thick but that is strong enough to get the debris from beneath the nails.

Cleanliness should also be a priority.

If you’re using something made of metal that is intended to be reused, make sure that you clean it both before and after use.

You can do so with soap and water, with alcohol, or with both, to be safe.

Otherwise, go for wood, which is disposable.

The safest bet is to use a tool specifically made for cleaning beneath toenails.

Many nail clippers come with them.

An orange stick, often used in nail care, is another good choice since it’s designed with nails in mind.

The flat end of a cuticle-pusher may also be a good choice. If at all possible, choose something blunt.

But, if nothing else is available, a wooden toothpick can be used.

Just be sure that you’re not too rough since you could jab yourself.

How To Clean Under Toenails – Step By Step

Start out in the bath or the shower. Be sure that you clean your feet, toes, and toenails regularly. Get them wet, and wash them with soap. Use a pumice stone or loofah to remove dead skin. Rinse, and dry thoroughly. For more in-depth scrubbing, soak feet in warm water for fifteen minutes, then exfoliate with a nail brush or a chosen product. Rinse after, and dry thoroughly. Clip and file nails until they’re moderately short and straight across. Using a tool such as a nail-cleaner stick or an orange stick, very carefully clean out debris from beneath the nail. Do not force it!

You always need to start with the cleanest feet and toenails possible.

This can often help loosen the dirt and debris beneath your toenails, making it easier to remove.

You may even get rid of it completely and won’t have to go digging for it at all!

Your toenails should be cleaned every day when you’re bathing or showering.

Because they spend all day stuck in your shoes, you really need to give them a little extra attention to be sure that they’re in good shape.

Start With Scrubbing

Using soap, warm water, and a washcloth, scrub your feet and toenails until they’re nice and clean.

Remove Dead Skin

From there, you can use a pumice stone or loofah to get rid of any dead skin that may be building up in the area.

Because dead skin can flake off later and get caught under toenails, it’s best to keep your feet (particularly your toes) exfoliated.

Rinse Your Feet

When you’re done, rinse your feet off, and dry them. Drying thoroughly will prevent possible fungal infections!

Give Your Feet A Soak

Do your feet need a little extra TLC? Or are you about to do a more in-depth, beneath-the-nail cleaning?

Give them a soak!

Fill a basin or your tub with warm (at least lukewarm) water.

You can also add Epsom salt and a bit of your favorite essential oil.

Whatever feels best to you!

Let your feet soak for at least fifteen minutes.

This loosens up the debris and grime that might be trapped beneath the nail.

It also makes it easier to clip and file your nails, something you’ll be doing in just a moment.

Exfoliate Your Feet 

Exfoliating your feet now isn’t required, but it sure is nice!

Not only is it good for your feet long-term, but it can help prevent more buildup beneath your nail later.

You can use a nailbrush for this or any of your favorite exfoliating products.

Just make sure that you rinse your feet well afterward.

Again, be sure to dry your feet well – you don’t want a fungus moving in!

Trim Your Nails

Use high-quality nail clippers, and trim your nails.

This can make it easier to reach deeper debris while also getting rid of buildup at the front of the nail.

Aim for a moderately short nail, and cut straight across, not at an angle.

Then file the corner of the nail into a rounded curve.

This is the healthiest, easiest to manage length for your toenails.

It’s easiest to do this after you’ve soaked your feet for a while.

Clean Beneath The Nail Carefully 

Lastly, you can move on to cleaning beneath the nail.

Be sure that you’re using the right tool: a nail-cleaner stick or an orange stick should work fine.

Don’t use something that is too sharp and may hurt you or that can’t be cleaned thoroughly.

Gently, wipe the tool beneath the nail, from one side to the other.

Wipe away any debris it picks up on a tissue, napkin, or towel, then continues.

Repeat until all debris is gone, and move on to the next nail.

Do not force the tool under the nail!

If it is too big to fit comfortably under your nail, you need a new tool.

Forcing it beneath the nail could damage the nail or the nail bed.

Signs Of Trouble When Cleaning Toenails

Toenails that lift from the nail bed are discolored, are thick, are crumbly/brittle, have a thick buildup beneath the nail, or have an unpleasant odor may be suffering from a fungal infection that needs to be treated. If you notice a bad smell, discharge, heat, tenderness, swelling, or redness, you may have an infected toenail that will need medical treatment.

Even if you take good care of your toenails, you may occasionally find that something is amiss when cleaning them.

If you notice something is wrong, you shouldn’t wait around.

Being proactive can mean the difference between a mild fungal infection and losing your toenail, something that may take more than a year to come back!

Most adults will suffer from a foot fungus at some point in their lives.

Usually, it’s mild.

Symptoms are usually easy to spot since it’s a very noticeable problem.

This is usually the case for thick, discolored toenails.

They may be crumbly or brittle, as well, easily breaking or crumbling off.

Buildup under the nail may be thick and white or off-white.

Often there will be an odor.

You might even notice the nail loosening up in later stages.

A fungal infection is usually treated with over-the-counter remedies, though you can see a doctor for an oral antifungal medication.

There’s another type of infection you may notice, however, and it is more serious than your standard foot fungus.

Normally caused by bacteria, this can happen if you’ve accidentally hurt the area around your nail and weren’t aware of it.

Signs include redness, swelling, a bad smell, discharge, heat from the area, and tenderness.

If you notice these symptoms, see your doctor.

You’ll likely need antibiotics to recover fully.


So there you have it. All the process steps that you should follow to successfully and safely clean under your toenails.

Just be sure to do this regularly.

Not only is it much more hygienic, but it generally makes the process much easier, quicker, and less disgusting the next time you need to do it!