Proper Way to Clip Toenails

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Wash your hands before and after clipping your toenails to prevent the spreading of germs.
Wash your hands before and after clipping your toenails to prevent the spreading of germs. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Toenail clipping is not glamorous, but it's an important part of your grooming routine. Overly long toenails are not only unattractive, but they also curl down into your skin or press against your shoe, making walking uncomfortable. Clipping your toenails too short or into a rounded shape increases the odds of a painful ingrown nail. Keep your feet looking their best by trimming your toenails properly.

Things You'll Need

  • Toenail clippers
  • Rubbing alcohol

Clip your nails after a bath or shower. Water softens the nails, making it easy to cut them without splintering or tearing the nail.

Use a large toenail clipper, not the smaller clippers made for fingernails.

Clip your toenails straight across. Don't round off the corners, which encourages ingrown nails.

Make multiple, small snips across the nail, rather than clipping off the entire piece in one snip. This allows you to follow the natural curve of the nail.

Leave your nails almost to the end of your toes. Overly short nails leave delicate skin susceptible to bruising or irritation.

Wipe your nail clippers with rubbing alcohol after you finish snipping your toenails. This removes bacteria and fungus that could cause infection.

Tips & Warnings

  • Toenails grow slowly, so you will not need to clip them as often as your fingernails. Trim your toenails when the nail reaches beyond the edge of your toe, when a nail is pressing into your skin or if a nail tears or cracks.
  • If you develop red, swollen, painful or oozing skin along the sides of a toenail, see your doctor or podiatrist. You may have an infected ingrown nail that requires treatment.
  • If you have diabetes or another condition that affects circulation in your feet, follow your doctor's directions for foot care.

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