If you’ve ever looked under your long nails after a long day of commuting, working, and playing, you know it can be a pretty gnarly scene!
Dirt, dust, grime, and all other sorts of unspeakable stuff can be found under there, even if you were just going about your business as usual.
We have nothing but love for our long stiletto and coffin nails, but to take care of them properly we need to keep up with a complete daily cleaning regimen.
Whether you’re brand new to the world of long nails or you just want a refresher on best practices, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know for perfect nail hygiene.
Here is our definitive guide to cleaning your nails the right way.
Wash Your Nails With Care
We know, you learned how to wash your hands as a toddler, but you probably were never taught the best practices that keep your nails super clean.
Whether you’re rocking press-ons, a gel or acrylic manicure, or just regular old nail polish, the fundamentals remain the same.
Use an antibacterial soap that contains natural ingredients you can pronounce.
Almond Nails blog says to find products containing good stuff like tea tree oil and citrus and other natural essences that leave our hands and nails looking and feeling super fresh.
When you get to the sink, be sure to crank the heat up on the water. Warm water is good, but hot water is better. Germs don’t like the heat, and neither does dirt.
Chances are that you spend too little time at the sink every time you wash your hands. Five seconds is the average for most people, and that’s just not enough.
Let the warm water run over your hands for a few seconds before lathering up with soap, then spend at least 20 seconds aggressively scrubbing those hands together.
Get in between the fingers, rub around the cuticles, and do some preliminary scraping to get bigger pieces of dirt out from under the nails.
Just be careful not to let your hands soak for too long, especially if you’re wearing press-ons. The combination of heat and pressure can cause the nail glue to break down, and you don’t want to lose one of those precious faux nails. A total of 30 seconds at the sink is perfect.
Drying those nails is just as important as cleaning them with soap and water. Bacteria loves moisture, and you want to get every square inch of those nails as dry as possible, immediately after scrubbing down.
Use cotton balls, tissues, or direct heat if you can manage. The longer you wait to dry those nails, the greater chance you’ll run into problems with fungus or other germs.
Remember, the longer your nails, the more time you should spend washing, drying, and following through on all the other tips we have in store for you.
Some Tools of the Trade
Once 100% dry, you’re ready to bring out the toolbox!
Some of our favorite instruments for nail cleaning include cuticle pushers, orangewood sticks, nail brushes, scrapers, cotton swabs, and mini sponges.
You can buy these items individually, but they often come bundled together in a pack if you want to save some time and money.
The first tool you should master is the cuticle pusher, which is a thin steel rod with a spoon-like scalpel shape on the end.
When using this tool, you want to be very careful with the amount of pressure you apply to the underside of the nail, especially if you have press-ons.
Too much force can cause lifting, while not enough pressure can leave dirt behind. Pay close attention to how your nails are responding to the instrument and dial it back if you detect any looseness or separation.
It takes some time to master the cuticle pusher technique, but it’s your best friend to remove the majority of the buildup from under your nails.
The next instrument to get familiar with is the nail brush, which could clean up some of the residue left behind by the pusher.
These brushes come in different shapes and sizes and also have varying degrees of stiffness based on your preferences.
We like to use a fairly sturdy brush that can reach into the narrow area just above the nail bed. It’s a weird feeling at first, but a big relief once you realize how much stuff is trapped up there!
If you need a good all-around tool for your nails and cuticles, we recommend picking up a pack of orangewood sticks. They are slightly less abrasive than steel tools and stiff brushes, and you can easily toss them in the trash instead of having to reuse them.
Finally, always have some cotton swabs with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on hand.
You’ll want to use this stuff sparingly because it’s pretty intense, but it can be a real lifesaver if you want to fully demolish bacteria and fungus fast!
Plus, it’s way better than acetone, which can lead to major nail and skin dehydration.
When the time comes to remove those press-on nails or have your gel acrylic manicure drilled down, you must spend some extra time cleaning the glue residue off your natural nail, which involves some extra scrubbing and scraping.
While your nail tech should handle the majority of cleaning when they remove your acrylics, the DIYers out there will want to spend time to clean and recover their nails.
Cut and Trim Effectively
A big part of nail hygiene is learning how to properly cut them and care for the cuticles.
Even if you scrub your hands and nails daily, it’s still important to maintain the shape and structure of the nail itself. This helps prevent bacteria buildup and other related issues.
This is extra critical if you are a fan of acrylics, gels, and press-on nails that require your natural nails to be in good condition at all times. If you want those elegant stiletto press-ons to last for a while, your nails better are in good shape underneath!
You might think trimming your nails is self-explanatory, but there’s a chance you’re doing it wrong. It’s important that you cut across the top of the nail and avoid rounding them too much because this can lead to hangnails and make nails harder to clean.
If you have a big, heavy-duty set of scissors or clippers, it may be time to downsize and pick up some more precise trimmers that allow you to shape with more accuracy.
It’s also wise to pick up a few different buffers and files since these can be used any time and don’t make much of a mess.
Just don’t rely super heavily on these items, because they can accelerate issues like splitting if you go too hard, according to StyleCraze.
You’ll quickly see that trimming your nails the right way helps keep them dirt-free and aids the adhesive properties of your favorite press-on products.
If your nails still have some tough grime trapped underneath, soap and water will only take you so far. wikiHow shared with us a few homebrew cleaning solutions that can help demolish that dirty stuff without causing any damage to your manicure.
Lemon water and vinegar is a classic that packs quite a punch! Try it out for yourself and you may not have to return to acetone or alcohol for a deep clean.
Acrylic Nails You Can Replace With Ease
It’s such a satisfying feeling to get a fresh coat of gel or acrylic done by a professional at the nail salon, but the truth is that these treatments make our natural nails very difficult to clean properly.
Most of these polymer-based products stay on the nail for at least 4 to 6 weeks, and it’s impossible to do a 100% scrub and disinfectant session when they’re on.
That’s why more people are turning to press-on nails to showcase their favorite styles without committing to months of acrylic coverage.
The beauty of press-on nails is that they’re only meant to stay on for about 10 to 14 days, meaning you can give your real nails a complete wash down, inside and out, more often.
For anyone working in the healthcare, food, or service industry, this is the perfect solution, especially during times of the year when germs are at the peak.
Super stylish, easy to apply, and more affordable than anything else, press-on nails are the way of the future for front-line workers and anyone else trying to be more hygiene aware.
Cleaning your nails may not be the most fun part of the manicure lifestyle, but it’s essential to maintaining the longevity and health of your nails.
Whether you choose classic nail polish, gel and acrylics, or head-turning press-ons, remember to keep it clean, and enjoy!