How to Remove an Ingrown Toenail

Three Parts:Removing Ingrown NailsTaking Care of a Sore ToePreventing Ingrown Toenails

Anyone who's ever had an ingrown toenail likely knows how painful, annoying, and persistent this condition can be. While the very best way to treat an ingrown toenail is to see your general practitioner or a specialist like a podiatrist, there are steps you can take by yourself at home to ease the pain or even eliminate the ingrown nail entirely — just make sure to keep an eye on your toe after your home treatment and contact a medical profession at the first sign of trouble. All you'll need to begin are a few basic tools (like tweezers and a nail file), soap, and water!

Part 1
Removing Ingrown Nails

  1. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 1
    Clean the area thoroughly before beginning. With any sort of procedure or treatment where there's a risk of irritating or cutting the skin, infection is a concern. However, it's especially important to protect against infection when dealing with an ingrown toenail for several reasons. If you have an ingrown toenail, there's a good chance that the skin around it is already likely tight, irritated and inflamed already, making it vulnerable to infection from the get-go. In addition, the skin around toenails is often kept in dark, semi-moist environments all day — the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. For these reasons, it's extra-important to clean your toenail before beginning.
  2. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 2
    To clean your toe, try soaking it in warm water, gently rubbing in antibacterial soap, and rinsing. Use gentle pressure if your toe is painfully sore.
  3. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 3
    You'll also want to make sure to clean any tools you use to touch the areas around and underneath your toenail. Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) is a good choice here.
  4. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 4
    Expose the nail edge with tweezers. Using a clean, sterile pair of tweezers, lift the edge of your toenail away from the flesh it has grown into. You may need to pull back the skin on the side of your toe with one hand to be able to reach the ingrown part of the nail. Pull the nail material away from the toe as far as you can comfortably.
  5. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 5
    Handle your tweezers with care — the last thing you want to do is to accidentally poke or jab the sensitive underside of the nail. In addition to being really painful, this can cause your toe to get inflamed and swell up, making your work more difficult.
  6. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 6
    Carefully place sterile cotton under the nail. Gently slip a small amount of clean, sterile cotton under the ingrown edge of the nail. Don't force the cotton into the space under the center of the nail ‐ just place it under the effected edge to prop it up. Gently release your hold on the toenail with the tweezers. The nail edge should rest somewhat comfortably on the cotton.
    • This home remedy is very similar to a common form of treatment that doctors often use to treat ingrown nails. The cotton supports the toenail, allowing it to gradually grow over the top of the skin as it normally would.[1]
  7. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 7
    Clean your toe and change the cotton frequently (about once per day is usually enough unless you sweat heavily) to avoid infection.
  8. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 8
    If needed, clip excess nail material. Sometimes, a nail is so ingrown that it's very painful or outright impossible to insert cotton under it. In this case, it may be necessary to remove some nail material. If you can, use a small pair of nail clippers to remove material from the edge of the nail that is biting into your skin. This should relieve some of the pressure that the nail is putting on the flesh of your toe, lessening the pain and irritation. Try to make a smooth cut — you don't want to leave a sharp corner, which can catch on your skin as the nail re-grows and lead to another ingrown situation.
  9. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 9
    Alternatively, use a file to abrade the underside of the nail. Another way to remove excess nail material is to use a file — try picking the smallest, skinniest one you can, as it will need to fit next to or under your nail. Slide the file into the gap between the tight skin and the nail edge. Gently rub against the nail to abrade it. Stop once the pressure against the skin of the toe has been relieved and the tight feeling has let up somewhat.
  10. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 10
    Though it may be hard, try not to abrade the flesh of the toe itself as this can further irritate skin that's already inflamed.
  11. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 11
    Clear any blood away. Though your goal with the tips above is not to tear the nail away from the skin of the toe or irritate the skin further, it's very easy to start some minor bleeding when handling a sensitive ingrown toe and/or manipulating the nail. If this happens, end your home treatment by soaking up blood with a cotton ball, gauze, or a clean rag. Rinse the toe to remove blood stains once bleeding stops, which should only take a minute or so.
  12. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 12
    When you're done with your home treatment, clean the nail again, making sure to gently apply soap to any sore spots or areas that showed signs of bleeding. As noted above, preventing infection is a major concern for ingrown toenails.
  13. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 13
    See a doctor for any problems. While the home remedies described above may work well for non-serious ingrown toenails, they may not necessarily work for all ingrown toenails or cases that have progressed beyond a certain point. If your ingrown toenail doesn't seem to go away or becomes worse, make an appointment with your doctor or a foot specialist as soon as you can. Medical professionals have a variety of options available for treating badly ingrown toes that ordinary people do not, including prescribing medicines and removing part of the affected nail.[2]
  14. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 14
    Though rare, infected ingrown toenails can eventually require surgery or cause dangerous illnesses like osteomyelitis (a type of bone infection) if they're not dealt with.[3] While these conditions are treatable, preventing them by handling infections early with antibiotics is much easier (and cheaper) than the more drastic approaches needed to fix more serious complications. Common signs of infection include:[4]
    • Intense pain or sensitivity
    • Puss or fluid drainage
    • Abscess (fluid-filled sore or blister)
    • Major redness and swelling
    • Fever or flu-like symptoms

Part 2
Taking Care of a Sore Toe

  1. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 15
    Soak the toe in hot water to ease pain. Even if your ingrown toe treatment is successful, your toe may remain sore for a few days as the inflammation and swelling subside. During this time, you may want to take additional measures to help manage the pain. One easy pain-relieving solution is to soak the affected foot in hot water. The water can be almost as hot as you can stand, but not so hot that it's painful. Soak the foot (or toe) for up to ten minutes three times each day. Use only clean water and a clean, sterile tub or bowl to soak your foot.
    • Some sources claim that adding Epsom Salts to hot baths can help ease pain more than just hot water. Though there isn't much scientific evidence to definitively prove this, it is by no means unsafe to use Epsom Salts.[5] If you want to do this, dissolve as much salt as the water will hold. When you've added enough, there should be a few crystals left in the bottom of the tub/basin/bowl.
  2. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 16
    Apply antiseptic cream. Since preventing infection is a major concern with ingrown toenails, it's a good idea to apply antiseptic creams and ointments to the affected nail semi-frequently to halt the growth of any bacteria. Dr. Scholl's, Germolene, or any equivalent antiseptic ointment available at your local pharmacy should work well. Apply the ointment once or twice daily after cleaning the affected area and washing your hands thoroughly.
  3. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 17
    Bandage the toe to protect it. One great way to prevent infection in an ingrown toe is simply to keep any sort of infectious material out of the wound entirely. After applying antiseptic, try covering the affected toe with loose gauze and securing it with adhesive tape.This improvised bandage should be quite effective at keeping the toe clean and clear of any bacteria.
    • For long-term use, be sure to remove the bandage, clean the wound, and re-apply a new bandage daily.
  4. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 18
    Take over-the-counter painkillers. If your ingrown toenail is giving you pain or discomfort after treating it with a home remedy, you don't simply have to grin and bear it. Try using an appropriate dosage of an over-the-counter containing Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen (like Motrin, Advil, Tylenol, and so on.) These painkillers provide effective short-term relief and should make a sore toe much more bearable.
    • Keep in mind that cheap generic painkillers work just as well as more expensive name-brand equivalents — they are proven contain exactly the same ingredients.[6]

Part 3
Preventing Ingrown Toenails

  1. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 19
    Cut your toenails straight across. Once you've had an ingrown toenail, odds are that you'll never want to have one again. Luckily, it's easy to prevent ingrown toenails in your future. One easy, effective way to do this is to change the way you cut your nails. If you ordinarily cut your nails with a curved or crescent shape, try to start cutting them straight across. This makes it less likely for the nail to grow into the skin and develop into an ingrown nail.
    • It's typically easiest to cut your toes straight across with an extra-large nail clipper or, if your nails are long enough, a pair of scissors.[7]
  2. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 20
    Keep your toenails at a safe length. One of the most common causes of ingrown nails is excessive cutting or clipping. Toenails that are too short can be pressed into the skin of the toe by the pressure that comes from wearing shoes, leading to ingrown situations.[8] To prevent this, after you've had an ingrown toenail, try letting it grow unhindered for a few months. Once it's just past the edge of your toe, it should be comfortable to trim it back to the edge of the toe, where it won't be able to grow into the toe any longer.
    • If you have a habit of picking or biting your toenails, this can make it hard to let your toenails grow to the edge of your toes. In this case, while habit-breaking home remedies (like putting hot sauce on your nails) may work, you may also want to talk to a doctor, counselor, or therapist about habit reversal training, a psychological technique that can help control bad habits.[9]
  3. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 21
    Protect your toes from injury. Another common cause of ingrown toenails is injury — usually, either from something falling onto the foot or smashing into it from the front. If the toenail is damaged, it may not grow properly and can easily become ingrown. Here, prevention is key. If you spend lots of time in situations where toe injury is a major possibility (like working at construction sites), you may want to invest in a sturdy pair of steel-toed boots to lessen the risk of the sorts of injuries that can lead to lasting toe damage.
  4. Image titled Remove an Ingrown Toenail Step 22
    Change your shoes. If you wear tight shoes that constantly squeeze your toes, this may be the cause of your ingrown toenail.[10] Try switching to a looser-fitting pair of shoes or wearing less-constrictive shoes like slippers around the house to lessen your chance of ingrown nails in the future. You may even want to visit a specialty shoe store for people with foot problems to get a professional's opinion.[11]
    • Another way to get the same effect is simply to switch to open-toed shoes like sandals and flip flops. These shoes put no pressure at all on the toes, so there's no risk of them causing an ingrown nail.


  • Consider wearing open toe shoes until the infection has subsided.
  • Visit a podiatrist or your family doctor, especially for extremely painful or infected conditions.
  • Try to soak your feet regularly and Try to not wear tight shoes.
  • Trim toe nails straight across.
  • Get a pedicure. Pedicurists might easily solve your ingrown toenail problem. Make sure, though, that your pedicurist is using clean implements.


  • If excessive redness or puss persists (after three or so days), visit a doctor.
  • Repeated trimming of the nail borders will not solve the problem and can, actually, make the condition worse.
  • Cotton placed under the nail can harbor bacteria and cause infection.

Things You'll Need

  • Toenail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Nail file
  • Strong light source
  • Ice (optional)
  • Large bowl or basin
  • Epsom salts
  • Clean towel
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Gauze
  • Adhesive tape
  • Plaster packs (optional)
  • Pain killers (optional)

Article Info

Categories: Feet Knees and Legs