How to Remove Infection from an Ingrown Toenail

Two Parts:Treating the NailAvoiding Common Misconceptions

Ingrown toenails can be painful and inconvenient, and worst of all, they can get infected easily. If you are suffering from an ingrown toenail that has become infected, you'll need to treat the infection to prevent the condition from worsening.[1][2] To remove infection from an ingrown toenail, soften the nail in warm water before carefully propping up the edge and applying antibacterial ointment directly to the infection beneath the nail. While this is a decent start, it is strongly advised to visit a podiatrist for proper treatment instead of relying on home treatment for the infection.

Part 1
Treating the Nail

  1. Image titled Remove Infection from an Ingrown Toenail Step 1
    Soak your toe. In order to reduce the pain and swelling involved with an ingrown toenail, soak the foot with the ingrown toenail for 10-20 minutes in warm, soapy water, three times a day for one to two weeks.[3][4]
    • The Epsom salt can also help with pain and inflammation. Fill a tub with warm water and add 1-2 tablespoons of Epsom salts. Place your foot into the water, and relax while it soaks. When finished soaking, dry your toe completely.
    • You can do this multiple times a day if the pain gets too much for you.
    • Never soak your foot in hot water. It should always be soaked in warm water.[5]
  2. Image titled Remove Infection from an Ingrown Toenail Step 2
    Prop up the edge of the nail. To relieve the pressure under the ingrown edge of the toenail, doctors sometimes suggest propping the nail up slightly. This is done by sticking a small piece of cotton or thick floss under the edge of the nail. This technique helps pull the nail away from the skin, so it no longer digs into the skin.
    • If you use cotton, you can dip it in antiseptic to help ease the pain and prevent infection under the nail.[6]
    • If the nail is infected, this may also help to soak up any moisture that is trapped under the nail.
    • If you use thick floss, make sure that it is unflavored and unwaxed.
    • Do not insert a metal tool under the nail to try to insert cotton or floss. This could damage the toe further.[7]
  3. Image titled Remove Infection from an Ingrown Toenail Step 3
    Apply antibacterial ointment. Antibacterial ointment is helpful when dealing with an infected ingrown toenail. Before you apply the ointment, dry your toe completely. Cover the infected area with an antibacterial cream. Apply the ointments in a thick coat over the infected area of the toe. Wrap your toe with a bandage such as a large band-aid. This prevents debris from entering the wound and keeps the ointment in place.
    • Use antibacterial ointments such as Neosporin.[8]
  4. Image titled Remove Infection from an Ingrown Toenail Step 4
    Visit a foot doctor (podiatrist). Ingrown toenails that become infected should not be treated at home, which is true for most infected wounds. Visit a podiatrist, more commonly known as a foot doctor, to get treatment for your infection. If the infection and nail are bad enough, minor surgery may be required. For the most part, however, a simple surgical procedure involving numbing the nail bed and then removing part of the ingrown nail with clippers or scissors by the doctor,
    • You may be prescribed oral antibiotics, which are taken by mouth, to help fend off further infections.[9][10] If you are prescribed antibiotics, make sure you complete the entire course and follow up with your doctor as needed.

Part 2
Avoiding Common Misconceptions

  1. Image titled Remove Infection from an Ingrown Toenail Step 5
    Do not cut the nail. A common misconception about having an infected ingrown toenail is that it needs to be cut. Contrary to popular belief, cutting the nail can make the infection worse. It can also cause more ingrown toenails in the future. Leave the nail uncut, and prop it up to relieve pressure.
    • The toenail may need to be cut by a doctor, but should not be done at home in ‘bathroom surgery’.[11][12]
  2. Image titled Remove Infection from an Ingrown Toenail Step 6
    Do not dig under the nail. It may be tempting to try to relieve pressure or lift the nail from the skin by digging at the skin underneath. Do not do this because it can intensify an infection and make the ingrown nail worse.
    • Stay away from your toenails with tweezers, orange sticks, clippers, files, or any other metal tools.[13]
  3. Image titled Remove Infection from an Ingrown Toenail Step 7
    Do not attempt to drain an infection. There is a popular conception that you should use a needle to puncture a blister or a pustule caused by an infection. You should not do this because it will just make it worse. Even if you use clean tools and a sanitized needle, you can cause some serious damage by poking and prodding at a blister or infected wound.
    • Avoid touching it with anything other than a cotton swab or bandaging materials.[14]
  4. Image titled Remove Infection from an Ingrown Toenail Step 8
    Do not cut a ‘V’ in the nail. According to some old folk healing methods, you should cut a ‘V’ shape in the top of the infected toenail to relieve the pressure, which in turn will heal the nail. However, doing this does absolutely nothing except create a jagged edge on your nail.[15]
  5. Image titled Remove Infection from an Ingrown Toenail Step 9
    Avoid coating your toe. Do not believe urban health myths such as rubbing coal on your toe to make an infection go away. Although some people swear by this method, the coal won’t benefit the infection or the ingrown nail at all. In fact, this method may make it worse. In general, you should not put anything on your toe or the infected area except for antibiotic cream or bandages.[16]


  • Do not keep pressing the pus out of the ingrown toenail area. This could infect it more.
  • Don't bite the nail with your teeth. This is unsanitary and simply damages your teeth and the nail.
  • Soak your foot in antibacterial soap to get some of the germs off and to prevent it from getting worse. And do no bite your nail with your mouth because some of the germs can get into it and become way worse.
  • Wrap your toe with a bandaid and put Polysporin on it. It helps a lot.
  • Search up how to deal with ingrown toenails as soon as your toenail even hurts or looks a little off or red. Propping the edge up with sterile cotton works well for barely ingrown nails, but will not help at all later if the condition worsens.


  • Individuals with immune problems should see a doctor for any lingering infections.
  • If you have an ingrown toenail and know you are diabetic, you should see a foot doctor as soon as possible.
  • Infections may become life-threatening if they manifest with sepsis or cause blood poisoning. You can also develop gangrenous infections, which creates dead, decaying tissues. These things may require hospitalization, surgeries, and even amputations to stop spreading or dying tissues.
  • Problems with the healing of ulcers or numbness and tingling in the feet can indicate diabetes.

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Categories: Feet Knees and Legs