How to file thick toenails

Updated February 21, 2017

Thickened toenails can be tricky to take care of, as they are more resistant to filing and trimming than normal toenails. Thickened toenails -- which may also be yellowish and crumbly in appearance -- can result from neglect, damage, wearing shoes that are too tight or from complications from a foot fungus disease. When attempting to file down the thickest parts of your toenails, it is best to soak the toenails in warm water beforehand. Filing works best with thick toenails, as they may be too thick for nail clippers.

Fill a basin with warm water and a bit of gentle soap.

Soak your feet in the basin for 10 minutes. This will soften the nails and make it easier to trim and file them.

Pat your feet dry with a towel. Make sure the toenails themselves are dry, too.

File the thickest parts of the toenail surface using an emery board or a nail file. This will make your nails thinner, and thus easier to trim down with toenail clippers.

Clip your toenails with toenail clippers, if you have filed down the toenail sufficiently.

Clean your emery board or nail file thoroughly with cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol.


Filing regularly can keep your nails at a comfortable length, requiring less maintenance on your part. Prevent toenail fungus by wearing shoes in public places, wearing synthetic socks that keep away moisture, and keeping your nails short, dry and clean at all times. Taking a biotin supplement can improve the condition of your nails.


If filing your toenails is painful or difficult, make an appointment with a podiatrist. Thickened nails can be a sign of psoriasis. Make sure to use toenail clippers rather than regular household scissors when cutting your nails. Household scissors can damage your toenails and cause infections.

Things You'll Need

  • Warm water
  • Gentle soap
  • Basin
  • Towel
  • Nail file or emery board
  • Toenail clippers
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton balls
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Ginger Yapp has been writing professionally since 2006, specializing in travel and film topics. Her work has appeared in such publications as "USA Today" and online at Yapp also has experience writing and editing for a small California newspaper. She earned her B.A. in film and media studies and has worked as an ESL teacher at an international school.