How to Soften Thick Toenails

Updated February 21, 2017

Thickened toenails are often a sign of trauma or poor circulation to the nail area. Senior citizens often experience thicker toenails as a side effect of ageing. Whatever the root cause, thick toenails prove difficult to trim or cut. Rather than damage or split your toenails by trying to chip away at them with a nail clipper or manicure scissors, you can soften them in advance and make cutting them much more simple.

Pour at least 1 gallon of warm water into a bathtub, dishpan or deep basin.

Add 2-1/2 tbsp of table salt for each gallon of warm water you have in the bathtub or container.

Soak your feet for 10 to 30 minutes until your toenails are sufficiently soft. The thicker the toenail, the longer you should soak it.

Remove your feet from the water and pat dry with a towel. Apply toenail softening cream to your toenails.

Cut your nails immediately, if necessary.


Toenail softening cream is available at many chemists.


Hard, tough toenails can split easily. Keep them trimmed to avoid this situation. Check with a podiatrist if your toenails can't be sufficiently softened via soaking and softening cream.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 gallon warm water
  • Bathtub, dishpan or deep basin
  • 2-1/2 tbsp salt
  • Towel
  • Toenail softening cream
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About the Author

Based in Texas, Cynthia Measom has been writing various parenting, business and finance and education articles since 2011. Her articles have appeared on websites such as The Bump and Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.