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How to soften long, hard toenails and cut them

Updated April 17, 2017

A basic tenet of personal grooming is toenail care. Taking care of your toenails requires regular trimming to keep the nails at their healthiest. If you have long, hard toenails, this seemingly simple task can be difficult and even painful. You must first soften the nails to allow for easier trimming. With proper toenail-cutting techniques, you can keep even the toughest nails in check.

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  1. Fill the foot bath with about 15 cm (6 inches) of warm water. Add several drops of baby oil. The water and oil will work to soften and moisturise the nails in preparation for cutting.

  2. Soak your feet in the bath for 15 minutes.

  3. Remove your feet from the bath and dab them dry with a paper towel.

  4. Place a dry paper towel flat on your work surface. You may choose to use the floor or a bench if you have trouble bending. Use the paper towel to collect the nail clippings.

  5. Slide the clipper blades around the nail of your big toe. Do not push the blades too deep. Just slide the blade under your nail without pressing or pushing on your skin.

  6. Engage the clipper by pressing down on the handle. You may need to use both hands if your nails are especially thick. Once you hear a "snap," the cut has been made and you can release the handle.

  7. Slide the open clipper further along the nail and press the handle again to cut the next section. Avoid trying to cut the entire nail in a single motion. Aim to cut in short pieces.

  8. Cut straight across the nail without curving or rounding the tip. Cutting your nails in a curved shape can cause painful ingrowing toenails.

  9. Repeat these steps for each toe on both of your feet.

  10. Follow the trim with a rich moisturiser. Massage lotion into your toes and nails to keep the area soft and supple.

  11. Gather the edges of the paper towel together and discard the bundle of nail clippings.

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Things You'll Need

  • Foot bath or deep bucket
  • Warm water
  • Baby oil
  • Toenail clippers
  • Paper towel
  • Moisturiser

About the Author

Ava Perez cut her journalism teeth in 2005 while balancing her university studies with a voracious appetite for fashion, music and beauty. Her music reviews, interviews and editorials have been published in numerous magazines worldwide. She specializes in writing beauty, health and fitness-related articles for various websites. Perez holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from York University.

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