Your nails are mostly composed of the same stuff that makes up animal horns and talons -- keratin -- and if you don't want your nails to look like the claws of a wild beast, you need to give them a regular scrubbing and trimming. Cleaning your fingernails not only makes them more attractive, it also helps prevent the spread of germs and bacteria -- a 2007 study reported by BBC News found that it's not uncommon to find vomit- and diarrhea-inducing bacteria lurking under nails. Combine a few easily found items with some daily resolve and your nails will soon sparkle.
Items you will need
- Antibacterial soap
- Nail brush or toothbrush
- Baking soda
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Cotton swabs
- Nail clippers or nail scissors
- Nail-polish remover (optional)
Scrub the tops and undersides of your nails with warm water, antibacterial soap and a nail brush or toothbrush for at least 20 seconds, then rinse well with water.
Combine 3 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide in a small bowl and apply the mixture to the tops and bottoms of nails with a cotton swab. Allow the mixture to soak in for up to five minutes and then rinse with warm water. The peroxide kills germs while the baking soda freshens nails and eliminates odors.
Use nail clippers to trim the tops of your nails straight across, then cut or file the sides of your nails into a curve. Trim nails regularly to prevent dirt and germs from building up underneath them.
You should always wash your hands and nails before eating or preparing food, before and after treating wounds, after using the toilet, after changing a child's diaper and after touching garbage or dirt.
Protect your nails from damage by wearing cotton-lined rubber gloves while using chemicals or washing dishes.
Hand sanitizer cleans nails in a pinch, but it's not as effective as washing.
Rub moisturizer into fingernails and cuticles whenever you apply it to your hands.
If you paint your nails, remove nail polish at least once every few weeks to give your nails a rest. The chemicals in nail polish can be harsh on your nails.
If you experience bleeding around the nails, changes in nail color or shape, swelling, nail thickening or pain, contact your doctor as soon as possible. These symptoms are a sign of a more serious health problem.
Avoid biting your nails or using them as tools.
If you get a hangnail, cut it off with nail clippers or scissors. Do not try to pull the hangnail off with your fingers or bite it off with your teeth. Doing so may damage your skin and cause infection.
- Mayo Clinic: Fingernails: Do's and Don'ts for Healthy Nails
- Health: How to Clean Everything Better
- BeautyHeaven: How-to: Clean Nails Properly
- Philly.com: Health Tip: Keep Your Nails Clean
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Wash Your Hands
- BBC News: Harmful Germs Found Under Nails
- Cornell Center for Materials Research: Archives of Ask a Scientist
- Medioimages/Photodisc/Digital Vision/Getty Images