The Proper Use of Tools in a Manicure Set

This misuse of manicure tools can leave a rough finish on nails or, in worst-case scenarios, cause infection. Stay smart when making your nails snazzy by using your manicure tools properly.


Use a Q-tip to remove polish that's hard to reach, and clip nails short so they don't hinder you throughout the day.

Nail File

Don't make the mistake of moving the nail file across the nail in a sawing motion. You want to start on either side of the nail and move the file across it in one direction (toward the nail's tip), lift the file, and move it across the nail in the same direction again. Repeat until desired nail shape is achieved. You'll get used to this method quickly, and it will give your nail a smooth edge.

Cuticle Pusher or Orange Stick

Before using a tool to push back cuticles, apply a cuticle serum on your nails, then soak your hands in soap and water for 10 minutes in preparation to manage your cuticles. Wrap a cotton swab around the cuticle pusher or orange stick--which isn't orange, it's a stick made from orangewood--before use. Soak in nail polish remover, then use your tool to remove any polish under the nails. Remove the cotton swab, wipe the tool and use it to push back the cuticle.

Cuticle Cutter

Your cuticle cutter should be stainless steel in order to get a clean cut. Snip away hangnails only and cut them as close to the base as possible. Cutting or damaging living tissue can lead to infection, so be careful. Use your cuticle cutter to clip away any dead skin that may be sticking up at the base of the nail.

Nail Buffer

Again, don't use this tool in a sawing motion. You want to move it in one direction, lift the nail buffer back to the starting point and move it across the nail in the same direction again. This will leave a smoother finish.

Nail Cleaner

Once you've applied your desired nail polish, use this handy tool to clean up areas around the nail where polish might have landed on skin. Keep it handy during the painting process to manage slip ups before the polish dries.


Keep yourself and your nails healthy by sterilizing your metal manicure tools to avoid infection. Wash tools in hot water with dish detergent, then place them in a 375-degree oven for 15 minutes. Let tools cool before use. Or, you can boil your tools in water for about half an hour. Both methods will kill organisms on your manicure set.