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What are the Best Methods for Clipping Nails?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 21, 2024
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Clipping the fingernails and toenails should be a part of a regular hygiene routine, even if they are kept longer or painted with nail polish. The best methods for clipping nails involve using tools that are clean and sharp, and making sure there are no sharp edges left behind on the nails. It is best to purchase different nail clippers for the fingernails and toenails, because each are shaped differently.

It is best to clip nails when they are clean and dry. Though some recommend soaking nails before clipping them, this is actually not one of the best methods for trimming nails. When the nails have been soaked in water, they get very soft, and could rip or tear instead of being clipped neatly. Instead, simply wash the hands or feet thoroughly before clipping them.

Next, find a location that is well lit and a wastebasket to catch the clippings. Now, decide what shape the nails should be. Some people like to make their nails squared off, and leave some of the white tip. Others clip their nails into a rounded shape, and clip off most or all of the white tip. Most people's nails fit more naturally into one shape or the other, and one of the best methods for clipping nails is to cut the nails into a shape that seems most natural.

When clipping nails, it is important to never cut the nail below the quick. This could cause injury, bleeding, and an infection. One of the best methods for clipping nails is to depress the skin on the fingers away from the nail, and gently press down with the nail clippers to ensure there is no skin caught in the clippers. If there is no pain or discomfort, it is then possible to clip the nail.

Clipping the fingernails usually requires three small clips with a rounded-edge nail clipper; make one cut on top and one cut on each side. When clipping the toenails, however, use a nail clipper that is straight across, not curved. It is best to only make one cut on the toenail and not create a rounded edge, which could lead to an ingrown toenail.

The best methods for clipping nails are fairly straightforward. After the nails have been clipped, take a nail file and gently file away any rough edges. Only file in one direction; do not file in a back-and-forth, see-sawing motion, as that can damage and weaken the nail. It is a good idea to file the toenails as well to avoid snagging socks or hosiery.

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Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Apr 14, 2014

My grandfather always cuts his nails with nail scissors. I tried it once but couldn't do it! It's very difficult to cut nails properly with scissors. It's almost impossible to get a perfect round shape and it's easy to cut too much.

Small nail clippers are best. They only cut a little bit so there is no risk of cutting too much. I use ones with a nice grip handle and a very round clipper, so my nails are always perfectly round.

By bluedolphin — On Apr 13, 2014

@Ruggercat68-- I have never heard of that before, that's very interesting. I will try it next time I cut my toenails. There are also tools that could be used to lift the sides of toenails up.

By donasmrs — On Apr 13, 2014

I discovered by myself that clipping toenails in a round shape leads to ingrown nails. I used to suffer from ingrown toenails several years ago. When I realized that it has to do with how I'm clipping my toenails, I started to clip them straight across. It can be difficult to cut across since toenail clippers are not large enough to complete the cut at one clipping. So I have to clip from one end to the middle and then from the middle to the end. Even though the result is uneven, it only takes a few seconds to fix with a nail file.

When toenails are clipped straight across, the sharp ends of the nail cannot grow into the nail bed. So ingrown nails are completely prevented. I also think that the toenails look nicer this way.

By Cageybird — On Apr 03, 2014

I rarely think about cleaning my toenail clippers between uses, but my wife's beautician told her that a lot of people do get infections from unclean hygiene tools like nail clippers and eyelash curlers. Soaking the clippers in an antiseptic solution like rubbing alcohol should become a routine.

By Ruggercat68 — On Apr 02, 2014

For whatever reason, the nails on my big toes tend to get ingrown and painful. I don't like to trim them all around like fingernails; I'll cut them straight across the top. Sometimes the untrimmed sides will curl and cut into the toe itself.

My wife showed me a trick for preventing ingrown nails on the big toes. After I cut the nail straight across, she got the nail trimmers and cut a small "V" notch in the center of the nail. The idea behind this is to encourage the ends of the nail to be pulled towards the center as the nail recovers and grows. The notch will supposedly close up and the sides will be drawn in.

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