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How to Soften Hard Toe Nails

Do you have hard, brittle toe nails that make it difficult to trim them or keep them looking nice? If so, you’re not alone. Cracked and yellowed toe nails can be an embarrassing problem that many of us face but don’t talk about.

If you want to know how to soften hard toe nails, keep on reading for some simple ways you can get your toenails looking their best.

Woman dipping her toenails into a bowl of warm water to soften her toenails

How to Identify Hard Toe Nails

If you notice that your toenails are thick, discolored, and difficult to trim, you may have hard toenails or thick nails. Hard toenails can be caused by several factors, including fungal infections, poor nail hygiene, aging, and wearing tight shoes.

One of the most common causes of hard toenails is a fungal infection called onychomycosis. This infection can cause your toenails to become thick, discolored, and brittle.

You may also experience pain or discomfort when walking or wearing shoes. If you suspect that you have a fungal infection, you’ll need to see a doctor or a podiatrist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Another cause of hard toenails is poor nail hygiene. If you don’t trim your toenails regularly or clean them properly, they can become thick and difficult to manage.

To prevent hard toenails, trim your nails straight across, keep them clean and dry, and avoid wearing tight shoes that can put pressure on your toenails, to prevent ingrown nails.

Aging is another factor that can contribute to hard toenails. As you age, your nails may become thicker and more brittle, making them harder to trim.

To keep your toenails healthy and flexible, try and maintain a healthy diet, stay hydrated, and exercise regularly.

What Causes Thick Toenails?

If you’re dealing with thick toenails, you may be wondering what is causing this issue.

There are several factors that can contribute to toenails becoming thick and difficult to manage. Here are some of the most common causes:


As you age, your toenails may naturally thicken and become harder. This is because the nail bed, which is responsible for producing new nail cells, can become less efficient over time.

This can cause the nails to grow more slowly and become thicker as a result.

Fungal Infections

Fungal nail infections, also known as onychomycosis, are a common cause of thick toenails. These infections can cause the nail to become discolored, brittle, and thick.

If left untreated, they can also cause the nail to separate from the nail bed.

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions can also cause toenails to thicken. For example, yellow nail syndrome is a rare disorder that can cause the nails to become thick and yellow.

Autoimmune disorders that cause inflammation, such as psoriasis, can also affect the nails and cause them to thicken.

Ill-Fitting Shoes

Wearing tight shoes can cause pressure on the toes, which can lead to thickening of the toenails. This is because the nail can become damaged from the constant pressure and friction.

Plus, ill-fitting shoes can also cause ingrown toenails, which can be painful and lead to thickening of the nail.

Woman soaking her feet in a warm bath to soften her nails

Importance of Foot Hygiene in Preventing Hard Toe Nails

Taking care of your feet is essential for preventing hard toenails. Proper foot hygiene can help keep your feet healthy and prevent a variety of foot problems, including hard toenails. Here are some tips to help you maintain good foot hygiene:

  • Keep your feet clean: Wash your feet daily with soap and water, paying special attention to the areas between your toes. This will help remove dirt and bacteria that can cause foot problems.
  • Keep your feet dry: After washing your feet, make sure to dry them thoroughly, especially between your toes. Moisture can lead to fungal infections and other foot problems.
  • Trim your toenails regularly: Trim your toenails straight across and avoid cutting them too short. This can help prevent ingrown toenails and other foot problems.
  • Wear clean socks and shoes: Change your socks and shoes daily to help prevent foot odor and fungal infections. Choose shoes that fit well and provide adequate support.
  • Use foot powder: Using foot powder can help keep your feet dry and prevent fungal infections.

How to Soften Hard Toe Nails

If you’re struggling with hard and thick toenails, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are several ways to soften them and make them more manageable. Here are some techniques you can try:

Soak Your Toenails

Soaking your toenails is one of the easiest and most effective ways to soften them. Fill a basin or tub with warm water and add a tablespoon of Epsom salt or apple cider vinegar.

Soak your feet for 15–20 minutes, then dry them thoroughly. You can also add essential oils like tea tree or lavender to the water for added benefits.

Use Nail Softening Cream

Another way to soften your toenails is to use a nail softening cream. These creams contain ingredients like urea, which helps break down the protein in the nails and make them more pliable.

Apply the cream to your toenails after soaking them, then cover them with a bandage or sock to lock in the moisture.

Trim Your Toenails

Trimming your toenails regularly can also help soften them over time. Use a toenail clipper to cut them straight across, then file any rough edges with a nail file. Avoid cutting them too short or rounding the corners, as this can increase the risk of ingrown toenails.

Other Nail Softening Techniques

There are other techniques you can try to soften your toenails, such as:

  • Applying a mixture of coconut oil and tea tree oil to your toenails and leaving it on overnight.
  • Massaging your toenails with a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Using a pumice stone to gently file away any rough or thickened areas on your toenails.

Woman having the soles of her feet scrubbed with a pumice stone

Home Remedies For Thick Hard Toenails

If you’re looking for natural remedies to soften your thick hard toenails, there are several options available. Here are some home remedies that you can try:

Epsom Salt Soak

Epsom salt is a popular remedy for various foot problems, including thick hard toenails. It contains magnesium sulfate, which can help soften your toenails and soothe the skin around them.

If you want to try an Epsom salt soak, add a half cup of Epsom salt to a basin of warm water and soak your feet for 20–30 minutes. Repeat this process 2–3 times a week for best results.


VapoRub is a topical ointment that contains menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus oil. It is commonly used to relieve cold and cough symptoms, but it can also help soften your thick hard toenails.

Apply a small amount of VapoRub to your toenails and cover them with a bandage. Leave it on overnight and wash it off in the morning. Repeat this process daily until you see improvement.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antifungal and antiseptic agent that can help treat toenail fungus and soften your thick hard toenails.

To use this remedy, mix a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil or olive oil and apply it to your toenails. Leave it on for 10–15 minutes and then rinse it off with warm water. Repeat this process daily until you see improvement.

White Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar

White vinegar and apple cider vinegar are acidic in nature and can help soften your thick hard toenails.

Mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a basin and soak your feet for 20–30 minutes. Rinse your feet with warm water and pat them dry. Repeat this process 2–3 times a week for best results.


There are several creams available in the market that can help soften your thick hard toenails. Look for creams that contain urea, lactic acid, or salicylic acid, as these ingredients can help exfoliate dead skin cells and soften your toenails.

Apply the cream to your toenails and massage it in gently. Repeat this process daily until you see improvement.

Woman soaking her feet in a foot bath and having her soles of her feet filed with a foot file

How to Trim Hard Toe Nails Safely?

Trimming thick and hard toenails can be a challenging task. However, with the right tools and techniques, you can trim the nails safely and effectively. Here are some tips for trimming hard toenails safely:

  • Soften your toenails: Before you begin trimming your hard toenails, it’s best to try and soften them first. Soak your feet in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes to soften the nails. Then dry your feet and toenails with a towel.
  • Use the right tool on your nails regularly: Nail nippers are the best tooli for trimming thickened toenails. They are lightweight, easy to grip, and easy to control. You can buy them at most pharmacies or drugstores. Avoid using regular scissors or knives that aren’t designed for cutting nails.
  • Cut straight across: When trimming your toenails, always cut straight across the nail plate, and use the nail nippers. Don’t cut too close to the skin or the sides of the nail. This can cause ingrown toenails or other problems.
  • File the edges: After trimming your toenails, use an emery board or nail file to smooth the edges. This will help prevent your nails from having sharp edges, which can end up catching on your socks or shoes.
  • Don’t cut too often: you need to trim your toenails regularly, but don’t cut them too often. Cutting your nails too frequently can cause them to become even harder and more difficult to trim.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Hard Toe Nails

Taking preventive measures can help you avoid hard toenails. Here are some tips to keep your toenails healthy and soften your nails:

  • Trim your toenails properly: Use a nail clipper to trim your toenails straight across. Avoid rounding the corners, as this can cause ingrown toenails. Also, avoid trimming your toenails too short, as this can lead to nail injuries and infections.
  • Wear shoes that fit well: Wearing tight shoes can cause pressure on your toenails and lead to nail injuries. Make sure your shoes fit properly and have enough space for your toes to move.
  • Protect your toenails: If you are involved in activities that can cause nail injuries, such as running or playing sports, wear shoes that provide good support and cushioning.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry: Wash your feet regularly with soap and water and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. Moisture can cause nail fungus and other infections.
  • Follow a nail care routine: Include nail care in your daily routine. Moisturize your toenails and cuticles with lotion or oil, and avoid using harsh chemicals on your toenails.
  • Avoid nail care mistakes: Don’t use your toenails as tools to open or pick things, and don’t bite your toenails. These habits can cause nail injuries and infections.
  • Use nail care solutions: If you have hard toenails, use solutions that can soften them, such as soaking your feet in warm water with Epsom salt or using products that contain urea or lactic acid.


Hard toenails can be embarrassing, painful, and difficult to manage. However, there are several steps you can take to help soften your nails and make them look better.

Make sure to trim your nails properly, keep them clean and dry, wear shoes that fit well, and follow a healthy diet.

If your hard toenails don’t respond to home remedies or preventive measures, you can always visit a podiatrist for toenail care.

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