How To Clean A Wound Under A Nail

Date Published: August 1, 2021
Author: Kylee Smith

Before cleaning and dressing a wound under a fingernail or toenail, it is important to address whether the injury is severe enough for you to seek medical attention. Contact your primary health care provider or seek emergency assistance if the injury fits one of the following descriptions.

  • Bruise or discoloration that covers half the nail
  • The wound is deep enough to require stitches
  • Finger or toe deformities due to fractures and/or dislocations are present
  • The nail is partially or completely torn off or removed

If the injury does not fit any of those descriptions, you are prepared to clean and dress the wound yourself. You can do this in four easy steps in a matter of minutes.

Cleaning Supplies for a Wound Under a Nail

Unfortunately, nail injuries are quite common. They can be due to something as simple as stubbing your toe or a more severe injury. Fingers and toes get a lot of action, and they are subject to different types of nail injuries. It is important to know what steps to take to address these injuries when they occur.

Clean Cloth

A clean cloth is used to stop the bleeding if necessary. You will need to apply direct pressure to help stave off excess bleeding.

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Nail Scissors

Nail scissors are used to cut torn or rough edges of the nail, preventing further injury.

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Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is used to sterilize the scissors. It can also be used to clean the wound, but anti-bacterial soap and water work just fine for the latter, without causing any extra pain.

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Anti-bacterial Soap

Anti-bacterial soap is used to clean the wound thanks to its anti-microbial and antiseptic qualities.

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Triple-Antibiotic Ointment

A triple-antibiotic ointment is used to help heal the wound.

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Toe Bandage

A bandage specifically designed for toes is the best choice for providing proper protection while the wound heals.

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Finger Bandage

A similar bandage that fits fingers is used if the wound is under one of your fingernails instead.

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Cleaning Wound Under Nail

Cleaning a wound under your fingernail or toenail is easy when you have the right supplies on hand. You can already see the bandages you choose can make this task even easier. In just four steps, the wound will be cleaned, your toe or finger will be protected, and the wound will be ready to heal properly.

Step One: Apply Pressure to Stop the Bleeding

Apply pressure to the wound using a clean cloth to stop the bleeding if necessary. If the bleeding has already stopped, proceed to the second step.

  • Pro Tip: Elevate your hand or foot for 15 minutes to help stop the bleeding. Be sure to maintain constant pressure, avoiding the desire to peak.

Step Two: Sterilize Nail Scissors and Trim Nail

Sterilize the nail scissors using rubbing alcohol. Use the nail scissors to trim any rough edges and any parts of the nail that is torn. Doing this prevents further injury.

  • Pro Tip: If the nail is so badly torn that you risk further injury, clean the wound and then seek medical attention.

Step Three: Clean the Wound

Clean the wound using antibacterial soap and warm water. Apply the soap directly using your hand and rinse the affected area under the tub faucet. You can use a sink if the injury is under your fingernail and not your toenail.

  • Pro Tip: If persistent dirt remains post-injury after cleaning the wound, use a pair of tweezers to remove any remaining embedded debris.
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Step Four:  Apply Triple Antibiotic Ointment and Bandage the Wound

Apply triple antibiotic ointment liberally to the wounded area, ensuring proper coverage. Next, use one of the bandages specifically designed to cuff your finger or toe.

  • Pro Tip: Toe bandaging is especially crucial because feet are in shoes most of the day. The right bandage helps reduce swelling and the risk of fungal or bacterial infections.

Final Thoughts

You know how to clean and protect a wound under your fingernail or toenail. Remember that after-care is required during the healing process. You want to be watchful and follow proper wound care guidelines. If you notice any symptoms of infection in the coming days, be sure to seek medical attention.

FAQ: Cleaning Wound Under Nail

Cleaning a wound and protecting the affected area during the healing process are both key steps to recovery. Right now, you are the one overseeing the aftercare for this minor injury. You need to know what to look out for as your wound heals.

What should you do if you notice any swelling?

Apply ice to the affected area. As you use the ice, you should also elevate the wounded finger or toe above your heart. These steps should help reduce the swelling. Swelling should not last longer than a week. If the swelling persists or worsens, seek medical attention.

What should you do if the pain is persistent?

Simple over-the-counter pain medications, like Tylenol and Ibuprofen, typically do the trick. Pain symptoms, like swelling symptoms, should last no longer than a week.

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How often should you change the bandage?

Change the bandage daily and be on the lookout for signs of irritation or infection, such as redness and puss.

How long does it take for the nail to grow back?

How long it takes the nail to grow back depends on the severity of the injury and how much of the nail is missing. The wound itself is going to heal much faster than the nail grows back. It can take several months for a damaged nail to grow back completely.

Is there a chance the entire nail must be removed?

If you notice signs or symptoms directing you to seek medical attention, a physician will assess whether your nail needs to be removed based on a variety of factors. Sometimes, the tissue under a nail is damaged to the point that a nail must be removed. Toe and finger fractures can play a part, too.

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