Whether you have long or short fingernails, you probably make an effort to keep them clean — especially if you’re worried about potential illnesses. Amid the pandemic, experts focused on hand-washing, with the CDC recommending washing with soap and water vigorously for at least 20 seconds — or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice — to properly clean your hands. Failing that, they suggested using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
However, you may be wondering how exactly to clean your fingernails during hand-washing. After all, plenty of germs hide under your fingernails. A small study published in the International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences found that 20 out of 20 college students harbored bacteria like Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas under their fingernails.
Keeping your fingernails clean not only helps them look better but it also helps prevent the spread of infectious diseases (via Healthline). It’s relatively easy to clean the soil, grease, and germs out from underneath your nails. However, it’s not a good idea to grab something like scissors or a knife to scrape out the dirt (via Bustle). And even if they’re not visibly dirty, you need to ensure that you clean them regularly.
Here's the surprising tool that's optional for cleaning your fingernails
Bustle recommended that a great first line of defense in keeping your fingernails clean is a good nail brush. It can help you sweep out the dirt and grime without damaging the nail bed or pushing germs further under your nails. That said, one study in The Journal of Hospital Infection did find that the brushes made no difference in the level of bacteria under nails. If using one suits you, though, you should always allow it to air dry after using it to prevent bacteria from growing in it (via Healthline).
Healthline also suggested that you could lather up with dish soap for especially greasy grime, as the soap specifically cuts grease. The outlet also noted that if your water is too hot, it could dry out your fingernails, so lukewarm water works the best as you suds up. Soaking your hands can also loosen up the dirt (via Bustle). After washing and drying your hands, you should also apply a good moisturizer to prevent them from drying out and getting brittle.
Ultimately, short, well-shaped fingernails are the easiest to keep clean. However, no matter the length, be sure you scrub your nails at least once a day, or more if they are visibly dirty. If, while cleaning your fingernails, you happen to notice something strange like swelling, redness, or discoloration, be sure to talk to your doctor about the changes.
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