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Can You Really Treat your Ingrown Toenail at Home?

Can You Really Treat your Ingrown Toenail at Home?

I’m a firm believer that ingrown toenails are the worse! Not only is the toe painful due to the inflammation of the ingrown toenail, but getting it fixed by a doctor is just as bad. An ingrown toenail occurs when the nail grows into the flesh, instead of over it. For some genetics can increase the risk, and for others it can be due to injury such as stubbing your toe, the pressure of poor fitting shoes, or improperly clipping their nails to short or curved which allows the nail to grow into the skin. If untreated, the ingrown nail can become infected.

The sides of your toes are typically where the ingrown toenail is located and will be extremely sensitive to the touch and appear red and swollen on the side. If pus forms at the site of the ingrown toenail, or it becomes extremely swollen and painful, you should make a visit to your doctor.

My Experience

Last week, while moving some boxes around in our shed, a heavy box fell on my foot and landed directly on my left big toe. IT HURT, but after a few minutes I forgot about it as the pain went away.

The next day, my toe was tender but looked normal and I wasn’t worried about it. On day three, my toe was a little swollen on one side and was sensitive to the touch. I soaked my foot in warm water with Epsom salt for the next couple of days and wore sandals. However, the pain increased each day until I couldn’t sleep at night due to pain. Not ready, or unwilling, to go to the doctor, I decided to try the home remedy of putting cotton under the injured toe nail.

After placing the cotton ball and soaking my foot three times that first day, the pain reduced dramatically, and I was able to sleep that night. The next day, I changed out the cotton ball, replacing it with another and continued to soak my foot in warm water with Epsom salt. By the end of the second day, I felt my toe was better, the pain was gone – only slightly sensitive to the touch – and the redness significantly reduced. Still, I decided to leave the cotton ball in for one more day. By the end of day three, my foot was 100 percent better, so I removed the cotton ball and returned to my day as usual.

At Home Treatments

According to WebMD, if caught early enough, most ingrown toenails can be effectively treated at home with the proper interventions. If you are prone to getting ingrown toenails or have a foot injury like I did, I recommend that you personally and immediately try to care of your foot with the goal to avoid some pain and medical expense of your injury.

Try these simple steps at home to treat your ingrown toenail.

  • Epsom salt and warm water: Soak your foot in warm water and unscented Epsom salt three to four times a day for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Soaking can help reduce swelling which relieves tenderness around the toe. Additionally, the warm water will soften the toenail also helping to reduce the pressure.
  • Cotton or dental floss: After soaking your foot for the first time, put a fresh small cotton ball or rolled up waxed dental floss under the edge of the ingrown nail raising it upward from the tissue. With your toenail and surrounding tissues soft from soaking, you will be able to easily and with less pain insert the cotton or floss under the nail. The “elevated” nail will help it grow above the skin edge and allow the skin time to heal without the nail pressing on the skin.The next time you soak your foot, the cotton ball or dental floss still in place, will allow the water and salt to penetrate deeper under the nail. After your last soaking, at the end of the day, replace the cotton ball with a new one. You don’t want to keep the same cotton ball or dental floss in as it can become dirty and possibly allow bacteria and germs to get under the nail.
  • Antibiotic cream: While I didn’t personally do this with my condition, putting antibiotic ointment on the tender area will help protect the area.
  • Bandage: Protect your affected toe from other toes or from the sides of your shoes by covering the infected toe with a Band-Aid.
  • Choose sensible and properly fitting footwear. As mentioned above, having poor-fitted shoes can cause ingrown toenails to form. The same is true when your toe is recovering to help in the healing process. It is suggested that you wear open-toed shoes or sandals until the condition is alleviated.
  • Consider pain relievers. If needed, you may consider taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to help with the pain.

How To Place the Cotton Ball Under your Toenail

Placing the cotton ball or dental floss under your nail may be intimidating and a little painful. Below are the steps I took to put a small ball of cotton under the toenail.

  • Soak your foot for 20 minutes in warm water with Epsom salt.
  • Occasionally during the 20 minutes of soaking, gently lift your nail and pull the skin back. Note: Don’t pull too much as this may be painful.
  • Take cotton from a cotton ball or Q-Tip and roll it into a small bundle. Then place it underneath your nail using the end of a small match or the curved edge of the filer on your nail clippers. Note: AVOID ANYTHING SHARP to avoid poking yourself in the process.
  • Gently work the cotton ball under the nail, placing it partly under the nail and leaving some to the side of the nail. If the ball is too big, remove a little of the cotton and try again as you don’t want it to be too big and possibly cause irritation.


If you catch an ingrown toenail early, whether from an injury or from another cause, you may be able to effectively treat it at home. With my own experience, I will always try to treat it at home, and I hope you are able to do so also.