Softening fungal nails is imperative for regular grooming and maintaining fungal toenails. A fungal infection of the nail can be caught easily from many different places, since the condition is contagious and easily spread. Fungus likes to live on the floors and surfaces of public locker rooms, public pools, and nail salons. The floors of these places, or unsanitized tools in a nail salon, can harbor fungus that will infect your nail bed and start to grow. After fungus infects the nail bed, it is often frustrating and difficult to fully rid yourself of it. As the infection continues under your nail, the fungal spores can cause damage to the nail. This can cause multiple types of problem with the function and aesthetics of the nail.


Damage to the toe from fungus is typically only cosmetic. The nails will usually discolor in some way, usually starting as a spot or stripe of discoloration that will then grow and cover more of the nail. As the infection continues, it can also change the texture and structure of the nail. Toenail fungus can directly cause debris buildup under the nail, as well as other changes which frequently include cracking, brittleness, thickening, and hardening of the nail. These damages are usually only aesthetic and don’t affect the toe, but occasionally the changes in the texture and composition of the nail can have functional consequences as well. If the nail starts to become very brittle or hard, it can become very difficult to actually cut the nail with clippers as one normally would. It can often be hard to leverage the clippers enough to actually slice through the surface of the nail because of the extreme hardness. If the nail has become very thick because of fungal infection, this can have functional consequences for trimming the nails as well. When the nails become thick because of fungus, the opening of the blade on the clippers may not even be wide enough to get around the nail at all.


Softening fungal nails can definitely be a good practice to be able to trim them regularly. This trimming practice is important for several reasons. Trimming the nails regularly keeps them looking neat and tidy. Fungus can wrongfully be associated with being unclean, so if you are worried about how your toenail fungus appears to other people you should keep them at a moderate length if possible. When fungal toenails are much longer than people normally keep their nails at, they can appear more dirty. By trimming your nails regularly, you can minimize any unclean appearance and reduce the amount of people that are able to notice the fungal condition of your nails. Aside from maintaining a good social appearance, trimming your toenails is an important part of general hygiene. Ingrown toenails are less likely in nails that are kept trim, and trimming your nails will reduce the amount of bacteria that lives underneath your nail.


Softening fungal nails is not a difficult thing to do at home. The easiest way to soften fungal nails only requires one very accessible material that most people can find very easily in their own homes: water! Soaking your feet in a bath of warm water will allow the nails to become softened and less difficult to cut. This method of softening your nails involves filling a basin (think of a bathtub, bucket, or at home pedicure spa) with enough warm, clean water to completely submerge. To increase the efficacy of the foot soak, dissolve Epsom salts in the warm water as well. Submerge your feet in the water, and let them sit soaking for 30 minutes. Afterwards, dry off your feet and see if your toes softened from the water. If you have noticed an improvement in the hardness of the nail, you can attempt to trim them again.


Softening fungal nails can take more than just one attempt of soaking in warm water. For severe toenail fungus infection, you may need to do multiple sessions of soaking before the nail can be cut. You should repeat the soak daily until your nail can be cut. If this doesn’t improve the condition of your nail, try a nail softening cream after the water bath as well.


Softening fungal toenails at home won’t always work. Sometimes the nail is too thick and won’t fit between the blades of the nail clippers. In this case, debridement can thin the nail down, and is usually done in conjunction with treatment for fungal cause of the thickening/hardening.


Permanently softening fungal toenails is accomplished by treating the fungus itself. After eliminating the fungus from the nail bed, a new healthy nail should start to grow in behind the old damaged one. This nail should be clear, thin, and soft enough to cut. The best option for this treatment is the PinPointe laser, which typically requires only one treatment to eliminate the fungus from the nail bed. To find which of our 150 podiatry clinics is closest to you to get the PinPointe laser treatment, visit our page here.