How To Clean Under Acrylic Nails

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If you wear acrylic nails, then you know, just like regular fingernails, dirt and debris can get trapped underneath. But it’s not just the dirt you need to worry about. Acrylics can also be prone to breeding bacteria and fungus if they are not kept clean.

If you’ve gone through the time and effort, not to mention the expense, of getting a nice set of acrylics, then you are going to want to ensure that you keep them in good shape! So it’s really important to know how to clean under acrylic nails.

In this article, we will go over the steps to properly clean under your acrylics to maintain a beautiful, healthy manicure without damaging the acrylic. We’ll also answer a few frequently asked questions about acrylic nails along the way.


How Did My Nails Get So Dirty?

Dirt under acrylic nails is pretty much inevitable. It’s going to happen as you go about your daily activities.

It’s not just things you’d think about, like gardening or cooking, doing the dishes, doing arts & crafts, washing your hair, scratching an itch, especially if you’re sweaty or are wearing moisturizer or suntan lotion.

The oils in your skin and skin products build up under your acrylics are not only common but often have you wondering: how did that dirt get in there – where did it come from?

It’s usually due to your body’s response to stimuli that your brain just automatically deals with, oftentimes unconsciously… so you don’t even realize you’re doing it.

Why Are My Nails Yellow (or White) Under Acrylics?

If your nails are yellow or white underneath, that’s not dirt, that’s a nail fungus infection. (particularly if there’s a smell).

This often occurs as a result of keeping your acrylics on too long without taking a break. A fungal infection can also happen if a nail becomes unglued and it’s re-glued without properly cleaning in between the nail plate and the acrylic nail.

Dirt, water and bacteria can get trapped, which results in a fungal infection.

If any of your acrylic nails you got at the salon become unglued, do not try to fix it yourself. Go back to the nail salon to get it fixed. 

It’s important to note that fungal infection can appear as a discoloration of the underside of the nail and isn’t always necessarily yellow.

So if your acrylics look discolored underneath and you know it wasn’t from something you handled that stained them that color, it’s most likely fungus.

How Do I Deal With A Fungal Infection Under Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic Nails

If you realize you have a fungal infection under your acrylics, the first thing you need to do is get your acrylics removed.

Note: If you suspect infection, it’s highly advisable to go to your nail salon to have your nails removed rather than trying to do it at home by yourself.

If you do remove the acrylics yourself, make sure you toss the acrylic nails immediately and do not reuse them later. You will just re-infect your nails.

Leaving your acrylics on when you have a fungal infection will not just make it worse, but also make it nearly impossible to treat.

You cannot effectively treat a fungal infection while you have acrylics on.

A fungal infection is one of those things that will not go away on its own. You need to deal with it as soon as possible.

Unlike other topical skin fungal infections which can be relatively easy to treat with home remedies or over-the-counter topical antifungal cream, nail fungus is much more difficult to treat.

And the longer you have it, the deeper into the nail it will go, making it even more difficult to get rid of.

Once your acrylics are removed, as long as your fungal infection has not been going on for months, simply soak your nails in vinegar for 15-20 minutes a day. As your nails grow, trim back the infected area until it has grown out.

If you have a more advanced case of nail fungus, see a dermatologist who can prescribe medication that will be more effective.

Over-the-counter nail fungal treatments are not effective on advanced cases of nail fungus.

In fact, there are no approved medications available over the counter that have been proven effective against nail fungus.

Even products that are marketed as a nail fungus treatment, look closely at the packaging or the insert because they must by law state that it’s “not for nails”.

Do not get new acrylics until your fungal infection is completely gone.

How to Clean Under Acrylic Nails

Here’s how to clean under your acrylic nails. But before we start, be sure to check out the pre-clean notes.

General Notes:

1. Be gentle when scrubbing. You don’t want the acrylic nail to pop off from the natural nail.

2. You also do not want prolonged exposure of your acrylic nails to water. If your nails are wet for too long, it can weaken the glue and cause your acrylics to separate from the nail.

3. Afterward, make sure you completely dry your nails. Use a clean tissue or paper towel and get underneath the nails to make sure you soak up any leftover water. Residual moisture that collects under your acrylics can result in a bacterial or fungal infection.

Step 1:

Moisten your nails in warm water to help loosen dirt and debris.

Step 2:

Use antibacterial soap. If you use antibacterial bar soap , dampen the soap and scratch your nails over the soap so you get the soap under your nails.

If you use liquid antibacterial soap , it’s even easier. Just pump a bit under each nail.

Step 3:

Scrub the underside of the nail. There are different tools you can use that should not damage your natural nails, the acrylics or your skin, like:

Don’t go to town scrubbing for 20 minutes. Your acrylics should not be wet for an extended period of time because they can loosen.

Overzealous scrubbing can also weaken the bond between your acrylics and your natural nail. Be gentle and don’t scrub for too long.

Step 4:

Rinse your nails. Just rinse until all of the soap is gone. Using warm (not hot) water helps to rinse the soap off faster.

Step 5:

Dry your nails completely.

As an alternative to antibacterial soap, you can try using a a non-gel whitening toothpaste  and follow the same steps above.

Preventing Acrylic Nails From Getting Dirty

rubber gloves

Cleaning under your acrylic nails regularly, not just when you notice your nails are super dirty, can help to keep them clean and prevent bacteria and fungus from breeding.

And you need to do more than just clean your nails. Wearing gloves is a must if you’re doing “hands-on” activities to keep them from accumulating dirt and to keep them dry!

Wearing gloves for tasks like gardening, washing dishes, and cleaning will go a long way to keep your acrylics clean and protect them.

You don’t need to get fancy. Just a pair of standard rubber dishwashing gloves  will do the trick.

If the gloves are loose on the top edge, just use a large elastic near the top to prevent water from getting in over the edges when washing, or cleaning.

Otherwise any pair of rubber latex gloves  will do.

The other option would be to use rubber finger cots . Rather than covering your whole hand, like a glove, finger cots only cover the tips of your fingers.

Especially for those with fake nail extensions, individual rubber finger cots might be ideal. Rubber gloves are designed to fit normal-length fingers.

So if you have fake nails with really long extensions, then you run the risk of poking holes through the fingertips or the gloves not fitting properly.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).