• Cleaning: 3 – 5 Minutes
  • Drying: 3 – 5 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Cost: Low

A nail file is a great way to keep your nails in shape by grinding down sharp edges against the abrasive surface. While nail files can be made of many different materials such as emery boards, glass, or even ceramic, a metal nail file is one that strikes a good balance between cost-effectiveness and durability for long-term use.

The abrasive surface of a nail file is made of tiny gaps or dimples, which can accumulate nail shavings and can build up in these gaps, reducing the nail file’s effectiveness over time. It is important to keep your nail file clean so that it works properly. A properly maintained nail file can last a long time and will prevent damage to your nails as well. 

The best way to clean a metal nail file is to prepare a cleaning solution, soak and brush your metal nail file thoroughly, disinfect the surface for hygienic purposes and allow it dry. We teach you all this and more in the step-by-step guide below.

Items Needed to Clean and Disinfect a Metal Nail File

The best part about cleaning your metal nail file is that most of what you need are some simple things you should have lying around in your home.

things you need to clean your metal nail file

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • A medium-sized bowl
  • An antibacterial liquid soap
  • A toothbrush or small scrub brush
  • Isopropyl alcohol (70% alcohol content)
  • Paper towels or a cloth

1. Prepare a Cleaning Solution

Now, let’s get to the cleaning! Start by taking a medium-sized bowl in which you can easily immerse your metal nail file and fill it halfway with warm water. Warm water can help dislodge small pieces of nails that are stuck in between the tiny gaps in the nail file.

creating a cleaning solution for your metal nail file
creating a cleaning solution for your metal nail file

Pour some liquid soap into the bowl (about 10 to 15 drops should suffice). You can use any kind of soap you have, but using an antibacterial soap will give you the benefit of making sure you get rid of any bacteria on the surface of the nail file as well.

Don’t forget to swish the water well until suds form on the surface. This ensures that the antibacterial soap is mixed well with the warm water in the bowl to create an effective cleaning solution.

2. Soak & Brush Your Metal Nail File

Now, take the nail file and place it inside the bowl of warm soap water. Hold the metal nail file with one hand and a toothbrush or a small scrub brush in the other. Use the brush to make gentle circular motions on one side of the file to get rid of the nail dust lodged in the tiny gaps.

soaking and brushing your metal nail file

You will see the tiny white nail residue lift up from the nail file. Repeat this process for about a minute on each side of the metal nail file. Once a side is completed, turn it over, and repeat the process on the other side as well.

Take the nail file out of the soapy water and inspect both sides carefully. If there are still some nail remnants left between the fine gaps, you should dip the nail file back into the warm water and repeat the process for another minute or so.

You should notice that all the nail dust from the file has been removed, and looks new and shiny once again. Rinse out the metal nail file to get rid of any soap or nail shavings.

3. Remove Excess Water & Let It Dry

Since your nail file is made of metal, you would need to make sure it is completely dry before your store it; otherwise, it may begin oxidizing and can rust over time. Rusting is detrimental to the performance of the nail file and will shorten its life span.

drying your metal nail file

Therefore, after rinsing your nail file, make sure to shake off the excess water. You may need to use a soft cloth or a paper towel since water can still be trapped in the tiny gaps of the nail file. Simply dab the soft cloth or paper towel on the metal nail file gently until it’s completely dry. 

Take note not to rigorously rub the metal nail file with a cloth or a paper towel, as the abrasive surface will tear the fabric.

4. Disinfect the Surface (Optional)

While disinfecting the metal surface of your nail file is optional, we highly recommend it for hygienic purposes. If you do not have the time, or material, or have recently disinfected your nail file, you can skip to the last step in the guide.

disinfecting your metal nail file

Disinfecting the surface of the metal nail file is a good option since it prevents bacteria from growing within the grooves and transferring to your nails when you file your nails.

To do this, we recommend the use of isopropyl alcohol (with 70 percent alcohol and 30 percent purified water content). If you have sensitive skin, we recommend wearing a pair of gloves while performing this step.

Place the nail file on a paper towel or cotton towel and spray both sides generously with the alcohol. Do not drench the file completely in the solution; simple misting is enough to disinfect it.

5. Allow It To Dry

Finally, ensure the metal nail file is completely dry before you store it to prevent oxidation and rusting as mentioned above. You may notice that even after dabbing the file dry, there might be some residual water left in the tiny gaps of the nail file.

letting your metal nail file dry

To dry it out, place it in a well-ventilated space and allow it to air dry completely.  In most cases, any water residue or alcohol will dry naturally; however, if the file still has excess moisture, you should once again dab it with a clean paper towel or cloth. Once the file is completely dry, you can either use or store it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cleaning a nail file is a simple and straightforward process that requires minimal equipment and can be finished in just about three to five minutes. However, there are some questions from our readers that we’ve addressed here. If you would like to have your questions added, simply get in touch with us.

What Happens If the Soap Doesn’t Clean My Metal Nail File?

If your nail file does not get clean in the soap water solution, it might be because the soap mixture is too diluted or the soap is too mild. The simple solution is to add more liquid soap, possibly doubling or tripling the amount.

Also, make sure that the water in the bowl is adequately warm so that the nail filings are removed more easily (warm water doesn’t bond well with dirt and debris such as nail dust). If it’s still not effective enough, we recommend using dishwashing detergent, which is more potent and can remove stubborn nail shavings more easily.

Can I Use Any Brush for Scrubbing?

You can use most types of filament brushes to clean your metal nail file. These can include a new toothbrush, a small cleaning brush, and even a horse hair brush. However, we do not recommend the use of harsh wire brushes to clean your nail files. 

Wire brushes are made of brass or steel filaments, which can be very abrasive and can wear down the metal nail file, making it blunt, and as a result, rendering it ineffective for filing your fingernails.

How Often Should I Clean My Metal Nail Brush?

This depends on how often you use it, so it’s best to regularly inspect your metal nail brush. Once you notice it being less effective or spot nail dust build-up, it’s time to give it a clean using the steps we’ve outlined above.

About Sirinan

Sirinan is a self-proclaimed cleanaholic and the editor-in-chief of Cleaney. Apart from coming with up creative ways to keep her living spaces clean and tidy, she loves to read on rainy days.