Stained and discolored nails are a real embarrassment, but thankfully there are some simple at-home treatments that can help to whiten your nails when they start looking less than their best. Skip the nail salon and expensive treatments and learn how to whiten your nails at home with these 6 simple steps.

Step 1: Soak Your Nails


How to whiten nails

The first step in whitening your nails is to give them a soak. There are several soak combinations that you can try.

  • Denture cleaner. Commercial denture cleaners contain active ingredients that help to remove stains from hard surfaces. Dissolve the denture tablet in warm water according to the manufacturer’s directions, then soak your nails in the solution for 5 minutes. Rinse with clean water and pat dry. Repeat a few times per week for best results.
  • Hydrogen peroxide. In a plastic bowl, combine 1/2 cup of hot water with 1 tsp of 3% hydrogen peroxide and 1 Tbsp of baking soda. Soak nails in the solution for up to 10 minutes, before washing hands with soap and water.
  • Lemon juice and soap. In a plastic bowl, combine 1/4 cup of lemon juice with 1 cup of warm water and 1-2 Tbsp of gentle liquid soap. Soak nails in the solution for up to 5 minutes, before rinsing with clean water.
  • Vinegar. In a plastic bowl, combine 1 cup of warm water and 1 tsp-1 Tbsp of distilled white vinegar. Soak nails for around 8 minutes, then rinse with clean water and pat dry.

Warning: Some of these solutions can dry the skin, so always follow up a treatment with an application of moisturizer.

Step 2: Scrub Your Nails

If soaking doesn’t remove stains from your nails, you can try gently scrubbing them to help whiten their appearance. There are several different scrubs that can help to whiten the look of your nails.

  • Nail polish remover. Some stains are left from using a dark polish, so using a makeup remover pad wetted with a nail polish remover containing acetone can help. Scrub only for about 15-30 seconds.
  • Baking soda. In a plastic bowl, mix together 1 Tbsp of 3% hydrogen peroxide with 2 1/2 Tbsp of baking soda. Use a cotton swab to apply the paste to the nails, and let sit for 3 minutes. Rinse with clean water and pat dry. Repeat a every 6-8 weeks for best results.
  • Whitening toothpaste. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to each nail, using a nail brush or an old toothbrush to rub it in. Let it sit for 5 minutes before rinsing with warm water. Repeat a few times per week for best results.
  • Lemon. Take a fresh-cut lemon half and rub it over your nails, working each one for about 30-60 seconds. Rinse hands with warm water and pat dry. You can also mix lemon juice with baking soda using a 1:2 ratio to create a paste that can be applied to nails using a cotton swab. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, then wash hands with soap and water.

Warning: Again, many of these scrubs can dry the skin, making applying moisturizer afterwards a must-do.

Step 3: Buff Your Nails

The next step in whitening your nails if the soaks and scrubs aren’t effective, is to give them a gentle buff on a weekly basis. A nail buffer rubbed over each nail for 20-30 seconds can help scrape off surface stains and give a healthy-looking shine to the nails.

Step 4: Use a Whitening Pencil

If you need an instant fix or the other suggestions haven’t worked, a nail-whitening pencil can temporarily solve the problem. A nail-whitening pencil looks similar to an eyeliner pencil, and is applied underneath the nail tips in order to help give a whiter-looking appearance.

Keep in Mind: You will need to reapply the whitening pencil after washing your hands.

Step 5: Apply a Base Coat

How to whiten nails

If your nails are discolored because of the use of dark nail polish, applying a clear base coat can help prevent stains from building up.

Helpful Tip: Base coat can be worn on its own in order to help protect and strengthen nails, as well as preventing stains from sources other than polish.

Step 6: Seek Professional Help

If the above at-home remedies don’t provide the results you desire, schedule a visit with your doctor, who can assess the condition of your nails and help develop a treatment plan. Although rare, discolored nails could be a sign of yellow nail syndrome, a fungal infection, or can even indicate a problem with the heart, liver, or kidneys.

While discolored nails are an embarrassing problem, there are many options available to help whiten their appearance quickly and easily at home.