Photo: aquatti (Shutterstock)
When working in your garden or yard, you go in with the expectation that you’re going to get a bit dirty—given that you’re probably working with actual dirt. You may even have dedicated shoes or items of clothing to wear while gardening that you’re not concerned about getting covered in soil and stains. But your hands are a different story.
Gardening gloves exist for a reason, and, of course, wearing them makes a huge difference when it comes to keeping your hands semi-clean. But even with them on, it’s still possible for dirt to get into your gloves and under your fingernails, or embedded in the creases of your skin.
Plus, there are other situations where you lose your gloves, forget to put them on, or are working with small, delicate plants that need to be handled without gloves. Here are a few ways to protect and care for your hands and nails before and after gardening.
How to protect your hands prior to gardening
Whether or not you’re wearing gloves, there are a few things you can do prior to heading outside that will help minimize damage to your hands and nails, and reduce the amount of scrubbing you’ll need to do when you come back in:
Cut and file your nails
Even if this isn’t something you do on a regular basis, trim your nails before working in the garden, then file them so the edges are smooth. This will make it harder for dirt to get underneath your nails.
When your hands are dry, rough, and flaky, it gives the dirt all kinds of cracks and crevices to settle in. Instead, moisturize your hands—ideally, using a thicker hand cream—prior to working in your garden. Just make sure the cream is fully dry before getting into the dirt.
Scratch a bar of soap
Right before you head out to your garden, scratch a bar of soap, so that the soap gets under your fingernails. This way, the dirt is blocked from getting in, and the soap will easily dissolve when you wash your hands later, helping you scrub them clean.
Similarly, if dirt tends to accumulate around your cuticles, rub some petroleum jelly into them to prevent that from happening.
How to clean your hands after gardening
When you finish up in the garden, take the time to clean your hands and nails thoroughly. Wash them using soap and warm water. In this case, a bar of soap is preferable to liquid, because handling the bar while lathering up can help dislodge and remove some of the dirt.
Then, use a soft nail brush to get rid of any dirt that managed to get under your nails, stuck in your cuticles, or embedded in your skin. Wash your hands and nails again to remove any of the newly dislodged dirt, and finish with a little hand cream (or moisturizer of your choice).