Files haven’t undergone any significant changes in the past few years, but there have been enough improvements on the basic formula to warrant purchasing many of the newest versions. The file is the most-used yet lowest- costing nail implement you use, so you might as well get the best file for the job at hand. Files now come in dozens of sizes, shapes, colours, thicknesses, and grits, and can be washable, non-washable, and sanitizable.

There are only a few primary manufacturers of files in the United States, yet they provide files to dozens of suppliers and marketers, sometimes after customizing files just for them or imprinting their logo. NAILS asked the primary makers of files what was their newest, best, or most unique products.

Soft Touch’s (Brea, Calif.) latest file is called the Black Panther file. This black file is made with a latex abrasive backing to give the file more flexibility and a longer life. It’s sanitizable and comes in grits of 100,180, and 240. It is recommended for shaping acrylics.

Soft Touch also makes a file that actually traps filings. The Dust Eater file, recommended for use on acrylics, features an open-weave surface construction that traps file dust in the weave. To remove the excess dust from the file, simply tap the file on your table or wash it.

Flowery Beauty Products (Greenwich, Conn.) makes a line of immersible, sanitizable, reusable files that includes Purifiles, Puriblocks, and Purifiles foot files. Its files are made with a resin-coated abrasive on a polyester film backing. Coating the abrasive with resin helps keep the abrasive material from shedding and helps the file hold up to washing and normal wear. Medical-grade adhesives, a closed-cell foam cushion, and a high-impact polystyrene body further extend the life of the file and its ability to withstand soakings.

Sanitizable Files Reduce Risks and Save Money

It is becoming recognized that it’s not safe to use the same file on different clients unless you have properly sanitized it between clients. Buying files only to throw them away after one use can be expensive. Some states require you to either throw away the file or disinfect it; check with your state board if you are unsure.

More file manufacturers are answering this need by making sanitizable, immersible files that stand up to repeated washings and soakings; since sanitizing files sometimes involves soaking them for up to 10 or 15 minutes or even all day, the files must be very durable and long-lasting.

“Sanitizable” files are distinguishable from “washable” files in that they can be soaked for a long time. Washable files can get wet but don’t hold up to soaking for long periods of time. It is safe, however, to reuse washable files by washing them with soap and water and then spraying them with a disinfectant. Be sure to spray the whole file with the disinfectant.

An alternative to having to deal with sanitizing files or throwing them away is to provide clients with their own personal files that are for their use only. In this case, you may give or retail to the client files that are handpicked for her particular need or nail service. Natalie Brown, owner of The Buckhead Nail Club in Atlanta, Ga., provides individual kits for her clients that contain all nail implements that are not heat-sterilizable. “When I started providing the kits, I raised my price on manicures to include them. The kit contains a nail brush, a sanding sponge, and files. One-time clients can take the kit home with them; I keep my repeat clients’ kits here. The individual components of the kit are purchased in bulk so that I can keep them inexpensive. I like using them just as much as I like using the heavy-duty versions,” says Brown.

Cushioned Files Cover More Surface

Since nails are curved surfaces and files are flat, nail technicians must quickly work the file to cover the whole surface area. Cushioned files were made to curve around the nail surface so that you can cover more area with each stroke, thus making the nail technician’s job easier But some nail technicians believe that the traditional flat, hard file gives them mote control.

H&H Products (Westlake Village, Calif.), a company that makes 100 types of professional files and that will customize and imprint files for other companies to sell, came up with an idea that provides the best of both types of files The company’s Nailfriend file is a patented file that incorporates new construction technology. The double layer of foam on each side of the plastic core gives a soft flexibility on the surface of the file, and a harder flexibility toward the middle of the file, allowing you to cover more of the nail surface with each filing stroke while retaining control.

The Use Of Grits, Shapes, And Colors

Nail file grits range from extra-coarse (80-100, or even 60) to ultra-fine (1,000-4,000), and each grit has a specific purpose. The higher the grit, the finer the filing ability. Coarse files are great for shortening tips and sculptured nails; medium-grit files (120-180) are for shaping acrylic product; fine (240-600) are for using on fiberglass, gels, and natural nails; ultra-fine files are for finishing and shining the nail. (Shiners actually work by cutting extremely small scratches in the nail surface. The small scratches reflect light from the nail, giving it its shine.)

You should not file fiberglass, wraps, and gel nail surfaces. These nail services should be applied so smooth that they only require buffing. Jenette Christoferson, education director at Soft Touch, recommends using a file that is no less than 320-grit for buffing wraps and gels on the free edge, and a file with a finer grit for buffing the surface.

The edge of a new file can sometimes be so sharp that it can cut you or a client. International Abrasive Manufacturing (Anaheim, Calif.), offers 28 standard shapes of files in a variety of grits. The company offers a hint to make files safer: Smooth the sides of the new file by taking an old file and running it along all the edges of the new file. This dulls the sharp edge that could nick or cut your client. Files come in every colour imaginable, and the one you choose is a matter of personal preference, since it has no effect on the file’s ability. Some manufacturers say that white files stay looking new longer since they don’t fade as much as collared files. Files in different colours can help you keep track of which of your files has which grit. Tropical Shine (Huntington Beach, Calif.) imprints the grit number on all of its files. It makes files in black, burgundy, brown, gold, white, pink, blue and pink, orange, green, and neon yellow. Blocks come in black, gold, zebra, and white; sanding disks come in various colors.

A typical Soft Touch board is imprinted with the company’s logo, the file number, and some directions on its use, such as “Coarse/Medium, Washable-Sanitizable, Leaves No Color Residue,” or “Shines Acrylic, Natural, and Polished Nails.”

You can find file sizes that range from the colossal to the mini. Files come in dozens of shapes ranging from boards to blocks, discs, and can even be found in heart, lip, and foot shapes. Some shapes are purely esthetic, while other shapes, such as curves, tapers, and points, help you get into tight spots, corners, and under the free edge, and give versatility for different nail widths.

The abrasive material (the grit) is attached to a variety of backing types. Polyester film backings, such as Mylar, are washable, durable, and sanitizable. Paper backings are less expensive but don’t stand up to repeated washings. OPI Products (N. Hollywood, Calif.) has been offering a cloth file for years. According to Nadine Galli, an OPI educator, cloth files last longer than other files because they are made of heavy-duty material that stands up to long use and wear. Cloth files are sanitizable and immersible. OPI makes a white file with a fine grit, a blue medium-grit file, and a black coarse file. Galli says they are appropriate for taking down and shaping acrylic product. Tropical Shine makes a soft cloth file made of navy-blue denim.

Some boards coat the nails with a thin layer of wax as you buff the nail surface. Pri-Form (Costa Mesa, Calif.) says its Magic Wax Board helps natural nails grow longer and deters nail- biting. Buffing with the board once a day for three days and then once weekly thereafter, smooths and fills cracks and splits, says Pri-Form. It also renders the nails so slick that nail biters’ teeth slide right off the nail, the company says.

There is such a variety and choice of files available, you might want to get an assortment of many different kinds the next time you need to order a new supply. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Acrylics, Wraps, And Gels Call For Different Filing Techniques

You could use the same file for all services at all stages; but why should you? The following are basic filing guidelines for different services.


Etch the natural nail plate with a medium-grit file (180-280).

Shape the acrylic product with a coarse or medium- coarse file (60-100).

Shape the sidewalls with the same file.

Use a curved or rounded file on the cuticle area.

Smooth and finish the nail surface with a white block or black buffing block (240-600). Use an ultra-fine block to buff the nails to a high shine.


Wraps require a very light filing touch so that you don’t break through the fabric mesh. Lightly buff the natural nail plate with a three-way or four- way buffer to remove the surface shine only.

If tips are being used, use a 180-grit file to shape and blend the tip.

After the fabric is applied and the adhesive has dried, use at least a 240-grit file to shape the mesh. Use the same file to bevel and smooth the nail surface, being careful not to overfile.

Finish the nail surface with a white block or black buffing block. Use the fine side to buff the nail to a high shine.


You should not be filing gel nail surfaces. Gels should be applied so smooth that they only require high-gloss buffing — the real shaping occurs before the gel is even applied.

Use a 180- to 280-grit file to remove surface oils from the natural nail surface. Use the same file or a tip blender to blend in the tip if tips are desired. Buff the surface with a very fine buffer (320-600).


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