Removing a ring from a finger or toe

Swelling of the fingers or toes is common after an injury to the hand, arm, foot, or leg. If you did not remove a ring before swelling began, try one of the following methods. These methods can be used for rings on fingers or toes. If these methods fail, see your health professional to have the ring removed.

First method

  • Don't try to force the finger or toe out of the ring. This may make the area swell more, making the ring more difficult to remove.
  • Relax your hand or foot. Relaxation alone will sometimes enable you to free the ring.
  • Elevate your affected hand or foot, if possible.
  • Apply ice around the affected area. This may reduce swelling and allow the ring to be removed.
  • If ice doesn't work, dribble soapy water or cooking oil on the area. Turn the ring as if unscrewing it rather than pulling it off directly.

Second method (string method)

  • Stick the end of a slick piece of string, such as dental floss, under the ring on the side closest to the hand or foot. See illustration A below.
  • Starting at the knuckle side of the ring, wrap the string snugly toward the end of the finger or toe, wrapping beyond the knuckle. Each wrap should be right next to the one before.
  • Grasp the end of the string that is stretched under the ring and start unwrapping it. Push the ring along ahead of the unwrapping string as you unwrap it to remove the ring. See illustration B below.
Picture of removing a ring from a finger or toe

Illustration A (may also be tried on a toe)

Picture of removing a ring from a finger or toe

Illustration B (may also be tried on a toe)

Last Updated: November 13, 2008

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine

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