A nail file is a tool used to gently grind down and shape the edges of nails. They are often used in manicures and pedicures after the nail has been trimmed using appropriate nail clippers. Nail files may either be emery boards, ceramic, plain metal files or metal files coated with corundum (sapphire).
Emery boards are generally less abrasive than the metal nail files, and hence, emery boards may take longer to file down nails than metal nail files. However, nail files may play a role in the disease transmission
if they are used on more than one person without adequate sterilization
. Emery boards are usually less expensive than metal nail files, therefore emery boards can be economically disposed of after use on a single person.
Glass nail files are more recently available. Since glass nail files have a smoother and more even surface they do not splinter the nail like emery boards or metal nail files. This makes them a preferred instrument by manicurists, although they are sometimes difficult to find in stores.
Although the modern nail file has only appeared at the end of the 19th century, evidence of nail file-like tools exist even further back in history. Marie Antoinette was known for her obsession of the 'lime a ongles', which was a nail file-like tool made of the pumice stone. Seeing her perfectly shaped nails, it instantly became the latest female trend in the French Court of Versailles. The pumice stone was carved into a pencil like shape, which was used to trim and shape the edges of the nail. This tool would not be disposed after use, but would be hand washed by the maids and placed by the bathtub to be used again.