No great painter ever started his masterpiece with a dirty canvas, and neither should you. Before you transform your digits into works of art, you need to clean them. Excavate under your nails with a spoon-edged nail cleaning tool, and then wash and dry your hands thoroughly to remove dirt, nail dust, grease and polish remover residue. It's also a good idea to soak your nails in warm, soapy water for a few minutes. It will soften your cuticles for the next step.