I Tried the TikTok Hack to Get a Ring Off a Swollen Finger to See If It Really Works
According to this surprising hack, all you need to remove a ring from a swollen finger is a little dental floss. I put this TikTok theory to the test.
If you’ve ever had to Google “how to get a ring off a swollen finger,” you know just how nerve-racking this situation can be. No matter how much tugging you do, when that ring won’t budge, a slew of worst-case scenarios starts to run through your head. What if my too-tight wedding ring cuts off circulation to my finger completely—will they have to amputate it? How much would it cost to go to the emergency room to have the ring cut off? Unfortunately, I have these panicked thoughts all the time.
I deal with swollen fingers any time it’s warm. And I’m not just talking about in the summer. If the heat is on in my house, my fingers swell. If I get overheated during a workout, my fingers swell. If I take a hot shower, you guessed it—my fingers swell. Wearing rings on swollen fingers can be painful. And the bulging skin around the ring is not a cute look. Figuring out how to remove a ring from a swollen finger has been a constant struggle. I’ve lubed up my finger, had my husband tug with all his might and even stuck my hand in a bucket of ice—all with no luck.
So when I heard about a new TikTok hack that uses household staples like dental floss and Windex to remove a ring stuck on a finger, seemingly in seconds, I was intrigued and decided to give it a try. Find out more about the hack, and whether or not it works, below.
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Why do some people’s fingers get so swollen?
There are a variety of reasons that fingers puff up—most of which are benign (though annoying). “Common causes of finger swelling include trauma, arthritis or other inflammation, infection, fluid retention, heart or kidney disease and even certain medications,” says Samuel Mathis, MD, an assistant professor in the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Health Department of Family Medicine.
Eating a diet that is high in salt can also add to swelling. “When you have high sodium intake, your tissues will retain extra fluid,” explains Natasha Bhuyan, MD, a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “People [don’t] always know that their diet is high in salt. For example, they might eat TV dinners or canned foods and not realize that those foods are packed with sodium and preservatives.”
Wondering how concerned you should be about swollen fingers? “If they get better on their own after a few hours, then there is no need to seek immediate medical attention,” says Dr. Mathis. “However, if the fingers don’t get better or swelling continues, speak with your primary care physician to see if there is an underlying medical condition that could be causing this.”
What is the ring-removing TikTok hack all about?
@brian.pepito Struggled 24hrs. Luckily found some life hacks. #fyp #diy #ringremoval ♬ Jiggle Jiggle – Duke & Jones & Louis Theroux
There are a number of videos that show off this hack, with slight variations. In this one, a person briefly applies ice to a swollen finger before threading dental floss under the ring and wrapping it tightly around the swollen part of the finger. Then, they tug the end of the dental floss, and the ring slides up and pops off.
In some videos, users don’t apply ice or anything else and instead just use dental floss. In others, the subject douses their finger in Windex first, and in still others, the person skips the dental floss altogether and uses only Windex to magically remove the ring.
Of course, TikTok is chock-full of hacks and tips—some are brilliant, but many are dubious. I wasn’t sure if any of these hacks to get a ring off a swollen finger would work, but I was curious.
Does it work?
If you look at the many TikTok videos that show this dental-floss hack, it sure seems to work. With varying degrees of ease, person after person is able to slide a ring off their swollen finger after compressing the puffiness with the floss. But here’s the catch: The doctors we spoke with don’t recommend this ring-removal method. “The prolonged swelling can lead to nerve damage in addition to more swelling and cutting off circulation [from the dental floss],” says Dr. Bhuyan. “It’s best to get expert help rather than trying this.”
But they also said the risk of harm is low and that Windex alone could work some magic. “It does not reduce swelling, but it is a trick people use to remove stuck rings,” says Dr. Mathis. “Windex helps to lubricate the area, reducing the surface tension and allowing the ring to move more easily.” Another benefit of Windex: It can clean your rings, making gold, silver and diamonds sparkle. Just don’t use it on antique diamonds or other types of stones—they are more fragile and porous, and the cleaner could damage them.
You should also proceed with caution when it comes to using Windex if you have sensitive skin. “It contains chemicals that can be irritating to the skin,” says Dr. Bhuyan. “There are other types of lubricants that can be used that are safer.” For example, you can try using dish soap or petroleum jelly instead.
How to get a ring off a swollen finger
Despite experts saying that wrapping your finger with floss may not be the best idea, they agreed trying it was relatively low risk—so I did. That said, I skipped the ice step because, honestly, it seemed unnecessary in the video. The ice was applied for such a short time, I had a hard time believing it did anything. If you want to try it, though, do it between Steps 1 and 2.
Step 1: Gather your supplies
The process is quick, so you need to have all your supplies ready. That includes about 12 inches of dental floss and something to help you thread the floss under your ring. I used the pointy edge of a hair clip, but you could also use the end of a floss pick or a bobby pin.
Step 2: Thread the floss under your ring
Use the pointy end of whatever you’ve chosen (in my case, the hair clip) to push one end of the floss under the ring. Once it starts coming out the other side, pull it so that most of the floss is on the side of your finger toward the top of your hand. You’ll want to leave 2 to 3 inches of floss at the bottom of your ring.
Step 3: Wrap the floss tightly around your finger
Wrap the floss you pulled to the top side of your ring tightly around your finger. You’ll want to wrap it around several times—I wrapped it around five times. The idea is to compress the swelling.
Step 4: Pull up on the end of the floss
Once you’ve wrapped your finger with the floss, take the shorter bottom piece that is hanging loose and pull it upward, toward the top of your finger. The floss should start looping around your finger, undoing the wraps you just did. This will force your ring up and over the swelling.
Here’s what happened when I tried this hack at home
Full disclosure: It took me a few tries to get this right. Because you are working on one hand, the other has to do all the work, which can be tricky and a little awkward. It’s like doing your own manicure at home but harder.
For my first attempt at this hack, I used the pointy end of a dental pick to press the floss underneath my ring. Ouch! The pick’s end was sharp, and trying to do it with just one hand meant I wasn’t as nimble as I’d like to be, so I ended up jabbing my finger in a not-so-pleasant way. After that, I switched to a hair clip that was thin but had a pointy end that was more rounded. (No more jabbing!)
From there, I wrapped my finger pretty tightly—but not so tight that it hurt. The key is to leave enough floss hanging out of the bottom of your ring to allow you to get a good grip on it. I learned this the hard way. During my first attempt, I didn’t have enough floss and was unable to get a good grip to pull. I had to get a longer piece (just over 12 inches was sufficient for me) and start over.
The final step of pulling my wedding ring up and over the swelling was also fairly easy. I just had to make sure I was pulling the bottom piece of floss upward so that it brought the ring with it. There were a few times in the process when I had to pull a little harder to get the ring up, but overall, it worked fairly quickly.
The verdict: It was a little awkward and took a few tries to master, but in the end, it worked!
Other ways to remove a ring from a swollen finger
Since our experts did not recommend the floss hack, I asked them for other things to try at home to remove a ring from a swollen finger. Thankfully, there were a number of other things that solved the “how to reduce swelling in hands” dilemma—and I tried them too.
Run fingers under cold water
Dr. Bhuyan suggests submerging your finger in ice water for a few minutes to reduce swelling. Cold water or ice, of course, also helps get rid of puffy eyes, so it’s easy to see how this method could work. This was my go-to trick before I learned about the floss hack. Often, when I do this, I’ll run the tap as cold as possible and put my finger under it for two minutes. When my fingers are just slightly swollen, this reduces it enough to get the ring off.
One word of warning: If your finger starts to hurt or tingle, you’ve submerged it for too long and you should pull it out of the water—otherwise, you risk nerve damage.
Elevate your hand
When it comes to swollen fingers, gravity may be your friend. “Elevate your hand above your head for a few minutes,” says Dr. Bhuyan. By doing this, you are encouraging the blood to flow down, away from your finger, reducing swelling in the process.
I tried this on multiple occasions with varying degrees of swelling. When my finger was only slightly swollen, it worked like a charm. But when my finger was super puffy and my ring was really stuck, it didn’t reduce the swelling enough to help.
Add something slippery
Windex, lotion, dish soap or petroleum jelly may provide enough slipperiness to slide that ring right off. I tried all four and found the Windex to be the easiest to manage. The thicker viscosity of the soap, lotion and jelly made it hard to get it under my ring to provide enough slip. The Windex was easy to spritz on, and the liquid slid right under my ring. With a few gentle tugs, I was able to pull my ring off.
A few final thoughts
Regardless of which tactic you try, take a break if you are tugging and tugging and nothing works. “So much maneuvering can often lead to more swelling,” says Dr. Bhuyan. If you keep trying and still can’t get your ring off, your best bet is to make an appointment with your doctor. And if the swelling is so severe that you are losing feeling in your finger, seek help immediately. A doctor will likely know how to make a swollen finger go down fast.
On that note, if you are noticing regular swelling, it’s always a good idea to check in with a medical professional. They will be able to figure out what’s going on and can answer any questions you may have—like, “Why do my fingers swell at night?” or “How can I prevent swelling in the heat?” With their tips, you may be able to prevent a ring from getting stuck in the first place.
About the experts
- Samuel Mathis, MD, is an assistant professor of family medicine in the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Health Department of Family Medicine. He is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, and he also completed a fellowship with the UTMB Health Integrative and Behavioral Medicine Fellowship program.
- Natasha Bhuyan, MD, is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. She graduated from the University of Arizona College of Medicine and completed her residency with the Banner–University Medical Center Phoenix Family Medicine Residency program.