Jewelry Care & Maintenance

How to Get a Ring Off a Swollen Knuckle: Save Your Hand and Your Jewelry

Rachel Akmakjian


Rachel Akmakjian

It happens to most of us frequent jewelry wearers eventually. Maybe it’s a scorching day out, and the heat’s given you swollen fingers. Maybe you just finished a strenuous run, and your hands swell a little with exercise. Perhaps you simply tried on an engagement ring that’s slightly too small for you.

Whatever the case, you face both a swollen finger and a stuck ring. Not only is having a ring stuck on your finger painful, but it can also be annoying. If you need to remove your ring for a shower, dip in the pool, clean, or any other circumstances where you’d want to remove the ring to avoid any damage, now you just can’t.

The good news? You’re not stuck this way forever. We know how to get a ring off a swollen finger without cutting it. Here are three ways to remove the ring from your swollen finger quickly.



What You Will Learn

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3 Proven Tactics for Ring Removal

There are a few proven ways you can go about removing a stuck ring from a swollen finger:

  • Lubricant
  • Compression
  • Shrinkage


Trying to move a stubborn item through a tight spot? Lubricant can always help, and it definitely can when it comes to ring removal.

However, be careful not to douse your ring finger with a lubricant that could harm your jewelry. While you want to free your swollen fingers, you likely don’t want to damage your favorite ring (especially if it’s a special piece of jewelry, like an engagement ring or wedding rings).

Some suggest using an ammonia based window cleaner as a lubricant to slide the ring free. Still, it’s generally best to avoid using any heavy chemicals or cleaners on your jewelry.


Instead, go with a safer option, like

  • Baby oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Butter
  • Mild dishwashing soap
  • Mineral oil

And while you might think that hand lotion would be an appropriate option in this situation, hold back on that hand lotion, too. Depending on your ring, beauty products, including hand lotion, perfume, shampoo, and body wash, could harm your ring’s appearance and integrity.

That said, bringing your jewelry into contact with any substance that’s not just water can cause damage so, as soon as your jewelry is safely seperated from your swollen finger, take care to rinse the lubricant from the ring thoroughly before drying it with a clean jewelry cloth.

Whatever lubricant you use, apply a minimal amount to your finger, around the ring, and then gently twist the ring forward off your finger.



You only need a tiny amount of extra space between your ring and your finger to let the ring slide free — and that’s where compression comes in. Using an oh-so-thin thread or dental floss, you can compress your swollen finger just enough for your ring to move.

To use this method, just slide a long strip of dental floss under the ring. Then, using the excess floss on the long end of your finger, wrap your floss around the knuckle tightly to compress the skin. Then, use the end of the floss on the other side of the ring, nearest your palm, to pull the ring forward, unwrapping the floss and sliding the ring over the compressed skin.



Lastly, one of the safest and most comfortable methods of removing a ring from a swollen finger is to shrink the finger back down to its average size. You can do this in a few ways.

First, try running your hand under ice-cold water as you gently twist the ring over your knuckle.

If that’s not enough, you may need to prepare a bowl or sink full of ice water and allow your hand to sit in the ice water bath long enough for your blood vessels to constrict. Your fingers to properly return to normal size.

You can also speed the process by dipping your hand into a cup of ice and then holding the cup (and your hand in it) above your head.

None of the Above Worked? It Might be Time to Take More Drastic Measures

If you tried all of the above methods for how to get a stuck ring off and still have a stuck ring on your finger, our methods for how to get a ring off a swollen knuckle might not be enough for your situation. In this case, you’ll want to seek medical attention. An emergency medicine provider will likely use a ring cutter to remove the ring from your hand.

Obviously, this isn’t the preferred option, as it means cutting your ring shank in half, but it’s better than an injured finger.

There are a few symptoms you can watch for to determine whether or not it’s time to get your ring cut or if you should simply try another ice water bath.

  • Has your swollen finger gone numb?
  • Has your swollen finger turned an odd color (other than the pink or red that might typically come with normal swelling)?
  • Has the swelling gone from merely uncomfortable to painful?

If so, it might be time to head to the ER.

How to Get a Ring Off a Swollen Knuckle

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Avoiding a Stuck Ring in the Future

Once your ring is free, if this is an issue that you frequently deal with, it would be wise to take steps to avoid this problem in the future.

If you know your ring sticks only when your fingers swell, then, if you can, remove the ring before any situations where your fingers might do so, such as before a workout or spending the day in the sun. (Even if your fingers don’t swell frequently, it’s always a good idea to remove your rings and all jewelry before exercising, swimming, gardening, or otherwise spending time outdoors or in sweaty situations, to avoid damage.)

Suppose your fingers swell due to a short-term issue, such as pregnancy, or maybe you ate too much sodium the day before. You should not wear your rings for a while until things are back to normal.

If the issue doesn’t only come up when your fingers swell naturally, then it might be time to resize your ring. Maybe it’s been a while since you purchased your wedding rings, and your fingers are larger now. Maybe your partner inadvertently purchased a too-small engagement ring, to begin with. Whatever the case, if your ring is just slightly too small for your finger, and is frequently stuck, resizing it will save you a lot of frustration and pain.

Keep Your Fingers and Your Jewelry Safe

Have you successfully freed your swollen fingers? However, if you plan to avoid a stuck ring in the future, make sure your rings are kept safe from the many other ring-related snafus that can arise in daily life. From twisting your ring off your finger and then accidentally dropping it off a pier to carefully setting it aside while you do the dishes, only for the toddler to drop it down the drain, jewelry insurance can help in sticky situations like these.

Do you need jewelry insurance? Learn how BriteCo’s comprehensive coverage options can give you peace of mind, protecting your favorite jewelry no matter what life throws at you.

Also Check:

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Rachel's expertise is further enhanced by her distinction as a Graduate Gemologist from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America (GIA), equipping her with exceptional knowledge in gem identification and grading. Her education and experiences have given her an in-depth understanding of the demands and expectations facing jewelers and customers in today’s evolving retail marketplace.