3 Alternatives to Pumice Stones


Pumice stones are a pretty rough tool, though, and are best suited to calluses with less sensitivity than the rest of your skin. Skincare enthusiasts are all too aware of the microscopic cuts and imperceptible abrasions that over-exfoliation can inflict on your skin: so what if you find that your pumice stone is missing or ill-suited to your needs?

What Materials Are Similar to Pumice?

Pumice stones are valued for the grainy, pocketed texture that makes them ideal for callus removal. It is unlikely that you will find many things that can compare to the unique surface of pumice stones unless perhaps the idea of using sandpaper on your skin is appealing to you.

Sandpaper fanatics aside, you really should not use sandpaper in place of a pumice stone. While it may smooth surfaces, sandpaper is not designed for use on human skin. Instead, please consider one of the following example alternatives to pumice stones, which can include:

  • Foot Files
  • Callus Knives
  • Callus Removal Salves (creams, gels, and peels)

Any of the above product categories can be used to soften skin and remove calluses in place of a pumice stone. Which one you choose will depend on the sensitivity of your skin and the thickness of your callus. Pumice stones are good at eroding moderately thick and insensitive skin, but they are less effective than foot files or callus knives on especially thick calluses.

On the other hand, foot files are fantastic for thick calluses, particularly in less sensitive areas of the body. Callus knives are also good for thicker calluses but are far more precise, so they are handy for calluses in hard-to-reach places.

Those with fragile or sensitive skin may be interested in a chemical treatment for their calluses. 

1. Remove Calluses with a Foot File

If you have extremely thick calluses, then consider investing in a foot file. They are more efficient than pumice stones for tough skin because they can remove dead skin and calluses more quickly than their rocky counterparts.

Unlike the small pores of a pumice stone, foot files are a single metal panel stamped through with several small, regularly spaced indentations that each serve as a tiny blade. This design creates a uniform pattern, giving the foot file an evenness of stroke that pumice stones can never compete with and allowing the user to wear away thick calluses quickly.

Additionally, pumice stones are often sold without too much modification of their natural form. With the exception of perhaps a small hole drilled through for hanging convenience, pumice stones are usually just smoothed into a small, rounded shape that can be difficult to grasp. This is frustrating for a tool that is so often used wet and on damp skin.

Similar to a zester or cheese grater, the design of a foot file must incorporate handles. This tends to make them easier to use if you have trouble keeping your grip on a pumice stone. While there are pumice stones with handles attached for ease of use on the market, you will be more likely to find that foot files built into ergonomic handles have a safer, more sure grip.

Which Is Better: A Pumice Stone or a Foot File?

Depending on how thick your calluses are, either a pumice stone or a foot file might be better suited for the job. 

If you have particularly thick calluses, a foot file is the better choice. 

  • A pumice stone may be too weak in addition to being too rough. Pumice stones remove only small amounts of skin while also scraping away skin in a randomized fashion. They can create tiny, coarse edges in your calluses without removing much dead skin.
  • Foot files can shear away relatively large segments of dead skin in a uniform pattern that is less likely to leave your calluses with rough edges.

If your calluses are not very thick or you are only looking to exfoliate your skin, then using a pumice stone can still be a good approach to your skincare needs.

2. Use Pedicure Knives to Remove Dead Skin

In much the same fashion as a foot file, pedicure knives are designed to cut dead skin away from the body in a clean and precise fashion. However, unlike the cheese grater approach of a foot file, pedicure knives are designed for detail and precision.

A pedicure knife is composed of only a single blade, though they are often sold in sets of several knives. Each pedicure knife has a unique blade that varies in the following categories:

  • Shape
  • Thickness
  • Length
  • Angle
  • Sharpness

Each of the above qualities determines how and why the knife is used. For example, many pedicure knife sets include a long, thin blade with a slight ‘C’-shaped curve, making it useful for shaving off thick heel calluses. Others are straight and thin, some are angled and wide, but all of them are meant to help scrape away dead skin.

Pedicure knives allow a degree of precision that can not be matched by a pumice stone or by any other product category on this list. However, they are also incredibly sharp, and this can make them extremely dangerous. They are not recommended for use by children or anyone with difficulties grasping small hand tools.

3. Consider a Cream, Gel, or Peel to Remove Calluses

Readers with sensitive skin or thinner calluses may be interested in considering a less mechanical alternative. There are several chemical alternatives to pumice stones that can be applied to calluses in order to soften or remove them. Further, you can choose the strength of the treatment depending on what you need.

Weaker salves are formulated to only soften calluses for later filing. These products are best used on thinner calluses before routine exfoliation or before maintenance of easily callused locations like the palms of your hands.

On the other hand, the compositions of stronger salves are designed to remove calluses entirely. These products are best used for thicker calluses when necessary and on calluses in less sensitive areas like the bottoms of your feet.

There are also prescription lotions for especially keratinaceous skin or exceptional cases such as ingrown calluses. However, these do need to be prescribed by your physician. If you feel that your calluses may be a medical concern, like calluses that are extremely painful or bleeding and infected calluses, please consult your doctor.

Are Pumice Stones Bad for Your Feet?

Pumice Stone

Pumice stones are not inherently bad for your feet and can be safely used to soften skin. For most people, pumice stones can be a valuable exfoliation tool in your skincare repertoire. However, the pumice stone is a bit of a Jack-of-all-Trades in this department: usually good for just about any callus except in more extreme cases.

For example, they can sometimes be too rough for those with sensitive skin and cause over-exfoliation. This can result in skin irritations like redness, microtears, and even surface-level skin infections. Likewise, pumices stones can also be too inefficient at eroding skin for use on exceptionally thick or hard calluses.

There are also some small yet inconvenient hygiene concerns: the dead skin cells that sometimes build up in the tiny pores of a pumice stone can encourage bacterial growth, as well as be difficult to clean. Usually, the most effective method for cleaning a pumice stone is to boil it. This will kill bacteria and degrade old skin cells, but it is also a hassle. 

You can rinse or soak your pumice stone with fresh hydrogen peroxide in between boiling opportunities, but soaking it allows the peroxide to work its way into the small spaces inside the stone and dissolve organic tissue. Regular supermarket peroxide (approx. 1.5-3% dilutions) is sufficient for this purpose but can bleach any color or dye out of the stone over time.

Final Thoughts

If you have ever had an at-home spa day or been gifted a self-care spa kit, then you have also probably gone digging around your beauty and skincare supplies for a pumice stone at least once. Rough and ovular, pumice stones are often the first go-to of skincare tools for eroding calluses and softening skin.

I hope this article has provided insights in good alternatives. Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, don’t miss 11 Effective Substitutes for Soap in the Shower (Or Bath).

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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