Cutaneous injuries can damage the somatosensory neurons that innervate the skin, and repair of these neurons requires the debris generated by degenerating axons to be removed. The authors found that, in zebrafish, cutaneous axon debris resulting from a laser-induced injury was not cleared by 'professional phagocytes' such as leukocytes or glial cells. Instead, the debris was phagocytosed by epidermal cells. Thus, vertebrate epidermal cells (like their invertebrate counterparts) may have a more general role in the clearance of neuronal debris during development and after injury.