When I needed treatment for toenail fungus, my doctor suggested I soak my toes in Listerine for 30 minutes a night for 30 days. I sent my husband to Costco for a giant jug of Listerine. He returned with the minty one. It’s blue, but I figured that wouldn’t really make a difference. It did. My feet turned blue, and no amount of scrubbing could take the color off. My husband laughed until he cried. After switching to the regular (amber) Listerine, my toenail fungus did clear up, but the nails themselves were dry.
The herbal oils found in old-fashioned Listerine, such as thymol and eucalyptol, have antifungal properties. Many of our readers have found that Listerine is effective in fighting nail fungus. The alcohol in regular Listerine (26.9 percent) might be the culprit that dries out your nails.
LISTERINE AND VINEGAR
You receive many letters about nail fungus, and I wanted to share my experience. Our daughter contracted a foot fungus while swimming at a local club when she was six. We’ve tried a lot of different antifungal products, but I didn’t want to give her oral medicine. The podiatrist suggested a mixture of half white vinegar and half Listerine. I dabbed it onto her toes every morning with a cotton ball. Finally her toenails are pink and healthy looking. It works, but it takes a very long time.
We first wrote about using a mixture of white vinegar and Listerine for nail fungus in spring 2005 after hearing about its potential from one reader. Some people dab it on their nails, while others soak their feet in the solution. (It can be reused several times.) The herbal oils in Listerine have antifungal properties, as does the alcohol. Vinegar is acidic, and thus discourages the spread of fungus. Perhaps the combination of Listerine and vinegar provides more antifungal activity together than individually.
I’ve had toenail fungus on all my toes for a number of years and would like to know the most effective treatment.
There are no studies to show effectiveness of most home remedies, so it is hard to predict what will work best. Whether you treat your nail fungus with a prescription drug or a home remedy, you’ll need to be persistent. Here is one reader’s experience: “I read your column about toenail fungus and athlete’s foot. I’ve found the foolproof method to get rid of this problem without using toxic prescription meds. Soak the feet twice a week for about five to ten minutes in a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and regular (amber) Listerine. The mixture can be put in a sealable container large enough for your feet and can be used for three months before making another batch. For in-between use and traveling, pick up a Misto container for spraying cooking oil at any good kitchen store. It’s unbreakable, doesn’t leak, and travels well. I use it to spray my feet daily, especially between the toes. It takes about a year of this to clear up a serious toenail fungus, but it also eliminates other foot problems caused by moisture.”
TEA TREE OIL
I developed toenail fungus on both big toes but was reluctant to use harsh pharmaceutical treatments. So I blended a one-to-one ratio of tea tree oil (antifungal) and DMSO (penetrating carrier) and added a few drops of clove oil (which will kill anything—fungal or bacterial!). I shook it up well and dabbed it on my nails twice a day, making sure they were dry before I put on my shoes. It took three weeks, but my nails are now clear. I love home remedies, so I thought I’d pass this one on!
Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is an interesting compound. This solvent carries other chemicals through the skin, and is used in some topical prescriptions products for this purpose. Tea tree oil has demonstrated antifungal properties, and the DMSO might help it get through the nail. Your formula is unique, but it may be irritating to the skin. Anyone who tries it should restrict this mixture to the nails.
Over the last nine years I have tried everything I ever heard about and everything you have written on treating nail fungus. Nothing worked. Then I read your column about the soldier who was told by his sergeant to urinate on his feet while in the shower. Well, I was desperate, so I urinated in a foam cup and then soaked my finger for about five minutes every night. After soaking, I cleaned my finger with a hand sanitizer. I know it sounds gross. I did this for about three weeks. That was three years ago, and the fungus is still gone!
A few years ago we heard from both a grandmother and a World War II veteran that urinating on your feet in the shower could help control athlete’s foot. This is the first time we have learned that this remedy might also work against nail fungus. Thanks for sharing your experience with this inexpensive remedy. We cannot explain how it might work.
My sister has been going through chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer this past year. She started losing her toenails due to fungus and was shocked at the cost of medication for this. I passed along your article on vinegar soaks. She laughed at first but decided to try it. Guess what? She hasn’t lost another nail, and the fungus has gone away. She even copied the article and gave it out at the chemo center! Thanks.
We are pleased your sister has benefited and shared the word. Vinegar soaks are a simple, inexpensive approach to nail fungus. The acid in vinegar makes for an inhospitable environment for fungus.
My husband’s toenail fungus was terrible. I read your article about using vinegar and water to heal the fungus. My husband started this treatment a few months ago and soaked his feet almost every night. The toenails on one foot are completely healed, and the other foot has only one nail still affected. Thanks for such good advice.
Soaking the feet nightly in a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water is a remedy that seems to help many fight off nail fungus. It takes patience, since the nail has to grow out fungus free. That may take many months. If vinegar soaks do not help, there are several other home remedies that can be helpful, such as applications of tea tree oil, vitamin E oil, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or iodine.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic