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What home remedies work well for toenail fungus?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Sep 28, 2023.

Official answer


Toenail fungus is common, but it can be difficult to treat, particularly if it is severe and affects most nails. Whatever treatment is used, the nails should be trimmed and preferably debrided (most of the damaged nail is removed) before applying the treatment. This makes the treatment more effective. You should also practice proper foot hygiene which includes:

  • Washing your feet daily with soap and water and drying them thoroughly. Fungus thrives in moist environments, so make sure your feet are dry, especially between the toes
  • Avoid walking barefoot in public areas like locker rooms and pool decks. Wear flip-flops or slides in these places
  • Wearing moisture-wicking socks, changing them daily, and wearing well-ventilated shoes. Wear sandals, flip-flops, or slides regularly to allow your feet to breathe
  • Keeping your nails short and filed can help reduce the severity of the infection and improve the effectiveness of topical treatments
  • Treating athlete’s foot if it is present.

Home remedies for toenail fungus can help make your affected nails look better and feel more comfortable, but they may not completely get rid of the problem, especially if most of your toenails are infected. Toenail fungus can be really tough to beat, so it's usually a good idea to see a doctor for proper treatment, especially if the infection is severe, as you might need to take oral medications for several months.

However, if only one or a few of your nails are affected, there are some things you can try at home that might help. Keep in mind that these remedies may not work for everyone, and there's no guarantee they'll cure the fungus. Also, it's important to know that there haven't been many scientific studies to prove how well they work.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar can lower the pH of the skin which can decrease levels of unwanted fungi on the skin and treat fungal nail and foot infections. Soak your affected toenails in a solution of equal parts water and apple cider vinegar for about 30 minutes daily. Apple cider vinegar has antifungal properties that may help combat the infection.

Tea Tree Oil: Apply undiluted tea tree oil directly to the affected nails using a cotton swab. Tea tree oil has natural antifungal properties but using tea tree oil in combination with an antifungal agent appears much more effective than using it alone. Be consistent and patient; results may take several weeks.

Listerine Foot Soak: Listerine original mouthwash contains ingredients such as thymol, menthol, and eucalyptol, that have antifungal and antibacterial properties and there has been a trend for Listerine footbaths to treat athletes’ foot and other fungal feet infections, such as fungal toenails. Soak your feet in a mixture of equal parts Listerine and warm water for about 30 minutes daily. Listerine contains antifungal ingredients that can help.

Baking Soda and Epsom Salt Soak: Mix equal parts baking soda and Epsom salt and add it to warm water to soak your feet for about 30 minutes daily. This may help with both fungal infections and foot odor by drying up excess moisture from the feet but is unlikely to eliminate toenail fungus and there are no clinical trials that support its use.

Garlic: Crush a few garlic cloves and apply the paste to the affected toenails. Garlic has antifungal properties. Cover it with a bandage or gauze and leave it on for a few hours.

Coconut Oil: Apply coconut oil to the affected nails daily. Coconut oil has antifungal properties and can also help keep the nails moisturized.

Oregano Oil: Oregano oil contains thymol which research has reported has excellent antifungal and antibacterial activity. Dilute oregano oil with a carrier oil (like olive oil) and apply it to the affected nails. Oregano oil contains thymol, which has antifungal properties.

Vicks VapoRub: Vicks VapoRub contains several ingredients, including camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol, which have some antifungal properties. These ingredients may create an inhospitable environment for the fungus, but they may not effectively penetrate the nail to eradicate the infection in all cases. Apply a small amount of Vicks VapoRub directly to the affected toenail(s) and cover with a breathable bandage or gauze. Repeat daily.

  • Byrdie. "Listerine Foot Soak: Does it Work?" Published on September 5, 2021.
  • Buck DS, Nidorf DM, Addino JG. "Comparison of Two Topical Preparations for the Treatment of Onychomycosis: Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil and Clotrimazole." Journal of Family Practice, 1994.
  • Alessandrini A, Starace M, Bruni F, Piraccini BM. "Effectiveness and Tolerability of a Nail Oil Composed of Vitamin E and Essential Oils in Mild to Moderate Distal Subungual Onychomycosis: An Open Study." Skin Appendage Disorders, 2020.
  • Derby R, Rohal P, Jackson C, Beutler A, Olsen C. "Novel Treatment of Onychomycosis using Over-the-Counter Mentholated Ointment: A Clinical Case Series." The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, January 2011.
  • Marchese A, Orhan E, Daglia M, et al. "Antibacterial and Antifungal Activities of Thymol: A Brief Review of the Literature." Food Chemistry, 2016. (210) 402-14.
  • Woods-Panzaru S, Nelson D, McCollum G, et al. "An Examination of Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties of Constituents Described in Traditional Ulster Cures and Remedies." Ulster Medical Journal, 2009.
  • Syed TA, Qureshi ZA, Ali SM, Ahmad S, Ahmad SA. "Treatment of Toenail Onychomycosis with 2% Butenafine and 5% Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil in Cream." Tropical Medicine & International Health, 1999.
  • Natural "cures" for fungal nails (and what actually works!). Foot Right Podiatry.

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