foot bath at a day spa in a bowl

Q. Thanks for a tip you offered. A woman recommended a combination of Listerine and diluted vinegar for toenail fungus. She mentioned that it also made her feet soft.

I don’t have nail fungus, but as a “barefoot girl” I do have a problem trying to get my feet presentable to go to work in sandals without paying for an expensive pedicure every week. I tried soaking my feet in the solution and I’m so thrilled.

It made my calloused feet look and feel better, and it also got the garden soil off bare feet better than a bleach solution. It’s a nice beauty aid for a barefoot-loving professional!

A. Thanks for sharing your success. Only old-fashioned amber Listerine should be used as a soak. Another reader tried the blue version and got blue feet as a result.

You might be interested to know a little history about Listerine. This familiar mouthwash actually got its start in the late 1800s. It was named after a famous surgeon at Glasgow University in Scotland. He realized that germs were causing a lot of post-surgical complications, particularly blood poisoning. Dr. Lister came up with an antiseptic called carbolic acid and pioneered improved hygiene during surgery.

When two enterprising inventors in St. Louis came up with a unique new surgical antiseptic in 1879 they decided to name it after Dr. Lister. Listerine was originally used by surgeons and later by dentists and didn’t hit it big as a mouthwash until the 1920s.

The Lambert Pharmaceutical Company marketed Listerine aggressively to treat dandruff as well as bad breath. One 1927 ad shows fingers pointing at the shoulders of a man wearing a dark suit. The copy reads, “Guilty! End dandruff. It offends all, this disgusting and common condition. Consequently, it affects your chances in love, society and business.”

We started hearing from readers of our syndicated newspaper column nearly 20 years ago that Listerine foot soaks could help clear up nasty nails. The alcohol and herbal oils (thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate and menthol) have anti-fungal activity so it’s not surprising that soaking your feet in this formulation might eventually overcome all sorts of foot fungus. Adding vinegar may enhance the effect since the acetic acid also discourages fungi. If you would like to read more details about the Listerine and vinegar foot soack, check out this link.

And if you want to get rid of dandruff, you might want to give Listerine a go. One reader confessed: “Back in the mid 1900s when Listerine used to be advertised to combat bad breath, it was also recommended to cure dandruff. I began massaging it into my scalp for 30 seconds every morning, and I still do. I have never had dandruff since then.”

Another reader reminisced: “I remember that years ago, the Listerine bottle included instructions for use in treating dandruff. I’ve used straight Listerine many times with 100 percent success within two to three days.”

People have used Listerine to kill lice (here is a link for more details) and to ease the pain of shingles (another link).


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  1. ursula

    Tried this on my daughters hair she has so much shine and bounce the dandruff is miminal. How often should she wash it?

  2. Sally K.

    if it kills lice how about fleas and ticks?

  3. Sheila Wood

    Need to know the measurements for this please.

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