Q. Hi, I am a 21-year-old college student, and I have not had a “normal” big toenail on my left foot since I was 14.  It came off when I was a freshman in high school as I was removing nail polish.  Since then, the toenail has grown back (with fungus) over and over and then repeatedly fallen back off.

I went to a podiatrist once, who prescribed me paint-on medication that did not make any difference at all.  The toenail continued to grow back rough and a yellow-brown color.  It was unsightly and embarrassing, especially in high school.

 In the summers I kept it covered with a bandaid. As I got older I discovered that I could buy fake nails from Wal-mart and glue them over my ugly toenail.  To say the least, my toenail was annoying and bothersome.  I often said if I could change anything, I would just want pretty feet.

About a year ago, a friend’s mom told me that she had heard of someone using tea tree oil on fungus.  I tried this for a few months. Again, I thought the toenail was growing in clear but then it would just fall off again. I gave up on the tea tree oil.

However, I thought maybe there were other suggestions that might really work, so I got online and found many websites like this one.  I was skeptical, but I thought anything was worth a try. I went out the next day and bought Listerine, Vicks VapoRub, and white vinegar (the off-brand of all 3).  This was 4 months ago.  Since then, I have soaked my toenails for thirty minutes a day in a mixture of equal amounts of Listerine and vinegar.

I use the same mixture for several nights before discarding.  At night I put the Vicks on my toenails and put socks on to sleep (the Vicks does stain your socks!).  Because I have been using the Vicks and the Listerine, I don’t know which is actually curing my toenail, but something is working!

My big toenail is almost completely grown out and it is completely healthy. (Although it did take a while for it to start growing in like that.)  I cannot believe that it has worked so well.  I honestly thought that I would never have a pretty toenail again.  Thank you to the ones who have posted about this. I hope this post will help someone.  Feel free to ask me questions, and I’ll tell you what I know from my experience.

A. Thanks so much for sharing your story. We find it fascinating that many visitors to our website expect nail fungus remedies to work within a few weeks. Many give up and assume that their foot soaks are a waste of time.

It takes a long time for nails to grow out. Even powerful oral anti-fungal drugs can take many months to work. We’re glad your patience was rewarded. Here are some other stories that support your experience:

“I’ve been soaking my toes in a 50%/50% solution of Listerine (use Original formula — the Freshmint made my feet green) and apple cider vinegar for 20 minutes each day, faithfully. I clip my toenails once a week. I make just enough to cover my toes in a small plastic container. I put plastic wrap on the surface of the solution when I’m not using it to keep the air out, and I change the solution every two weeks.

“In six weeks, I’ve seen a REMARKABLE difference. The fungus stopped spreading and the solution actually seems to be repairing the damage, it that’s possible. My nails are growing in healthy and they look great. I’ll probably continue to use the solution periodically to prevent this embarrassing fungus from ever coming back. I wish I could tell everyone about this inexpensive and effective solution.” Suzy

“Got that old toe fungus. Read here over a year ago – soak toe in amber Listerine 20 minutes/day, every day. The sender said to do it at the same time every day, which I was not able to do.

“Did the soak for a few weeks, got busy, stopped daily but did 2-3 x /week. OH MY GOSH—-had this for 30-40 years, but nail now turned black! After the soak nail growing out nicely. Dr. never wanted to give me an RX, and I agreed, so was just living with it…. embarrassing, no sandals in summer, etc. It has about 1/4 inch to go.

“But please note this: Hiking a few years ago, my feet became terribly hot so I took a break to cool them. Guess I switched socks, cuz the fungus started on the other toe.
Be very wary, and yes spray every shoe, slipper, everything you put on your feet.
I had thought of the lazer treatment, but it was $900.00 per toe or foot–who cares–too much!

“It really pays to check back to this site, as I totally forgot the Vicks! Need reminding on many things AND need the new experiments explained.

“Easier, and good to add at nite, what could be easier. Also thinking adding the apple cider vinegar to the Listerine. I have a sad feeling the fungus may be returning as my toe HURTS– and I have not been diligent. 

“As always Graedons—most grateful” Char

Not everyone benefits from Listerine, vinegar or Vicks. If you check out our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, you will learn about cornmeal mush (foot soaks), Pert Plus, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, urine as well as more details about Vicks & Vinegar. In addition you will find some cool remedies for dealing with allergies, arthritis, bug bites, insomnia, plantar fasciitis, and dozens of other common conditions.

Tell us what remedies have worked to get rid of your fungus and which have not in the comment section below.

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  1. Jay
    San Antonio

    My experience so far. Cut nail back as far as you can then file down as fas as you can. Use a plastic bag with white vinegar and soak only the toe nails. After every soak clean under your nails with a pick but make sure it is sterilized. To grow nails faster use vitamins that help growth. Also push cuticle back every day.
    TIP: For encouragement measure your nail the day you start. From the skin to the closest infected part. Then DO NOT measure till one month later. This should be helpful in the long run.

    • Tresa

      I use vinegar soak (15 Mins) every a.m. and p.m. plus I put thin layer of coconut oil on nails. This has sped up the growth. They are looking great.

  2. lv

    hi all, I haven’t read about anyone who had their nail unattach from their nail bed. I have the same symptoms as most people on this site and am so happy to read about some success stories and incorporate these treatments into my daily routine. Has anyone had a nail re-attach? I’m assuming that can’t happen when the skin grows apart, but still hopeful. thanks,

    • Jll

      I have also had this happen to my fingernail, I’m hoping this is my answer :/

  3. mc

    I had toe nail fungus on both big toes but instead of a 20 minute soak, I mixed the white vinegar & listerine (both generic) 50/50 and put it in a empty water bottle which makes it easy to soak a cotton ball. Before going to bed, I put the soaked cotton ball on my toe(s) and taped it on with two bandaids.
    I could see improvement after one night. If you prefer to soak your feet you will need to throw out the used mixture and use fresh mixture every time. That would require a lot of vinegar & listerine. I also starting putting vicks vapor rub on my toe nails in the mornings and that helps even more. One toe nail is already well & clean. (If soaking, don’t use the colored listerine – it will turn your feet (or toe) blue).
    Also, if you prefer to soak, you can purchase a painter’s tray (which has a low end & a high end) and you will not have to use as much of the mixture. A painter’s tray can be purchased at any hardware store or anywhere they sell paint.

    • Stilts

      thanks so much for sharing… day and night treatment.. YEA!

  4. cj

    Damaged one toenail 30+ years ago and it has always been thick and painful since. I currently have a couple of other toenails that have fungus. I have used vinegar before to get rid of fungus.
    One issue I have is working 12 hour shifts in a very hot environment with heavy steel toed boots. Great environment to grow fungus with not much chance to fight it. I am going to try the Vicks while I am at work and the combo soak after my shower when I get home. Every couple of months I need to file down the nails with nail file or rotary tool to keep the nails thin. Hopefully I can keep on this regimen.

  5. Carol

    Do I have to use Apple Cider Vinegar? Can I just use regular white vinegar?

  6. neo

    Hi! I have got a problem of nail fungus. I hope the vinegar and vicks will help me.

  7. CW

    I’m a podiatrist doing some research on this at the moment. Although there is little strong evidence on the topic clinically I recommend white vinegar undiluted to my patients with fungal nail infections, either soaking, rubbing on with a cotton ball or for my older less mobile pt in a spray bottle. I advise this once a day for at least 6 months maybe more depending on speed of nail growth and severity of the infection. We also offer laser therapy but I prefer the natural therapy first as it is much much cheaper.
    I will make a note many people think they have fungal nail infections were they may actually have onycholysis or onychoghyphotic nails so if your treatments aren’t responding pop in and see a podiatrist who should be able to let you know!
    Another handy tip is massaging olive oil into your nails if you find them lifting and detaching at the sides :)

  8. HM

    I buy cheap Lipton tea bags–steep one in hot water–squeeze the hot tea on the ugly toenail every night before bed–let the toe air dry, and after weeks of regular application, healthy nail grows in. Haven’t tried making big batch of strong tea, and taking from that every night with eyedropper.

  9. Tricia L. H.

    Well. Try soaking your fee, nails, and or hands in green tea then moisturizing them with coconut oil (coconut cooking oil bought at a health food store). This fixed my sons nail fungus and peeling skin on his hands and feet.!!

  10. Joanna

    I’ve had problems with my toe nail fungus for about 3-4years now. They did got worse that I needed to have them remove for about two times. (once with anesthesia the second one without!) It was so awful and disgusting that I don’t trust no one! I’m only 16. My doc gave me this pills to take but I’ve not taking them just because I think it wont help.
    I’m thinking on doing the Vicks remedy but too afraid of what people said that their nail pop off! Someone please suggest me something my next doc visit is on February! Thanks, in advance! But please help!

  11. mem

    Thanks for all the postings and suggestions. I too have been dealing with this for over 20 years and have tried several home self remedies and taken 2 courses Itraconazole with minimal at best results. But these suggestions and personal experiences have given me hope that this fight is not over yet. Today is day 1 of my new regime. In addition to the suggestions above I am going to add some type of detoxifying program in my plan and attack this internally and externally.
    Will keep you posted.

  12. Kahleen

    Thanks ! Love the Peoples Pharmacy!

  13. sherri

    My toenails are awful, and my insurance will not cover removal of them because it’s considered ‘cosmetic.’ Are they kidding? I can barely walk due to the curling of them. I can’t cut them at all because they are so thick and brown with fungus. They curl, they twist, they’re about a quarter inch thick on some of my toes. It’s utterly disgusting. I am at a loss what to do!

  14. Diocletian

    (I write my comments 16 weeks into my home treatment of the toenail fungus.)
    I’ve gotta say that this young lady who wrote the lead commentary is on to something. I finally started using the regimen of soaking my feet about 3 times a week in a square Rubbermaid dish bucket of hot bath water, Epsom Salt and White Vinegar. I evolved within the first two months into creating a blend from the hot water, a big bottle of generic Apple Cider Vinegar (buy AC at your local grocer, NOT Bragg’s, because I don’t have much money). Then I began to incorporate the hot water and ACV with original Listerine (I would use rough equivalents to a cup of ACV and a cup of Listerine). Also, I throw out my mixture after every use, I don’t keep it around for a week. My reasoning for throwing out my foot soak blend every time is not based on science, it is based on my phobia of germs associated with the feet.
    With respect to how long I would soak my feet, I probably began with 30 minutes once I changed to using ACV and Listerine as a combo-blend (made this change after reading reader remarks on the People’s Pharmacy website). The time of soaking has since been lengthened to 40 minute soaks, and now I am pretty regularly soaking for a target of 50 minutes in the hot water/ACV/original formula Listerine blend. Have recently soaked for one hour increments in the past week. Soak for however long you feel works for you and your schedule.
    Progress? I write this on July 15, 2013. I know I started in the first week of March 2013. It has now been a pretty disciplined four months of treatment. I have seen good progress. I am not cured, just as yet, but I think I am on a path to having regular looking big toe nails. My toe nails began to develop the fungus back around 1999. In my mind, I am done with living with this fungus any longer. I feel like I am getting my feet back again!
    Two further notes to consider. In the third month of my treatment (I didn’t intentionally time this), after reading other success stories on treating toe fungus without using Lamisil, I began to take a Q-Tip and began applying copious amounts of Vicks Vapo Rub (specifically use this brand) to my infected toe nails, before putting on socks. I usually only wear socks when I absolutely have to wear shoes in the summer (to work, or when exercising, or to go to a function that requires shoes, etc.). I am trying to go barefoot as much as possible to prevent moisture build-up under the nails. As well, in May 2013 I picked up a bottle of Tea Tree Oil (I think any brand will do just fine).
    I don’t have an austere regimen for treating my toes, but when I do have 20 minutes I can set aside I put a little rag under my feet as I sit with my laptop on my desk to do e-mails, etc. I take an eye dropper and simply drop droplets of Tea Tree Oil onto my infected toe nails and typically reapply after ten minutes. I keep my feet in place on the rag for those 20 minutes and let the oil disinfect away (the toenails marinade in the oil), if in fact what I have read is true about Tea Tree Oil, that it is anti-fungal/disinfectant.
    All Ingredients Used during self-treatment:
    – Hot Water soaks
    – Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) for the hot water soaks
    – Original formula Listerine for the hot water soaks
    – Vick’s Vapo Rub to apply topically to my toe nails (use a Q-Tip), before putting on socks. (I only use Vick’s before putting on socks, never w/o).
    – Tea Tree Oil (use an eye dropper to drop whatever amount you prefer topically onto the nail and surrounding area.
    – Epsom Salt (used this in my early hot water soak blend). Haven’t used since incorporating Listerine and ACV as a blend.
    Progress? Yes, I have considerable progress to report. I think the process is working (it takes much patience and lots of time. LOTS of time). I also think I need a few more months to get to a complete healing of the nails.
    Thanks for the post. I actually never thought of going to sleep with the Vick’s on my toes with socks, but I think that is one more practice that I will incorporate into this healing process.
    Keep it up!

  15. Celtmaiden

    I am going to guess the nail polish MIGHT not inhibit the solution. It will, after-all, be entering through the skin and cuticle also. I would try it WITH painted nails, and of course, to be fair, come back and let us know if it was as effective, or if you felt it would be better done with “nekkid nails” lol.


    Is white vinegar just as good as the Apple Cider Vinegar (organic w/the Mother) is $6.00 for a small bottle. White vinegar is dirt cheap…

  17. Cody

    Hey Kathleen
    Actually Apple Cider Vinegar is something that bacteria really dread. It’s got really good anti-fungal properties. If you are still concerned about trying that, a few alternatives include crushed garlic (another alternative with anti-fungal properties) and tea tree oil (good for skin care).
    Hope that helps.

  18. Jerry

    I have suffered for years from tinnitus. Recently I have been doing neck loosening exercises, rolling the neck, etc. with great result. My tinnitus condition has greatly improved. I do these exercises at least once a day.

  19. C.S.

    hi, I had a nail fungus problem and dr. gave me tablet to take everyday for a month…. had some breaks in between but I did finish the pills… since that, the nails grows clear again but the skin around the nails is still a little loose…. can I do anything to improve that? thanks.

  20. Joe P.

    Moo Cream is the same as Udderly Smooth which is available from People’s Pharmacy.


    @ Joe P — where did you buy “moo cream”?

  22. caroll c

    Simply buff – old fashion nail buffer, my nails – fingers and toes at least twice a day.
    All are getting stronger even the toes nail that split vertically and started to turn yellow is showing sign of good health.


    @/Suzy – I use the brown antiseptic generic Listerine and white vinegar. It cleared the fungus, but I need to do something to clear up the yellow & thickness of my nails. Anyone have any ideas for me?
    I was afraid to use the Apple Cider Vinegar thinking it would make my nails more yellow which I am also trying to clear up. I also read that two denture cleaning tablets dissolved in warm water would clean up the appearance of the nail. I did this and it stung the skin under my nail which evidently is sensitive after the fungus cleared.
    I was afraid the denture cleaning tablets were harmful?

  24. Jean J

    Grapefruit seed extract-GSE-works really well for all kinds of fungus. Toenail as well as ringworm. Apply several times a day. Be careful that you sock does not absorb the GSE after you put it on. You might need a bandaid to cover it

  25. Barbara P.

    Will this also work on finger nails? I have continually gotten fungus on my finger nails. They grow away from the nailbed and eventually fall off as a new nail grows behind it. Because of this I use fake nails and that only covers the fungus nail.
    If you have any suggestions would greatly appreciate hearing from you

  26. Kathy

    I tried everything and nail fungus cures that you buy in the drug store were expensive. I read about tea tree oil and I got some and it did the trick. You have to be faithful about applying it but it didn’t take very long before I saw results and it was cheap and lasts a long time.

  27. ET

    An update on soaking the foot in warm water and 1/2 cup of corn meal to get rid of toenail fungus. This works for me. After several, 4-5 warm soaks, the toenail slowly begin to lighten up as it grew out. It again became the normal thickness and was pink again . After months, maybe a year, it began getting discolored again. A couple soaks started the process again.
    Let’s say it does not work for you, what have you lost? Several warm foot baths.
    Maybe I am different. To keep athletes foot down, for 58 years, I been using a cream or spray, as needed, after a daily shower.

  28. Joseph P.

    I am a 70 year old male. For several years my toenails got slowly worse from toenail fungus leading to discoloration, crumbling nails and curved nails that were difficult to cut. Since my wife cannot tolerate strong odors, I have not tried tee tree oil or vicks.
    The suggestion from The Peoples Pharmacy that urea may be helpful led me to try moo cream on my toes. I applied the cream after showering for several days in a row and then occasionally after that. After 6 months my nails are pink, firm and flat. I still apply moo cream about once a month. The cream is a little messy but has no odor and does not stain socks.
    Peoples Pharmacy response: Other readers may be interested in knowing that “moo cream” is Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20 with 20% urea.

  29. MM

    I’ve read this treatment a number of times and would like to try it, but have one question. I keep my toenails painted so I can wear sandals, but wonder if it will still work with nail polish on the nails or if I would have to remove it. If so, I guess I would just have to wait til winter when I wear closed-toed shoes.

  30. Rkatrin

    I’ve tried all of these but perhaps not with the discipline and the longevity it may take to cure this.
    I find it amazing that medical science cannot find a simple, effective cure for this. Makes you wonder!

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