bottles of listerine and white vinegar

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 helped you in curing nail fungus and which have not in the comment section below.

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  1. anthony b
    lakewood co

    Would like to try this home remadie

  2. miss petite

    I was removing nail polish off my toes one day, and there it was, this disgusting yellowish discoloration. As I began cleaning under the right big toe nail, I noticed a lot of “gunk” for lack of better word, and It had a mild smell to it. I knew exactly what it was, and it extended to almost my cuticle. And then I noticed it on the other big toe, and the toe next to that one.
    Fortunately found this site. Began soaking toes in apple cider vinegar, and applying vapor rub every night. It stunged/burned a bit at first.after a month half the nails fail off, and i cut the edges so it wouldn’t get stuck on my socks. But after 2 months, completely cured. I should have taken before and after pictures.

  3. Big Jim

    I’ve heard this remedy, although this is the first time I’ve heard about the Vicksburg rub. Here’s my question : Mt nail on both of my big toes,are so thick in takes a dremel to cut them, and my right foot. The nail curls into a ingrown nail. Will this remedy work for me? I’ve had it removed 3 times by doctors, used creams, and oral pills. NOTHING has worked.

  4. znam

    A valuable public service.

  5. Mary

    Will it be ok to wear nail polish while doing the treatment?

  6. William

    Re: Toe fungus. Most use socks hen going to bed after soaking but the moisture could soak through the socks. It is possible that the use of ‘Finger Cots’ would be as effective and could hold the treatment in. I do not know if the cots would fit the big toes but possibly non-lubricated condoms would also work.

  7. Catlover

    Developed fungus on top half of 1 big toe 2 years ago. Podiatrist prescribed a cream, to no effect. Then he suggested medication for 1 year that could affect liver, so no thanks. Dermatologist prescribed a med to paint on the nail, but it just stayed sticky. Family doctor said to do daily 20 minute vinegar soaks of entire BOTH feet, followed by vapor rub — making sure to work it under the nail. That was the only thing that worked and nail has grown out beautifully after 6 months of treatment. I sometimes paint on tea tree oil for good measure. I now do vinegar soaks 3 times weekly, and I use vapor rub on ALL toenails every night as preventative. I don’t bother with sox in bed.

  8. Kelly
    Deep South

    It seems like different treatments work for different people. About four different home- remedy approaches didn’t work for me, but a few months ago I read about Epsom salts. I put about one cup of water in a pan, added a lot of Epsom salt, kept stirring, until it would accept no more (saturated). It turned into crystals then into a white mixture. I now keep this snow-looking stuff in a plastic container. When mixing a new batch for my toes, I put some of this into water and warm it up. Then I add some tea tree oil, since I reuse the mixture until it evaporates too much. I soak the toes at least thirty minutes a day, more if I’m able. For three months now I have done this, and my nails are half-way clear – that is, normal nail color. The other thing I do is to apply straight tea tree oil under the top of the nail and on the nail, then drop a pinch of dry Epsom salt to the cuticle area, let it all soak in some, then put on socks and go to bed. This treatment has really worked for my toenail fungus.

    (By the way, I bought a small finger-mitt type silicone oven mitt from Walmart (looks like the letter C), cut it in half at the hinge, and put it at the end of a plastic dish pan, the rest of it filled with towels to keep the two halves upright. Then I put the Epsom water/tea tree oil in there. This makes it more portable if you have to move it and less likely to spill.)

    Thanks to all for sharing your techniques.

  9. Lillian

    I too used 3 bottles of Lamisil and lots of Tea Tree Oil but with no good results. I started using Grapefruit Seed Extract three times a day and it cleared up VERY SLOWLY but cleared up completely. SO glad it was suggested to me.

  10. caroll
    fort worth TX

    Nail fungus on my toes – my solution was to use Vicks Vapo Rub and I do it ‘after’ getting out of the pool (3X week 45 minute water acrobatics class) when my nails have soften due to the water. Then what is left on my fingers, I rub into my finger nails which are looking good. Works and worked quickly. . . around two weeks.

  11. Dreama
    Walkertown, NC

    I had nail fungus on both big toes and one pinkie, Two of the nails were detaching. A woman that works at a nail salon told me to soak no more than 10 minutes per day using one tablespoon of sea salt to just enough water to dissolve it. I am happy to report that it is all gone. Of course it took a while for them to grow out, but I highly recommend this cure. Wanted to get the word out because I know how uncomfortable and ugly nail fungus is.

  12. Nita
    South Africa

    I started getting white fungus on my pinkie finger when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had no clue what was going on. I was 23 at the time a year later my pinkie finger was halfway white and lifting, went to the Dr who prescribed lamisol . That did not work. Did 3 runs of it. I tried everything and then I suddenly got it on my other pinkie finger, one big toe and my thumb. I read about vicks and decided to give it a shot. Just trimmed all the nails as short as possible and then applied vicks daily to all my nails and toe nails. 2 weeks later saw such an improvement. Then once it was clear I stopped and I always wear nail polish. Well it all came back. So I started again. It’s almost completely gone again but I have noticed that you should not wear any nail polish if you have fungus since not wearing polish my nails seem much healthier and they are even healing much quicker. Have not tried the soak , but I will most definitely recommend the vicks, that alone works for me.

  13. Lisa

    I’ve been using listerine and Vix on a toenail fungal infection I’ve had for about 20 years … doctors have prescribed me with pills to take for 6 months that are so liver toxic that you are not meant to drink while taking them – I could never justify taking such toxic medication – and, this home remedy works really well! I have done a couple of 6 day juice fasts over the past couple of years, and I noticed that the fungus reduced with each fast, the listerine and vix have almost entirely healed my toes, I thin they should be completely healed in another month of treatment!

  14. Mel

    I have fungus in most of my toe nails. I’ve been doing a ton of research, like most of you, and I’m doing the listerine/vinegar soak, plus putting coconut oil mixed with oregano oil and grapefruit seed extract on my nails (I don’t have any Vicks and can’t find it where I live). The other thing I’m doing is using a urea cream of 40% potency (which I actually got for cracked heels – works great). This debrides the nails and makes it easier for the treatments to reach the affected areas, along with regular trimming. I’ve only been doing it for a few days but can see a real change in my nails. Not as in they are fungus-free (I know it will take months), but the color and texture is changing. I highly suggest adding the urea cream to your regimen.

    I also read a controlled study where they had patients use the urea cream for 2 weeks, then apply 2% butenafine and tea tree oil. After 4 weeks 80% were cured of their fungus. If you google those key words I am sure you can find the study. (those that were given a placebo saw no change) 2% butenafine is prescription only but 1% is available in the drug store.

    The 40% urea cream is available on Amazon.

    I’ll definitely update if my current regimen works!

  15. Travers V. R.N.

    RE: Toenail Fungus. Being in the field, I went to Podiatrist. Gave me 2 choices, Lamisil ( free with health plan ) or Laser $ 900. Knowing meds ( they won’t tell you ) Lamisil destroys Liver, and only allowed 3 doses ( F.D.A. ) Did Laser ignorantly without doing research. $900. Specialist admit, Does NOT a treatment for Toenail Fungus. Tried the combo of Listerine, Vinegar soaks. At night Vicks Vapor, cover with socks. ( Mayo-Clinic ) confirms this for treatment. YES, after only 4 days I see extremely positive results. Thank You.

  16. Travers Villany R.N.
    New York, N.Y.

    I have had toe nail fungus on both big toes for 2 yrs. It is caused by tinea pedis ( A. foot. ). Saw Podiatrist, he had it cultured to confirm diagnosis. Gave me two choices, Lamisil tabs at no cost, Health plan covered. However it is extremely toxic to Liver. Laser treatment which cost $ 900.00. Did not work. Being angry I did research which I do well. I was shocked when a prominent facility, Mayo-Clinic suggested a “non-medical” treatment. Vicks vapor rub at night. Also mentioned listerene & white vinegar. I hold utmost respect to Mayo-Clinic for not following “medical protocol” and instead being honest for Patients benefit. Never encountered that in all my years.

  17. Brian
    New Jersey

    Any updates from those who posted in the last few months or last year? I was also recommended this remedy but someone said use Listerine Whitening and Apple Cider Vinegar. The Vicks was consistent. I’m thinking of doing the routine at opposite times though due to schedules – Vicks in am after shower and the soak before bed-force me to read. To the ? about the spray – I think they meant Lotrimin or Athlete’s Foot spray to protect shoe soles from spreading it, or onto sandals if you’re wearing them. They also recommend from wearing socks as much as possible to keep it contained. Also clean and sanitize your clippers. Any feedback is much appreciated.

  18. Nancy

    I tried soaking, Vicks, tea tree oil, vinegar, mouthwash, Lamisil cream, brush-on, changing socks, spraying shoes and every suggestion on the Internet for 18 years. I tried everything except the $1,000 laser treatment. The 3 month prescription was starting to work and the bottom of the toenail was growing in clear, but the insurance company doesn’t not authorize another refill. No way was I paying $1,000 dollars for more pills, so it got bad again in 3 months.

  19. Jennifer
    United States

    I have been fighting toenail fungus for so many years. I have used prescription medications you paint on, sprays, oils and every brand made of fungal treatment solutions. I even took Lamisil prescription by mouth for two months. Then my liver function tests came back lots higher, my doctor wouldn’t prescribe another month. He told me that it was only allowed to be prescribed for a three month time period, once in a lifetime. I have used home remedies like vinegar but no good, longterm results. A friend told me about her success with vicks. I started that night, put it on, slept in socks. Within three weeks things started changing. In a two day period, my nail humped up into a u shape, turned black and was sore from the pressure, I think. I tried to keep nails trimmed and filed the surface, regularly. One day while trimming, my nail moved from the pressure of my hand against it. It scared me silly. I did some screaming and jumping around. Quite funny, I am!!! I started pulling up on it, it started coming away from the cuticle. I kept thinking it was going to hurt, it never did. The nail came off completely. Some new healthy nail, just barely noticeable, was growing in. I was thrilled. Now for a question: the skin on the tip of my toe has turned black. Today while trimming, a great big chunk of flesh came off. There’s still black on some skin, but under part that came off, it’s pink. A surgeon told me one time that skin cancers can start under toenails along the same line as skin cancers, and look like a bruise or freckle. I want to know if anyone else has had skin turn black. It kind of relieved my mind a little today, my big toe on my right foot is turning black, also. I think for some reason the fungus must be in my skin, too. Please, if anyone has had this happen, post.

    • John

      Any updates on progress?

  20. Trish

    Can I wear nail polish while doing this process?

    • Vivian

      Don’t wear nail polish. It will make things worse.

  21. Trish
    Mississauga, ON

    I will try this out. Make sure to throw out all of your old nail polishes that were used when you had nail fungus.

  22. Lyla
    So. Tx.

    I’ve been using a prescribed medication and have not seen results. I am researching home remedies and have come across several. But this particular one seems what I want to start. I’m so frustrated with having to hide my nails. I will post results after I’ve started on it.

  23. Lupita

    I’ve had to fungus toe nails for years and I’m very embarrassed to wear sandals. But I am going to start using the vinegar and vapor rub and hopefully the is going to help me.

  24. Tootie

    Someone said to spray all your shoes and slippers, etc. What do you use to spray them with, and how often should it be done? Thank you.

    • Vivian

      I think they mean anti-fungal powder. They can be bought over the counter.

  25. toni brunkey
    clinton twp., mi

    Used to listen to you on the radio on my way home from the night shift as an RN. Lived in Fl at the time. Haven’t found you on any station in Mi. since moving ten years ago. I’m going to try tx for toe nail fungus I’ve been plagued with for at least 30 years. Wish me luck.

  26. Mary
    oakland, CA

    I am giving this program a try, just started with the Vicks last night, and the soak this morning. My question is this – what do you do during the day? do you put more vicks on with saran, then a sock? or do you just let the toe(s) breathe and put on clean socks? Right now I’ve treated my toe again with the vicks and covered with plastic wrap, but I’m not sure if that’s too much, or the right thing to do. look forward to hearing back.

  27. Jack

    Have been using Lotrimin Ultra cream (for athletes foot) on my nails/nail beds for years but not consistently. When I stop and the fungus starts spreading under the nail I start up again and it basically halts spreading and slowly reverses it. Although I assume Vicks is much less expensive, so I’m considering switching to that if I can manage to do the vinegar regiment daily.

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