Q. I think I remember reading about some simple remedies for nail fungus in your column. At the time I didn’t need the information but now my toenails are discolored and ugly.

They want to remove the nails, but that sounds scary. Now that it is spring, I want to wear sandals, but the fungus is unsightly. What can you suggest?

A. A physician can prescribe oral antifungal medicine such as Lamisil or Sporanox. These drugs are very pricey and have some serious side effects.

Readers report that they have gotten good results by applying Vicks VapoRub to the infected nails. Others tell us that soaking nails in a Listerine or dilute vinegar footbath can also help. Someone else found that spraying a half-and-half mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide on the nails twice daily helps clear the fungus.

If the affected nail must be removed, it can be dissolved with a prescription urea paste under medical supervision. Surgical intervention can be painful and can pose a risk of infection.

We are sending you our Guides to Nail Care, Vicks VapoRub and Home Remedies for more information on nondrug approaches to treating nail fungus and nonsurgical nail removal. Anyone who would like copies, please send $4 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (58 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. HRV-3176, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

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  1. KG

    I have been working on my nails for a while. The medical community and/or businesses don’t want to cure everything do they? They’d be out of business in short order seems to me.
    I’m too cynical….. politicians as well. Sorry.

  2. KW

    I went to a Podiatrist and finally after sending in three cultures of my nail- I was granted the use of Sporanox by my Insurance company. I used it and in three months my nails were beautiful! Three months later I was wearing flops on a cruise for the first time in over ten years. I loved it. A month later the fungus had returned and now my nails are right back to the old thick white crusty unsightly things they are. I can’t wear sandals and I live in a warm weather state that you must air your feet or they’ll bake. So I constantly fight athletes foot between my toes which feeds the fungus.
    I have used home remedies as well as cutting the nail back but nothing seems to work 100%. I refuse to take the oral medicine and the Dr I used obliged.
    I wish there was more focus on Nail Fungus by the Medical community. The oral treatment should be made safer which I believe is the best way to fight it but without the side effects. I do not wear sandals or open toe shoes and that’s really hard. Please keep this topic on the burner there are many people out there with this problem. Thank you for your work and knowledge everyday folks depend on people just like you.

  3. Jim P.

    On a show in mid-2008, it was mentioned that Vagisil contains resorcinol, which has anti-fungal properties. So I tried it on my toenail fungus. It works great! Leaves my nails almost completely clear, where VapoRub left my nails with a rough, mottled surface. (When I tried tea tree oil, the fungus returned.)
    I also find that Vagisil will clear up mild cases of athlete’s foot. A severe case still required prescription fluocinonide.
    My dermatologist tells me there are 4 forms of nail fungus, and I have the least severe form. But I had
    three toe nails where the surface flaked off and one where there was a vertical split. She has been quite
    surprised by my success with VapoRub. She was really impressed by her first look at Vagisil-treated nails!

  4. J. Pope

    Had three toes infected. Read in your column about using 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 HOT water, and soak one hour. I kept water as hot as I could stand by adding hot water thru the hour. My nails lifted up and was able to remove fungus. Killed fungus. Nails did come off but I had good healthy nails in 2 months. No problems since.

  5. carolyn horton

    Have had good luck with vinegar/water in a 1/2 ratio, soaking feet 20 minutes per day–both with improvement in toenail fungus, and “cracked” heels. Heels were no longer sore and healing within a few days. Improvement in toenail fungus noted as nails grow out.

  6. Gloria Marshall

    What is your opinion of PENLAC nail lacquer. (ciclopirox 8%)? It works like a miracle, used on my fingernails & toe nails

  7. Ellis Moore

    I’m having success treating both my big toe nails with the following procedure.
    First I remove all the crusty built up material with a small battery powered Dremel tool using a coarse sand paper cylinder type tool, being careful not to go to deep or break the skin.
    Then, with an eye dropper, I apply, morning and evening, as much of the following solution as will soak in to the exposed nail.
    The formula, as mixed for me by my local pharmacist:
    Topical Anti Fungal
    15.0 gm salicylic acid ..10%
    7.5 gm resorcinol …….5%
    1.5 gm camphor ……….1%
    1.5 gm benzoic acid …..1%
    15.0 ml glycerin ……..10%
    denatured alcohol to 150 ml
    This mixture seems to be helpful in controlling athletes foot also.

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