foot bath at a day spa in a bowl, hydrogen peroxide

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. Therese
    Phoenix, AZ

    When working in Illinois as an advice nurse there was a set protocol for lice, it was 1/2 cup of olive oil, (but think that coconut oil would be fine), and 1/2 cup of vinegar. put mixture in a bowl and stir together and then apply mixture to whole head, covering all the hair and scalp. Wrap head with plastic wrap, and cover with a towel. Let sit for 3 to 4 hours, then use a nit comb, and then rinse with water. Use green Palmolive dish soap, to shampoo the hair (they were very adamant that it had to be green Palmolive dish soap.)
    A friend had been trying to get rid of her two daughter’s lice, with no success, and was worried about the caustic chemicals that she was using on her daughter. I told her about the protocol that we had, safe for infants and pregnant women, and she tried it, and finally got rid of the lice after fighting them on and off for 2 years. She said that the girls’ hair was just beautiful, soft and shiny and was so pleased, they actually never had lice again after that.

  2. Jeanne
    W WI

    Grandkids picked up lice. Treated twice with Nix, no relief. They came to my house and discovered still fully infested with lice. (They stayed at my place every weekend.) Shaved the grandson’s head and his father’s. {Public Nurse was upset Nix was used twice as so poisonous and harmful for kids and must not use again though still heavy infestation}. I researched on internet and found mouthwash, Listerine or similar worked by other’s testimonies.

    Best seemed to be: 1. Saturate dry head and hair with mouthwash and leave on with shower cap/plastic wrap for 4 hrs. Wrap a towel around this to keep in heat of head. 2. Rinse hair and scalp well with water and towel dry. 3. Super saturate damp hair and scalp with conditioner and again wrap in shower cap/plastic and wrap with towel for 4 hrs. 4. Rinse hair and scalp well and then shampoo as normal followed by good conditioning.

    You may use a nit comb, we did not. Recommendation was for ‘Coconut Shampoo and Conditioner’ though others might work. Apparently lice do not like coconut, not even coconut scent. Tried on my waist length hair 1st to see effect and if any irritation would occur. Worked fine on my super sensitive skin so did Granddaughter’s the next day. Yeah! We did not end up shaving her head!
    For the house sprayed Lysol on every piece of furniture, pillows, bedding, etc. and we never had an infestation occur. No sign anywhere in house of lice. From that day forward, they have always used coconut shampoo and conditioner and have never even had a ‘scare of lice’ since.

  3. ursula

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

  4. Sally K.

    if it kills lice how about fleas and ticks?

  5. Sheila Wood

    Need to know the measurements for this please.

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