Over the last several years, nail fungus has garnered public attention completely out of proportion with its seriousness. The medical term, onychomycosis (oh-nick-o-my-CO-sis), is long and scary, but it just means fungal infection of the nail. Perhaps so many people are curious about this topic because nail fungus is very common. In addition, the development of new antifungal drugs that can treat (dare we say cure?) nail fungus has encouraged the pharmaceutical industry to advertise in magazines, in newspapers, and on television. The popularity of sexy sandals as footwear may also have contributed to the interest in treating nail fungus.

For diabetics, nail fungus is a medical issue. They need to be extremely vigilant about foot care and attend promptly even to things that may seem minor. For the rest of us, though, thick, yellow toenails that are crumbly or hard to cut are more of a nuisance than a serious health concern. They look ugly, and if they get very thick, they may be uncomfortable as well. Sometimes they split, which can be quite painful.

In our opinion, though, it would be a mistake to put your life on the line to clear up your funny-looking nails. That’s why we have collected so many home remedies for this problem. They probably won’t work for everyone, but they shouldn’t be very risky, either.

Nail fungus, particularly toenail fungus, is usually more of a nuisance than a serious medical problem. (For diabetics, however, nail fungus or any other foot problem qualifies as serious and requires medical care.) As a result, we feel comfortable in recommending that most people try home remedies first. We don’t have any data on how well they work, but the testimonials we have received indicate that they do work for some people. In addition, they are inexpensive and don’t cause dangerous interactions or reactions.

A person who needs a higher likelihood of cure may need a prescription for Lamisil. It is the most cost-effective of the prescription nail fungus drugs. Even so, it does not work for everyone, and it is not always appropriate. Some people may be taking other medicines that could interact with Lamisil. Others may be at risk of liver problems or complications such as lupus. Most of the time, nail fungus is a problem you can live with; some of the rare side effects could be deadly.

  • Toenails grow slowly. It takes a year to a year and a half for them to grow out completely, so be very patient and persistent.
  • After cutting fungus-infected nails, soak the clippers or scissors you used in alcohol for 15 to 20 minutes so you don’t spread the infection.
  • Soak your feet in a footbath of one part vinegar to two parts water for 20 minutes a day.
  • Mix cornmeal with hot water, allow it to cool to a comfortable temperature, and soak the affected nails for 1 hour once a week for at least a month.
  • Squeeze vitamin E oil or tea tree oil around the cuticle and under the nail once or twice a day.
  • Soak the feet in original Listerine or apply it daily to the affected nails.
  • Smear Vicks VapoRub around and under the nail every day.
  • Brew an infusion of Pau d’Arco for soaking the affected nails every day.
  • Stick your toe in a lemon overnight to soften the infected nail for removal.
  • If the nail needs to come off, ask your doctor about prescribing urea paste (40 percent).
  • Lamisil is the most effective prescription pill for fighting nail fungus.

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  1. Anne

    The main cause of nail fungus is yeast in the body. Sugar and grains are the culprits. Eliminate sugar (that means fruit and fruit juices) and grains. Add a good pro-biotic and treat the fungus with oregano oil, tea tree oil and/or eucalyptus oil. Stop alcohol consumption too. These are proven to prevent fungus of nails and the treatments will speed recovery if you treat it religiously.

    • Terry Graedon

      Actually, dermatophytes are the main cause of nail fungus. But limiting sugars and processed starches to keep blood sugar from spiking might be helpful. (It hasn’t been well studied.)

  2. Mh

    I am foot health practitioner and recently been working in a residential home where all the residents have severe fungal nail infections. I have only recently taken over the role here but since working on these feet and infections I have become extremely unwell. I have lupus myself and an infection such as a cold could bring on a flare up. Is it likely do you think that the fungal nail infections I have been treating has caused a major flare up of my lupus?
    People’s Pharmacy response: We are afraid that is beyond our expertise. We haven’t heard such a thing, but we can’t rule it out either.

  3. cdk

    I have used the Vicks solution for several years, but this time it has failed me. Drugstore purchase has not helped either.

  4. paul t

    My doc prescribed twice daily combo of tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil for a really full case on one big toe, and also on one toe each of each foot. twice daily, and slowly but dramatically, MUCH better. the big toes is 50% clean and other clearing up.

  5. George

    Hi I have been battling two toenails with fungus. I applied the urea paste to one of them and was able to remove the entire nail with no pain. As it grew back I got a nice pink nail. The problem is that I can not do the same with the other nail, seems that the paste comes off, any suggestions on how to apply the paste? Thanks to all

  6. freetospeak

    Hello all. I’m a 51 year old healthy male. But I’ve been a toenail fungus sufferer for over 8 years now. With the typical thick yellowish, smelly toenails that break off easily and hurt if allowed to grow too thick. Yes, it’s very gross and embarrassing. I was determined to do my own personal research online. And (BY FAR) the most positive testimonials and feedback I’ve encountered have been in favor of VICKS VAPOR RUB for “CURING” toenail fungus!
    So, I decided to try Vicks on all my affected toenails. And it was a very pleasant surprise to see that on my very (first) application of Vicks on my toenails, it brought VERY noticeable results! Within 2-3 hours of generously applying Vicks to my affected toenails they became a slightly discolored brownish color. So, I immediately knew it was working. Strangely enough, I did not even apply Vicks daily and it has still worked for me.
    I was only applying Vicks twice a week. I even forgot to apply it at times. But I was somewhat consistent. After about 4 months I looked closer one day and saw that THREE smaller nails had completely cleared up and were “pink” in color again. Both my big toenails took 6 months or so before they showed a VERY CLEAR pink growth starting from my cuticles. I now have very evident BRAND NEW PINK NAIL GROWTH COVERING OVER HALF OF MY BIG TOENAILS!! I’m SO HAPPY to finally be FREE from nasty toenail fungus!! I can actually buy a pair of nice sandals again and go barefoot at the beach if I want! (lol)
    My only regret is that I didn’t apply Vicks every night if not every other night. But I am now, so as to speed up the process even more! I had no choice but to try an alternative method, since my family doctor would not prescribe Lamisil pills for me. This was only AFTER a blood test revealed that I had “high liver enzymes” which then ruled me out as a candidate for the prescription due to potential dangerous liver side affects. I just wanted to share my experience and encourage other people out there that may be suffering from the embarrassment of unsightly, annoying toenail fungus. VICKS VAPOR RUB REALLY WORKS!!! And it’s cheap. I sound like I sell it, but I don’t! I’m just a happy satisfied customer. God Bless. *RLM*

  7. bga

    I had been using vinegar and Listerine substitute to soak my toe nails every day for several weeks. I saw no difference and called attention to my regular doctor as to what treatment I was using for toe nail fungus. He discouraged me greatly when he said “the infection is above the nail under the skin and probably would not help”. So, I stopped using the treatment and only a week or two later I saw where the nail on the large toe on both feet is growing out clear.
    I began to use the treatment again. All during this time I have been fighting psoriasis on one ankle and was seeing a dermatologist all during this time for psoriasis. After trying an antibiotic and Clobetasol/Cerave cream, saw no changes. The dermatologist has now subscribed Lamisil and gave me samples of Oxistat to use twice daily. This area has greatly increased. I do not want to take Lamisil and hope that Oxistat will take care of this very ugly problem. Do you have anything to share with me to help me? I am pre-diabetic and fear what can happen next. Thank you for any and all advice.

  8. mlw

    I appreciate reading about your experiences treating toenail fungus. I am a diabetic and recently developed a toenail fungus my PCP didn’t seem to concerned but after I have heard how serious a fungus can be for a diabetic, I will seek medical advice from a dermatologist.
    I have read that a diabetic could lose a foot if not treated properly. I have a relative who has a foot fungus and many germs & bacteria have entered his body do to this infection it has become very serious indeed. Thank you for all of your information.

  9. Kit M

    I had the nail fungus on my ring finger about 15 years ago; I went to 3 different physicians who pretty much threw up their hands and said there wasn’t much I could do for it; the last, a dermatologist said I could use Lamisil, though he cautioned against the serious side effects, but warned me that the drug did not work for everyone. I said I had heard about the vinegar soak; he said it was as good a remedy as anything else.
    I tried it; it worked, though I had to do it for 6-8 weeks. I now have the fungus on a thumb nail; I am soaking it in 1/2 water-vinegar mix twice a day for up to 40 minutes each time (I know that is probably ‘overkill’, but I want to be rid of it!) The new nail growth is coming in clear! It is working great!

  10. Liz

    Vicks vapor rub, applied to the surface of the toe nail, also push some under the nail, and rub it in well to the crevices along the sides of the nail. Do once daily, but do every day after cleaning under and alongside the nails with a pointed file. My nails cleared up within a few weeks. I learned this from a manicurist who learned it from two of her clients who had great success with the Vicks method.

  11. Sheena

    I have to agree – I used this remedy in 2009 and now two years later I just continue to bathe my feet occasionally in concentrated Listerine. It is incredible and maintains my nails beautifully free of any fungus! Love it.

  12. jaleity

    Where do you buy white iodine?

  13. AB

    White iodine worked like a charm for me.

  14. Maria

    Health care is important, even more than the aesthetics. Although often have to deal with both treatments.

  15. s.s

    To get rid of toenail fungus, soak your toes in Listerine mouthwash. The powerful antiseptic gets rid of the fungus in no time.

  16. juanita p.

    Thanks for the above info. I can attest to the use of vicks vapo rub. I applied it on my mom’s toenail fungus and in a month it help cleared the fungus and affected nails detached. It was amazing.

  17. Laura D

    I had toenail fungus and my doctor recommended eucalyptus oil. I put several drops under the toenail in the morning, and the fungus cleared up within 6 months. Eucalyptus oil is relatively cheap and can be found in drug stores or grocery stores that stock natural remedies.

  18. RSW

    For prevention and reversal of mild foot and toenail fungus: switch to natural fiber (cotton or wool) socks and wear whenever wearing shoes. Change socks frequently. Always, after washing socks, rinse in a strong vinegar solution before drying. The dry socks will have a slight vinegar odor, but not detectable once in shoes. As feet become moist, creating growing conditions for fungus, the vinegar residue is reactivated, working against the fungus. Go barefoot as often as possible/comfortable to allow feet to stay dry.

  19. JM Minyard

    I have had just the opposite. I take Estriol, Agestin. and Testerone. I am a 66 year old woman whose hair increased voluminously with these three hormones. My hair is remarkable now. People stop me every where over my hair. My hair was thinning before using these hormones.

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