Q. From the 1960s to the 1980s, I had the worst case of smelly athlete’s foot that I have ever seen –and that is saying something, because I am a doctor and I have seen (and smelled) many.

The fungus also caused deep, bleeding fissures in the soles of my feet and between my toes. I tried everything: Grisactin, griseofulvin, gentian violet, Clorox, Absorbine Jr., Tinactin (tolnaftate), Desenex liquid and powder, white socks, etc.

In the early 1990s, my mother suggested white vinegar foot soaks. I purchased a gallon and a small basin and I began soaking my feet twice a day. I dried my feet WITHOUT RINSING and dusted my socks with Desenex powder. The fissures stung initially, but the itching and the smell began to fade almost immediately.

Today, 20 years later, I continue this regimen several times a week and I have “Poster Feet:” no smell, no athlete’s foot.

You don’t need to use more than a half-cup of vinegar at a time, but it should be full strength. Don’t rinse it off. Soaks of five to 10 minutes (reading, watching TV, etc.) are enough.

A. Your testimonial is very convincing! We have also heard from other readers who have had success treating athlete’s foot with vinegar soaks.

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  1. Sue

    As my foot sits soaking in a tub of vinegar, I thought I might write a post about my experience. I had seen this on the Internet as a cure for athletes foot. I have not dealt with this except in a very mild manner most of my life. So I bought a gallon of vinegar and planned to soak my foot in a few days. Then it dawned on me, that I soaked my goats feet in vinegar for fungus before and it did wonders!
    So here we go, hoping I’ll have as much luck as my goat ?

  2. sara

    If you have any open sores on your feet whether they’re from athletes foot or anything else, the vinegar burns like no tomorrow. However, even after 1 soak you’ll notice the itching subside, which is good…I’m sure I’d appreciate it more of i didn’t have this burning sensation in my sores.

  3. janelle

    I cannot believe people are soaking their feet in straight vinegar w/o water! Vinegar is acetic acid–its an acid working against a fungus. Acid burns. Kudos to the people diluting vinegar with water its the way to go in my opinion.

    • Julian

      Janelle, Food grade white vinegar sold in stores is diluted to 5% acidity. While that is still potent, it is not pure acetic acid. “Cleaning” strength is 6%.

  4. Flip

    I soak up to 30-40 minutes daily in water mixed with vinegar, half and half. Is it safe to do it in white distilled vinegar, not mixed with water? My mom made a mix that contained vinegar and glycerin, also half and half, it literally burned when I put it on. Now a week has passed since I started to put on that mix and soaking my feet, old skin has fallen off and new skin is coming up. Thank for the heads up about soaking socks and shoes in vinegar:)

  5. sharon

    I have been dealing with moccasin type tinea and tinea of the large toenail for about 15 years now and tried all sorts of tinea creams and powders with very little result. I read about soaking using white vinegar mixed with water and have been doing this for a few weeks now, once a day for 30 minutes.
    It hasn’t completely gone yet but I can already see a huge difference in how my feet look and feel, they are really starting to look like normal feet again for the first time in many years. I’m so glad I tried the vinegar instead of going on oral anti-fungals even for this chronic form of tinea.

  6. MC

    Tonight is my second night of soaking my feet in vinegar. I have two Ziploc bags with about 2 cups of white vinegar in each-just enough to cover my “moccasin style athlete’s foot.” I put hair ties around my ankles to keep the fumes in. I’m soaking for a total of 15 minutes tonight and I will only pat my feet dry when I get done with it. I read that I shouldn’t wash it off-you need to leave the vinegar on.
    I’ve been battling athlete’s foot for probably three years now. The first two years it was undiagnosed-I just thought my feet were peeling for some odd reason. I’m diabetic and not one of my doctor’s mentioned athlete’s foot, they just told me not to pick at my feet. They itched!
    I’m really hoping that this is the cure. I’ve tried different creams and it doesn’t seem to cure it–it takes away the symptoms, but the scales are always there. I’m now combining the prescription cream with the vinegar soaks. The creams just don’t take away the itch, and it’s become bad enough that I’ve been waking up from it in the middle of the night. What I can tell you is that my feet didn’t itch today!

  7. mjh

    My feet used to peel, and I would peel them till they were raw and bleeding. It was horrible.
    I had heard about the vinegar treatment and it was painful at first, but it healed my feet quickly and I have not had the peeling issue since.
    My husband and I still deal with athlete’s foot. I will try to soak our socks in vinegar. I have not done that.
    I think I will wipe down the shower too.

    • Andrew
      California, United States

      If you wipe down the shower stall and the stall is made of ceramic tile with grouted joints, you’d be better off using dilute sodium hypochlorite bleach solution instead of vinegar. Acids dissolve lime-based cements and grouts and you’ll be faced with a potentially expensive repair in the future.

  8. KI

    LHS, thank you for posting this. I have had horrible athlete’s foot for 2 years. I have increased the strength of my antifungal creams over that time and my feet would flake. Now I have fungus in my fingernails too. I started acupuncture and seeing a Naturopath and I told them I did do vinegar. She wanted me to do 1/2 water 1/2 vinegar, she thought I messed up my skin’s natural flora. I have been doing it and my skin is peeling but looking better slowly. She also has me doing this with my fingernails.
    Have your toenails gotten better doing this? I am glad to see an MD posting your experience too.

  9. J Williams

    My teenage son has had athletes foot for over two yrs. Drs prescription for anti fungal cream did not work. I tried boric acid soaks for a week. Nothing. Over the yrs he has used anti fungal powders and sprays DAILY. I also got him Funga Soap (found at grocery store) and tree tea oil (found at pharmacy over the counter) daily as well. Still… no improvement.
    So I tried the white vinegar soaks. I did 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 warm warm water soaks 15 min once a day and have done this for a week. I also soaked all socks in vinegar and water for 20 min one time then washed the socks as usual. Low and behold… it is 90 percent cleared!!!!! Vinegar is my new best friend. :). I swear this stuff is amazing.
    J Williams

  10. sue stmr

    You can use just a half a cup of vinegar by tilting the basin, then just soak your toes. Prop a towel under the basin with a towel to tilt.

    • Bill
      Los Angeles, CA

      did the vinegar/water soak totally get rid of the athlete’s foot? Also, has it come back since? Thanks.

  11. J.T

    Iodine is the stuff for athletes foot…hard to buy in UK

  12. BMA

    I seem to get athletes foot every year when I go to the beach? But I have found that the straight vinegar works wonders and gets rid of it every time. I keep a spray bottle with white vinegar and put my feet in large ziplock baggies ( I have very small feet ) spray them with the vinegar And close the bags around my ankles and let them soak while watching tv. Usually do this every other day for a week or so and it gets rid if it. :-)

  13. BMA

    I seem to get athletes foot every year when I go to the beach. But I have found that straight vinegar works wonders and gets rid of it every time.
    I keep a spray bottle with white vinegar and put my feet in larg ziplock baggies ( I have very small feet ) spray them with the vinegar And close the bags around my ankles and let them soak while watching tv.
    Usually do this every other day for a week or so and it gets rid if it. :-)

  14. Gracie

    If you have chronic athlete’s foot, especially the moccasin kind that causes dry/cracked heels and sides of your feet, I encourage you to go to a dermatologist. It might not be athlete’s foot at all and you want to make sure you’re treating the real problem. You might have hyperkeratosis or hyperhidrosis.

  15. linda

    oh my goodness, you made me laugh so hard, thanks, I needed that. 50 gallon drum!!!!!!!! lol

  16. vee

    I also swear by the vinegar cure. I had a bad case of athletes foot for about 40 years. I used straight vinegar on my feet from a spray bottle, during the summer months when I was usually wearing some kind of open shoe. I sprayed my feet at least 3 times daily and just let the vinegar evaporate in the warm air. The itching stopped right away and gradually the cracking and peeling too.
    What I finally realized however, was that in spite of any meds and natural cures you must treat your shoes, hosiery and surfaces too or you will only RE-CONTAMINATE your feet. Without a doubt this is why so many of us have spent a small fortune on OTC creams which help for only a while. The fungus lives on in rugs, bathroom floors, shower stalls etc. but especially in our shoes and socks.
    I soaked my socks and hose in a vinegar water solution, I then used the straight vinegar spray and very thoroughly wiped out the insides of ALL of my shoes, then let them air dry. the vinegar killed the fungus and the odor. I am now two years totally athletes foot free. Thank you God for vinegar!

  17. cpmt

    Listerine, vicks vapo rub also helps.

  18. LHS

    On the toes? It worked well between the toes and on the skin of the toes.
    I still have fungus in my great toe nail, but that is the only nail that is affected. Here is the problem: Had I NOT used the vinegar, my nails might now be in much worse shape. The bottom line is this: I don’t know. It is at least cheap and risk-free and your feet will smell good and not itch within a few days.
    Let me know what you experience.

  19. LHS

    I am the author of this posting about athletes foot and vinegar.
    Full strength vinegar = undiluted vinegar.
    How much?
    Only the thin layer of vinegar that is in contact with the skin has any effect. While you COULD soak your feet in a 50 gallon drum, but doing so won’t help any more. I suppose you could take a spray bottle and keep them wet by spritzing them. Either way, the goal is to keep them wet.

  20. Cj Williams

    I am on oral Lamisil, expensive Oxistat cream and the fungus is still growing on my foot. Thank God it is only on one foot. Will try undiluted Vinegar and Desenex. Praying to God this will help.
    To Christine. I was told by a tennis partner that she cured her young daughter’s ‘nail’ fungus with Vinegar. I tried it and it did nothing for me. The simple ten dollar cream at the nail salon worked best.

  21. christine

    Does vinegar help get rid of fungus infections on the toe’s?

  22. ebm

    How can one soak 2 feet in 1/2 cup full strength vinegar? Perhaps a baby foot? Full strength means undiluted, right?
    Puzzled, Dear Doc!

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