Jar of Vicks VapoRub

Q. After reading about toenail fungus, I could not resist passing along my recommendation. Four months ago a nurse who does foot care suggested I use Vicks VapoRub for my own nail fungus. I rub it on each nail every day, and my nails are growing out clear. The treatment is cheap and easy. I’m sure many households keep Vicks on hand for congestion just as we do.

A. This is not the first time we have heard about using Vicks VapoRub on nails infected with fungus. Several years ago a professional foot care nurse told us that this old-fashioned herbal ointment might be helpful.

The ingredients in Vicks VapoRub include camphor, menthol, eucalyptus oil, cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol and turpentine oil. Some of these ingredients have antifungal activity.

Over the years we have suggested this as one possible approach for getting rid of nail fungus. Many health professionals have scoffed that such an old-fashioned remedy could do anything against entrenched fungus in the nail bed.

There is now research to support this remedy, though. The U.S. Air Force 375th Medical Group published a study titled “Novel Treatment of Onychomycosis [nail fungus] Using Over-the-Counter Mentholated Ointment: A Clinical Case Series” in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. The bottom line according to these researchers, “Vicks VapoRub seems to have a positive clinical effect in the treatment onychomycosis.”

If you would like to learn more about how to use Vicks against nail fungus you may find two of our guides of interest, Unique Uses for Vicks and Hair and Nail Care. You will be amused and amazed to find out about the versatile Vicks and how people have used it over the years to treat an amazing number of minor ailments.

There are all sorts of other home remedies for getting rid of nail fungus. One of most surprising is corn meal mush:

“I had a mild, annoying case of toenail fungus and read about using cornmeal to treat it. I mixed a cup of whole-grain cornmeal in very warm water and soaked my toes for about a half hour. I did that for a month or so, and, lo and behold, some months later the fungus started to disappear.

“I’d had that fungus for many years, so it wasn’t any lifestyle change that caused it to go away. There must be something in the cornmeal grain that attacks the fungus.”

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  1. Amy

    Omg I am so happy that vicks vapor rub is clearing up my toes. I’ve suffered for so long it got to where they started to become sore and oh so nasty to look like. I started this treatment in July 2017 and today when I woke up the nail feels and looks so good. I applied it to all the nails. Just incase it stared to spread. Finally something that works.

  2. detmike
    Detroit, MI

    I have had toenail fungus on my big toe for around 10 years. The last few years, it seems to have become very dark, inflamed, and quite painful. Foot doctor numbed my toe and cut the 60% of the nail off to let air get to fungus and dry it out. Helped a little, as nail grew out fungus still there.

    Next form of treatment was medicine. (Not me, I like my liver) He next recommended completely removing the nail, since the fungus lives in the root of the nail. (Not me, sounds disgusting) Next was laser treatment. (Not me, very expensive)

    I lived with an ugly and painful toe for the next few years. (sad) Stubborn and determined, I decided to try a combination of the best of home remedies I could find. Needless to say, I am very, very happy, with the solution I have come up with. I use a very small turkey roasting pan for foot soak. To this I add, 8-12 ounces of distilled white vinegar, place my foot in pan, then add enough water to completely cover my toes. Soak for 25-30 minutes. Remove foot and dry completely. (in between toes especially)

    Next, apply Vicks vaporup liberally and rub it into toenail, all around toenail (especially base of toenail) then pack the end of toenail. Next, and I think the most important part–I cut off the thumb (for big toe) of non latex surgical glove and slip it over affected toe. My theory is, without air, the vicks is more concentrated and medically more effective, plus, you don’t get vicks all over socks, sheets, shoes or whatever.

    I leave it on 6-8 hours and go to bed, or go to work. Important thing is, once a day. RESULTS: One week after starting, I cut my toenail such as a normal person would do, and my toenail actually looks pretty. I plan on continuing this treatment a couple more weeks, just for good measure. ENJOY: You can thank me later!!! DetroitMike

  3. Toetroubles

    Tried Vicks, slowly worked on 1, no other. Using Tag-Away, mainly cedar leaf oil, and so far, a bit more effective. But you better like smell of cedar. ; )

  4. jeff
    daytona beach fl

    I’ve had thick yellow big toe nails my whole adult life. I’m 57 I’ve tried over the counter treatments and pills about 15 years ago. Things somewhat improved but always came back and were expensive or as the pills were conserned could do damage to my liver. I heard of vicks about 3 weeks ago and bought some and rub it on my toenails every morning and before going to bed. The one is thinning out already and losing all the gunk and even turning somewhat pink under it. The other is growing out pink. I’m shocked at the fast change already. I’m not sure if it’s the petrolium jelly or the chemicals in it but it’s going away for the first time in my life..
    P.S. I buy the stuff from the dollar tree for a buck

  5. Cristy
    Pittsburgh, PA

    Vicks has worked for me! My mistake has been in not following through with the months you need to devote to this. I started back again and am determined to commit! One thing I have found helpful is when I take a bath my feet are submerged in the water which softens the nail and the gunk under it. Since my nail is raised up I’ve taken a wooden cuticle pusher (or other sterile instrument) and used it to “scrape” out the gunk under the nail. It’s amazing how much is in there! Just be careful of the delicate skin underneath. Once I am done I rewash my foot just using plain soapy water, blot dry, and then apply Vicks to the nail concentrating on “packing” it in under the nail. It takes time and patience but I start to notice when I do this there is less and less gunk each time and as thee nail grows in there is less of a gap as the toenail returns to it’s normal state. I also cut my nail back as far as I can. Since the nail is so raised you an cut it back fairly short and it’s not sore.

    • Cheryl

      Several years ago (before ‘google’ or internet searches were popular, I had a toenail fungus on my big toe that I could not get rid if – the tonail turned dark, and split a lot. It also had thick, white crust-like underneath the nail which pushed the end of it slightly upward as it grew. Then it seemed to even start changing the shape of cuticle area.
      I tried the anti-fungal ‘over the counter’ stuff but saw no change whatsoever.
      Finally, I just ‘decided’ the problem might be related to bacteria, so … I applied Vagisil too it!
      Every morning as I got dressed for work, I put a little of the cream under the edge of the tonail & wrapped it in a bandaid.
      I put my socks & outdoor boots on.
      After about 7-8 days, I noticed an inprovement.
      Within 3 weeks, the new nail growing out looked healthy. I continued the regiment, trimming off the bad parts as the nail grew out, until eventually, the nail was completely normal!

      Now all these years later, I have another toenail that has a fungus.
      The toe next to a big toe – this is over 1 year now.
      Vagisil did not improve it.
      Fungal liquids have not worked. The nail has narrowed a lot and is almost ‘tent’ shaped, as it has the thick, white crust underneath pushing the nail upward.
      I guess Vagisil is not what it used to be when it comes to toe fungus.
      But, anyone who will try it, woukd certainly try Vick’s …
      . . . hmmm …
      Thats two V products…

      I hope to be victorious in vanquishing this very vile fungus, if for no other reason, vanity.
      Here’s to sandals in summer …!

  6. RENEE

    My podiatrist just told me to try both the anti-fungal nail polish and vicks.

  7. n.c.

    My finger nails starting lifting up and a few weeks later there were huge spaces in 8 nails. It didn’t affect the thumbs. I was wearing a thin veneer of acrylic over them for about a year. Then all of a sudden this happened. It looks horrible and have to wear polish on them because they are so noticeable. Any suggestions?

  8. lou

    Yes you can use fungal nail polish and vicks together I do and I can see the change.

    • Amy

      When you are using nail polish to cover up it’s embarrassing look, all it’s doing is making it worse. I learned the hard way because now i only habe two nails that are not infected.So maybe look into buying an anti fungal nail polish. I started to use vicks vapor rub and to my surprise it’s working. My nails are no longer brittle and yellow or brown. They are finally a healthy color. So my advice to you. Find out what home remedy works for you. And lay off the nail polishes, since it just makes the problem worse. Good luck

  9. K8

    I have just started using a anti fungal nail paint. Can I use vicks as well as the paint? Or will it stop the nail paint from working? Also if anyone has used curanail, has it worked for them?

  10. Sharon

    A couple of years ago I had a fungal infection so bad in my toenail that it was about to fall off. My GP recommended Vicks Vaporub and it worked a treat. It took several months for the new nail to grow out, but once it did it was perfect. Because of my occupation as a nurse I was prone to these infections, and now I use the rub a couple of times a week to prevent the problem from returning. It may not work for everyone, but it’s worth a try.

  11. Adriana

    Hi, I’m 18 and on my right big toe I have fungus I’ve been reading what y’all been writing I will give vicks a try. Hopefully it becomes my best friend. Wish me luck.

  12. AL

    Now that summer is here, I prefer to keep my toes polished. Has anyone tried applying these various treatments for nail fungus to painted nails?

  13. Ann R

    I had fungus on my big toenail a couple of years ago and read about the Vicks Vaporub remedy. I tried it, but it was such a pain to apply! I decided to try Campho-phenique instead since it seems like the same sort of mentholy-thing. I used a toothpick dipped in it, and ran it around the nail and let it seep under. Within a few weeks, it was obviously clearing up, and after the nail grew out, it was perfect!

  14. LA

    Unbelievable! I skimmed the Air Force study (which showed good results over 48 weeks with certain species of fungi) and decided to give Vicks Vaporub a try. I have one toenail that has been thick, yellow, and deformed for years. Within 2 days I had a white nail that was much thinner. After 4 days it appears to be much flatter. I doubled the treatment the study was using. I put a thin coat on twice a day. I am astounded at the change. Can’t wait to see how it looks a couple of weeks from now.

  15. kaf

    Just a note, Vicks actually made my toenail fungus much worse! What works for one person might not work for another. If it doesn’t work, there are other options out there, including tea tree oil, vinegar soaks etc. and one of them is likely to work for you.

  16. JMG

    I’ve had 2-3 fingernail fungus attacks; I used the half-water half vinegar solution to soak the nail for 20-30 minutes twice a day and it worked! It is not speedy, taking about a month or so to kill the fungus and it does take discipline, but it gives me an excuse to sit down, read, and relax while I’m undergoing my ‘treatment’!

  17. PH

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll be trying this today. It may help me more than my doctor did. She said everyone has them, just cover it up. My husband has it on a nail on his hand. Not a pretty sight. I can’t wait to give this a try. thanks
    The key to success is patience! It takes months for prescription anti-fungal medications to work to get rid of fungus in the nail bed. Home remedies are no faster. It could take as long as 6 months or longer to see real improvement. You will find lots of remedies on this website as well as in our books. They include cornmeal mush, hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, Listerine & vinegar soaks, and many more: https://store.peoplespharmacy.com/

    • Drew
      Richmond, Va

      I’ve heard of the Listerine and Vinegar soaks…. just don’t use the blue Listerine lol and buy generic of course. That Jublia seems outrageous in price and effectiveness. I will try the vinegar treatment with Vicks afterwards…and maybe an over the counter topical if that doesn’t show enough progress.

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