Decolorized Iodine

Q. I have been trying to find white (no dye) iodine. No pharmacy near me carries it. In the past I used it successfully to get rid of wart-like growths. I have also heard that it works against nail fungus. Any ideas where I should look?

A. Iodine has been used as a disinfectant and anti-fungal agent for more than a century. Standard tincture of iodine can stain the skin brown, which is why people use “white” iodine. Humco makes iodides tincture (decolorized iodine). Your pharmacy can order it or you may find it at

You are right that many people have found it helpful against nail fungus. Here’s one report:

Q. I was interested in the letter from a reader who applied tincture of iodine to his nails to fight fungus. He mentioned that it stains the nails brown. I am surprised you did not tell him that iodine also comes as a colorless liquid. My mother used it for years to control toenail fungus.

A. Many other readers hastened to tell us that we should have mentioned clear iodine. It is also called decolorized or “white” iodine (yodo blanco in Spanish) and won’t stain the skin the way brown tincture of iodine does. It should be available in most drugstores, though you may have to ask the pharmacist to help you find it. Iodine is a good disinfectant and also has anti-fungal activity.

A few other readers have made suggestions:

“I am surprised that you did not give the correct chemical name for white/clear iodine. It might make it easier to find. It is simply a water solution of potassium iodide. In addition to being anti-fungal it is also used as an expectorant.”

“I think that some of you are using the wrong word about white iodine. Try asking for DECOLORIZED IODINE. I found some in the CVS pharmacy. If you can’t find it then ask your pharmacist to order, using the word “DECOLORIZED IODINE” instead of “WHITE IODINE.” Paint your toenail several times a day.”

“I had toenail fungus. My doctor prescribed lamisil, but after reading about the side effects I did not want to take it, even though my insurance would have covered the THOUSANDS of dollars in cost! After reading your article, I went online and ordered decolorized iodine which came in small bottles. I could only get like a package of 6. It was about $30 and I figured it was worth a try.

“I used it once a day for a month, at bedtime after washing my feet. I swabbed it carefully all over the toenail and all around the cuticle and skin surrounding the toenail, including the tip of my toe. I only had a problem on the big toes but applied the iodine to all toes just in case it was starting where I could not see.

“Two months later now, there is plainly new growth that is healthy and the old discolored part is plainly growing off. About half my nail is new, clean and strong, while the part that is growing off is discolored and thin and weak. There is a very obvious line where the old nail is growing off. I’m very happy with the results”

Should you wish to know lots more about other low-cost, low-risk remedies for nail fungus, wart removal and all sorts of other common conditions, check out our People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedy book.

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  1. lettie

    For smelly feet…dissolve a tablet camphor in a small bottle of white iodine. Rub on clean feet..for at least 3 days/

  2. Di

    My doctor prescribed “white iodine”, decolourised iodine, for a toenail fungus. I was able to buy a 20ml bottle labelled as above.
    On opening the bottle a strong ammonia smell was present.
    I contacted my pharmacy where I bought it but they claim no knowledge of ammonia and why it is in this labelled bottle. I was told to go back to my doctor.

    My questions are: has ammonia been used in the process of decolourising the iodine? Am I using ammonia instead of the prescribed iodine? I am withholding the manufacturing name of the product until there are answers.
    Thank you.

  3. Abbie

    I have used iodine for toenail fungus and it worked. I used the regular first aid iodine because no one would see my orange toenails.

    I also remember that when I was a teenager I had a bad infection of ring worm on my back. Nothing worked on that until a nurse told me to try iodine. It worked! I hope this helps someone else.

    Now please help me. My dog has allergies and has a fungus infection that is Altermaria tenuis. He takes ketoconozole, but the vet would like to get him off of it. Does anyone have any suggestions of an alternative treatment?

    Thank you,

    Abbie N.

  4. Steve007

    I had fungal toenails and tried everything and hear about iodine. I found some on amazon but was the brown iodine came from the States. I also found white iodine on ebay which I preferred as it didn’t turn my toes that horrible brown colour again

    • Rick K.
      Williams, OR

      Try grinding up a vitamin C pill and adding it to the red iodine. You will find that the color fades away right before your eyes.

  5. Ken

    I’ve tried the decolorized iodine for a year or so. I’ve found that you have to get it under the nail, not just on top. Trim nails as short as possible, then saturate a piece of a cotton ball with the iodine and hold it against the tip of your nail for 10 or 15 seconds, letting it saturate the discolored portion of the affected nail. The fungus is where the discolored nail meets the normal looking nail.

  6. Ralph

    After reading lots of information about using iodine to treat toe nail fungus I decided to try the remedy in mid July 2012. Its now early October 2012 and there has been a small improvement but it is insignificant in relation to the problem area. Does anyone have information about how long I should continue to use the iodine?

  7. DHH

    CVS Pharmacy sells Decolorized Iodine. Paint on toenail once or twice a day. Fungus disappeared from my toenail within a week.

  8. Linda

    I found the white iodine at Target pharmacy. You have to ask the pharmacist for it.

  9. wllharrington

    White or decolorized iodine is available over the internet. I have purchased it, there are a number of sites and sizes. Search for the best price.

  10. Kay

    Please give more information regarding using decolorized iodine on “wart like” growths. I have these types of growths all over my body. They are also numerous on my face and neck. They are causing me anxiety. Are there any other treatments for these wart like keratosis?

  11. SLD

    Decolorized Iodine works fine, and doesn’t stain skin but will stain cultured marble!! Get it up as soon as you see it–clorox worked for me.

  12. ns

    I acquired a particularly persistent strain of athlete’s foot while vacationing in Hawaii some thirty years ago (still can’t get rid of it), followed in time by nail fungus on most of my toes. About twenty years ago I had foot surgery prior to which my entire right foot was “painted” with Betadine. A week or so later the entire sole of my foot peeled painlessly along with some other area. Left behind was fresh new soft skin and no athletes foot for many months – guess it was infected again from the left foot.
    It hasn’t occurred to me until now that it was most likely the iodine in the Betadine solution that made that difference. I’ll be trying decolorized iodine for both the nail fungus and athletes foot once I return from my vacation and can establish a routine. I’m very hopeful this will work where other attempts have failed (including risky oral prescriptions, topical prescription creams, and such remedies as Vicks, Listerine and vinegar). If the iodine knocks it down, maybe I can keep it away with Listerine.
    Thanks for this information.

  13. Bob S

    For those who want or need Lamisil (Terbinafine Hydrochloride). It’s available by prescription at WalMart for $4.00/30 days or $10.00/90 days. Worked for my cat. The Iodine and/or Clorox treatment worked for me. I didn’t dare use it on my rescue cat. (I’d probably have bleed to death).

  14. Rocket Scientist

    CVS Pharmacy private labels “Decolorized Iodine” so they are bound to have it on-line if not in your local store.

  15. Mothermo

    i bought clear/white iodine at Wal-Mart.

  16. M

    This look appealing as I have tried several years Listerine & vinegar but it will not work for me & I know others have reported good result.

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