bottles of listerine and white vinegar

Q. Hi, I am a 21-year-old college student, and I have not had a “normal” big toenail on my left foot since I was 14. It came off when I was a freshman in high school as I was removing nail polish. Since then, the toenail has grown back (with fungus) over and over and then repeatedly fallen back off.

I went to a podiatrist once, who prescribed me paint-on medication that did not make any difference at all.  The toenail continued to grow back rough and a yellow-brown color.  It was unsightly and embarrassing, especially in high school. In the summers I kept it covered with a bandaid. As I got older I discovered that I could buy fake nails from Wal-mart and glue them over my ugly toenail.  To say the least, my toenail was annoying and bothersome.  I often said if I could change anything, I would just want pretty feet.

About a year ago, a friend’s mom told me that she had heard of someone using tea tree oil on fungus.  I tried this for a few months. Again, I thought the toenail was growing in clear but then it would just fall off again. I gave up on the tea tree oil.

However, I thought maybe there were other suggestions that might really work, so I got online and found many websites like this one.  I was skeptical, but I thought anything was worth a try. I went out the next day and bought Listerine, Vicks VapoRub, and white vinegar (the off-brand of all 3).  This was 4 months ago.  Since then, I have soaked my toenails for thirty minutes a day in a mixture of equal amounts of Listerine and vinegar.

I use the same mixture for several nights before discarding.  At night I put the Vicks on my toenails and put socks on to sleep (the Vicks does stain your socks!).  Because I have been using the Vicks and the Listerine, I don’t know which is actually curing my toenail, but something is working!

My big toenail is almost completely grown out and it is completely healthy. (Although it did take a while for it to start growing in like that.)  I cannot believe that it has worked so well.  I honestly thought that I would never have a pretty toenail again.  Thank you to the ones who have posted about this. I hope this post will help someone.  Feel free to ask me questions, and I’ll tell you what I know from my experience.

A. Thanks so much for sharing your story. We find it fascinating that many visitors to our website expect nail fungus remedies to work within a few weeks. Many give up and assume that their foot soaks are a waste of time.

It takes a long time for nails to grow out. Even powerful oral anti-fungal drugs can take many months to work. We’re glad your patience was rewarded. Here are some other stories that support your experience:

“I’ve been soaking my toes in a 50%/50% solution of Listerine (use Original formula — the Freshmint made my feet green) and apple cider vinegar for 20 minutes each day, faithfully. I clip my toenails once a week. I make just enough to cover my toes in a small plastic container. I put plastic wrap on the surface of the solution when I’m not using it to keep the air out, and I change the solution every two weeks.

“In six weeks, I’ve seen a REMARKABLE difference. The fungus stopped spreading and the solution actually seems to be repairing the damage, it that’s possible. My nails are growing in healthy and they look great. I’ll probably continue to use the solution periodically to prevent this embarrassing fungus from ever coming back. I wish I could tell everyone about this inexpensive and effective solution.” Suzy

“Got that old toe fungus. Read here over a year ago – soak toe in amber Listerine 20 minutes/day, every day. The sender said to do it at the same time every day, which I was not able to do.

“Did the soak for a few weeks, got busy, stopped daily but did 2-3 x /week. OH MY GOSH—-had this for 30-40 years, but nail now turned black! After the soak nail growing out nicely. Dr. never wanted to give me an RX, and I agreed, so was just living with it…. embarrassing, no sandals in summer, etc. It has about 1/4 inch to go.

“But please note this: Hiking a few years ago, my feet became terribly hot so I took a break to cool them. Guess I switched socks, cuz the fungus started on the other toe.
Be very wary, and yes spray every shoe, slipper, everything you put on your feet.
I had thought of the lazer treatment, but it was $900.00 per toe or foot–who cares–too much!

“It really pays to check back to this site, as I totally forgot the Vicks! Need reminding on many things AND need the new experiments explained.

“Easier, and good to add at nite, what could be easier. Also thinking adding the apple cider vinegar to the Listerine. I have a sad feeling the fungus may be returning as my toe HURTS– and I have not been diligent.

“As always Graedons—most grateful” Char

Not everyone benefits from Listerine, vinegar or Vicks. If you check out our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, you will learn about cornmeal mush (foot soaks), Pert Plus, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, urine as well as more details about Vicks & Vinegar. In addition you will find some cool remedies for dealing with allergies, arthritis, bug bites, insomnia, plantar fasciitis, and dozens of other common conditions.

Tell us what remedies have helped you in curing nail fungus and which have not in the comment section below.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. AT

    Back story: I had a fungus infection in my pinky and ring finger 20 years ago. I worked with filthy money and sponges at a bank. I eventually cured it by filing down the nails very fine and soaking in 100% bleach at least 4x a week. Took about a year of treating my nails that way to help cure it. The bleach burned my skin, and I wouldn’t recommend! However: The fungus never returned to those nails!

    Current Story with Clove oil:
    Cut to 8 years later, my thumb and forefinger suddenly became 98% fungal and separated from the nail bed OVERNIGHT. I have no idea why. I was heartbroken. Caused me extreme anxiety. I didn’t have the time to soak so I covered with fake nails and soaked in bleach when I could. No luck. Lived this way for 10 long years: hiding my hands, never leaving home without nail glue and an extra fake. Ugh. It’s just a menace of a disease.

    I tried laser, ($400 down the drain) Vicks, vinegar, tea tree oil, bleach, oil of oregano…nothing. Combed the internet once more, desperately. My everlasting thanks to a wonderful person who suggested CLOVE OIL. I found some from an inexpensive and popular company online in a large bottle for about $9 or less. I filed the 2 nails down to the skin and dropped a drop of Clove oil on the affected skin and nails every day. I wore a rubber glove to keep the oil on the nails for about an hour afterward or as long as I could stand it. Washed off with soap and water later. Kept nails dry and didn’t cover them up. I had lost all vanity at this point.

    And it worked for me. Unbelievable.

    (I have tears in my eyes remembering those awful years that stole so much from my life- my doctor said it was cosmetic and to get over it- it’s a matter of feminine pride not to have missing or fungal nails- can’t imagine telling someone to ‘get over it’)

    Anyhow, it only took about a month of treatments to notice that my nails were growing in attached. I stopped treatment, and the nails separated a bit again, so I filed them down to the skin again and repeated treating with clove oil daily.
    One more month and the fungus was GONE. Pink nails, fully attached grew in. 2 months stinky and burning work but it is 3 years gone now. Not a trace. I cannot tell you how grateful I am happy to have happened upon that person’s post, and I hope and pray my experience with clove oil can help you, too.

    Please note, Clove oil BURNS and is very strong smelling. You must be VERY careful not to touch other skin or eyes or mouth with this stuff. It burned the webbing between my fingers but it went away quickly. I couldn’t care less because IT WORKED. It is an extremely potent anti-fungal oil, and I hope someone else can benefit from my story!

  2. Paul
    Brighton, England

    Been having problems with an infected nail for two years, expensive nail treatments not working, so I asked a hospital pharmacist for advice. She advised all treatment would need 6 months plus of use as the infected nail needs to grow out and replaced with the new uninfected nail. Interestingly she advised against ‘wasting’ money on branded treatments, using Vicks vapour rub or even an unbranded vapour rub. Two months into using just a generic vapour rub, new nail growth without any fungal infections is appearing. After wasting about £75 ($100), a £3 tub of rub is now curing my nails!!!! I hope this advice is useful to anyone else

  3. Andy

    Forgot to mention have been soaking for half an hour each night.

  4. Andy

    I’ve had bad toenail fungus on four of my toenails for about 20 years. I’ve been soaking daily in white vinegar full-strength 5% for a month.

    So far half the nail is now growing out healthy from the base, it’s looking very good so far.

  5. lyla

    Any one please tel me whether synthetic vinegar(glad.acetic acid) be used for this

  6. G

    Have used pills, paint-on treatment, and creams. My friend said the cream he used was for the military, and that worked for him. It did not work for me. What did work is the Vicks. I noticed the yellow color gone in a week. Then was told by my foot Dr that it won’t completely eradicate the fungus. I then would dab my nails with cotton ball in the apple cider vinegar/Listerine. Or soak my whole foot in it for 5min to ten, then dry. It can be a skin irritant so you can dilute with water. Yippee! It does work. My foot Dr said my feet have looked the best so far. Also try an anti-Candida diet. Someone also told me to use YOGURT on my feet. Has anyone else heard of this?

  7. charles

    I had a really bad toe nail fungus. I tried many things but it did not work. I figured that if laser therapy works that is because fungus does not like the light, so I devised my own poor man’s laser. I used a magnifying lens to shine concentrated sunshine on my toe nail every day, then I pulled the nail back and squeezed in some deodorized iodine in the space.

    I had tried the iodine only before, but it had not worked. This combination worked, healthy nail started growing in and eventually the discolored nail was grown out and I had healthy looking nail. When shining the sunlight on nail you move the concentrated light around to make sure you do not burn the flesh underneath the nail.

    It takes long time because the new nail takes long time to grow. I asked the laser treatment place how long had to do the laser and it was same as my sunlight. For a while I was thinking of making a business out of my discovery, but gave up. After afte a few months without treatment, the fungus came back, so you need to do this for ever to keep the fungus out.

    So, if you are considering Laser treatment, you may want to try the natural sunlight as I did. Whatever treatment you use if discontinued the thing comes back, I am looking for a less time consuming treatment, no pills, like my liver more than my nail.

    I had one nail that was hopeless as the infected nail was 3 times the natural thickness all brittle, so I had it removed, which has been the better solution, I might do that with the damn toe nail.

  8. Lana

    Does anyone know if you just use vinegar and listerine alone or mix in water

    • Cee

      You just use vinegar and listerine – no water needed. You have to be patient it “won’t happen over night.” I’ve been using this mixture for almost a year and the fungus that was in four toe nails is only left in one nail (very slight).

  9. renee

    I have white places on multiple toes will any of these remedies work on painted toes?

  10. Cheryl

    After soaking your feet, do you towel dry or just air dry your feet

  11. James

    So when using vinegar or a 50/50 solution with listerine, do you mix hot water too?

  12. James

    so is it better just to soak in vinegar or mix it with listerine? And why vicks vapor rub instead og an antifungal creal like lotramin? My doc prescribed me ketoconazole. I am wondering which antifungal gream is best for toenail fungus, and most are for athlete’s foot, sometimes jock itch and ringworm.. mostly those are powders. So what about a mix of listerine and vinegar and soak my feet( I read it didnt have to be white vinegar) then put antifungal powder in my socks. But first clip mu nails short. So after the soaking and my feet dry, I put antifungal cream on my tornails ans work the crean in ubder the nails good, plus put cream in between the toes and all over them. Then I put in the socks I dumped antifungal powder in. I am thibking I want to create an envirinment that fungus cannot thrive in. My worst toenail is my right big one that gets blacker towards the base and looks like it might come off. And yes toenail fungus can really warp and do wierd things as a nail grows out. I once read to cut the nail off as far as you can because it is no longer connected to the toe, then soak in vinegar. It was growing out better but I didn’t stick to it. I am also reading I need white socks or something open toed like sandals. I havework dark brown, blue or black socks. I can see wearing open toed sandals but it looks gross. I think powdered socks with a cream would give a negative environment just like moisture in socks are a posative environment.

  13. Josiah

    I had toenail fungus for 10 years! It’s been horrible. I’ve finally cured it in three steps!! Here’s what I did. First, I cut the nail back as absolute far as I could. Second, I took white vinegar and soaked a cotton ball with it. Then I put the cotton ball over the nail and used athletic tape to tie the cotton ball in place. I would wear it during the day and take it off every night for bed. Third, I repeated this daily for two months. I’m cured!! It works!!

    Now for the warning: this WILL irritate the skin around your nail. It will also irritate the skin of the toe next to the one you’re treating. I think this is because of the tape more than the vinegar but it’s hard to be sure. I tried using neosporin on the skin and covering exposed flesh with bandaides before using the sports tape. It helped but it was trial and error. All that said, IT WAS WORTH IT!! The skin has totally healed from the irritation and for the first time in 10 freaking years, the toenail fungus is gone!! It was a really bad case of fungus too, but now it’s better! I can hardly believe it. Two months, ever day. Give it a try!!

  14. Heather

    I’ve been plagued with toenail fungus for almost 20 years. I’ve tried various remedies over the years, including Lamisil, which worked well until I stopped using it. My biggest problem is lack of follow- through with any of the natural remedies. I usually throw in the towel, so to speak, after a couple of weeks. I appreciate all the suggestions and success stories from my fellow posters. You’ve given me the courage to renew my efforts against this formidable foe. Wish me luck!

  15. Sue
    Eclectic, Al.

    Started using iodine on my husband’s toe fungus. Had his nails cut back then painted iodine on them and we are seeing a difference.

  16. deb

    Use white vinegar twice a day, and you will see improvement. I tried everything else including organic acv.

  17. Claire

    I had a toenail fungus on my big toes for about 3 years. I tried everything…. well almost. I read about vinegar. Went and bought a bottle of cheap black and gold white vinegar. I cut back my toenail as far as I could and drenched a cotton ball in it. Stuck it on my toe (without wringing it out) with some tape, Left it on for about 45min (stung like buggery) then dID it again later on that night. My nail has now grown back in about a month and yay! No fungus!!

  18. Liz
    Phoenix, az

    I have had fungus on 3 to 4 toes for 5 years. I have tried everything to no avail. I will not do laser or pills. By accident I tried this and it has worked but I have been very diligent!!! #1. I keep my nails very short. #2. I keep the nail bed of affected toes filed so they are very thin with a nail file so nightly cream will absorb through the nail.
    #3 I shower every evening and carefully dry my toes.
    #4 IMPORTANT….After showering, I further dry all toes with a hairdryer while pushing back the skin so every part dries. This is a biggie!
    #5 I put Lamisil extra strength cream on EVERY toe being careful to get it under the nail as well. I use less on non-affected toes. #6 I keep sandals in my car and I slip off my shoes whenever possible so toes stay as dry and cool as possible. So far so good for a year. Nails have grown back and are clear. I know summer will be a battle as temperatures and humidity rise. I will add medicated foot powder in my shoes during the summer to reduce moisture.
    Give the listerine & vinegar a try, if that does not work give my treatment a go. Sadly I think this is a problem I will have to stay on top of every day for the rest of my life…and so I will. I would say I had a moderate case. My nails were moderately yellow and crusty and a little thickened and hurt.
    Oh yes, I only put toe nail polish on for special occasions, but I take it off immediately because to stay on treatment. Small price to pay.
    Sorry to say but diligence is critical. Once my nails were healthy
    I still continue the exact routine, every night, I just use less lamisil cream. I think this is a long term problem but at least I
    can live with this routine, not that bad. I buy the name brand at the drug store. not taking any chances.

    It gets very hot here….really bad for fungus!!!

  19. Suzanne

    dont waste your money and time on any laser clinic. i spent $700 doing the laser toenail fungus removal for one feet and bought about $90 antifungi medicine from the same doctor, all paid out of pocket. She told me to wait for 6 months to notice the clear nail growing. I patiently waited and waited, nothing changed. The nail kept growing thick and yellow. 9 months later, I went to the laser clinic and spent another $100 doing a repeat treatment, waited 6 months, nothing changed, till now over a year past, nothing changed.
    I have just started trying the vinegar. Someone also mentioned you can soak a small cotton with vinegar and use regular tap over your infected nail and sleep on it over night.

  20. Lynn
    Las Vegas

    Please state the exact amount used for Listerine, vinegar and Vicks. Thank you.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.