toes with nail fungus, ugly toenail fungus, help toenail fungus, cure toenail fungus

If you have noticed that your toenails are thick and yellow, you are not alone. Nail fungus affects a lot of people, so we are glad that we can offer some popular remedies for nail fungus.

Q. What is a good home remedy for yellow, ugly toenails? Yuck!

A. Just when we thought everyone in the known universe had become sick and tired of reading about remedies for nail fungus, along comes this question from Pat in Irvine, California. Perhaps there are a few other people who are also suffering from unsightly thick, yellow-brown nails.

The official dermatological name for this condition is virtually unpronounceable: “onychomycosis.” (Try it this way: Oh-nicko-my-kosis.) Dermatologists do love their Latin and Greek names. “Mycosis” means infection caused by fungus. “Onych” or “onycho”) means a condition of the finger or toe nail. A German doctor (Rudolf Virchow) came up with the name in 1856 and derms still use it to this day. They also refer to it as tinea unguium.

We have been writing and talking about remedies for nail fungus for decades and offering a variety of creative solutions to solve this unsightly problem.

First, some questions to ponder:

Why do some people get fungal infections under their nails while others appear resistant?

As far as we know, the dermatological community does not have a good answer. We suspect there is an immune component, because people tend to be more susceptible as they age. Presumably, their immune systems are less capable of fighting off the invasion.

Why do some people get quick relief with a particular home remedy (like Vicks VapoRub) and others see no benefit even after several months of diligent application?

Again, there is no good answer. We are constantly surprised why some people respond to one approach but others say it is worthless. Part of the difference may be which specific fungus is causing the infection. They may have differing sensitivities.

Why do dermatologists generally reject home remedies for nail fungus as a waste of money?

We are a bit puzzled by this attitude, though we suspect they may see a lot of patients who report home remedy failures. People who are happy with the results of a home remedy are not likely to go back and mention their success to a doubting doctor. Generally, home remedies are a lot less toxic and expensive than prescription anti-fungal medications.

People’s Pharmacy Remedies for Nail Fungus:

We make no promises about any of these approaches. What works for one may not do the job for another. We have heard from many people, though, that these remedies for nail fungus can be surprisingly effective.

Vicks VapoRub

“I have been using the Vicks for a number of years. It takes a long time (about 6 months) for the nail to grow out, but the fungus is gone. However, it does come back and the treatment has to be repeated.” M.W.

“I have had fungus and nail bed damage on my right thumb nail (about half way up the nail) for approximately 8 eight years. My nail technician has suggested, and I have tried, everything: anti-fungal treatments, vinegar, etc. She said the nail would probably never grow out because of unknown nail bed damage.

“At one point, we even glued one half of an acrylic nail on each week for about a year to protect the nail. Nothing helped, or even looked right. I always had to have my nails polished because of the ugly discoloration.

“About six months ago, on my own, after reading one of your columns, I began using Vicks VapoRub twice a day. I just dabbed a little on a toothpick and gently rubbed it around and under the nail. Lo and behold, after two months, I could see new growth! Now, it has almost completely grown out. I am so excited! I only use the Vicks once a day now. Hope this long information helps someone else.” Martha

Cornmeal Foot Soaks

“When examining me, my doctor noticed that I had nail fungus affecting toes on each foot.  He recommended that I make a batter by mixing cornmeal and water, let it sit for an hour, and then using a shallow pan, soak my feet for an hour.  He told me to do this once a week for a month.  If the fungus was not gone, I was supposed to apply Vicks Vaporub once a week for a month.

“I did the cornmeal therapy for three week and the fungus was gone. I don’t know why it works, but it’s cheap, harmless, and it worked for me.” Larry

“I’ve used vinegar and Listerine foot soaks in the past and it does help but takes an extremely long time to see good results. In the last year, I started soaking my feet in the cornmeal paste (also reported by the Graedons) once a week and started seeing results within three weeks. By three months the fungus was gone, and within six months my toenails had grown to the point where I started wearing toeless shoes again and was no longer embarrassed about hideous toenails.

“I highly recommend the warm cornmeal paste and found that it was so easy because I’d soak my feet for an hour while reading the morning paper. (Killing two birds with one stone.)” Shirley

Listerine & White Vinegar Foot Soaks

“I have tried Vicks, hydrogen peroxide and tea tree oil with no benefit. The Listerine and white vinegar soaks was the only treatment that worked on my nails. I used it for about 2 months and saw things get better.

“Then I went to a festival for 3 days. It was 30 degrees and did not bring anything for my nails. Needless to say back to square one. Is it possible that results could show after like half a year? Maybe I just quit too soon.” L.M.

“I have been using generic white vinegar and generic brown Listerine for a couple years now ever since I read about it in the Peoples’ Pharmacy. I just do a maintenance soak twice a month now, mostly because it makes my feet feel so good. A nice side affect. You will never have athletes’ feet again! Thanks again Peoples’ Pharmacy!” Kathleen

“I have been keeping up on your ideas to combat toenail fungus. I am happy to say that since March, 2013 I have been soaking my toes every day for 30 minutes with a combination of Listerine and ACV (apple cider vinegar) with great success. All my nails are nice and pink-colored now except for one. That one will require more soaking to complete the deal.

“What a sight to see (normal nails). I also treat my nails with Vicks for the remainder of the day. Thanks so much! I will continue to treat sparingly to stay ahead of any returning fungus.” N.P.

To learn more details of these and many more remedies for nail fungus, we recommend our 264-page book Quick & Handy Home Remedies (published by National Geographic). You will learn about cornmeal mush foot soaks, hydrogen peroxide, de-colorized iodine, Listerine and vinegar and tea tree oil, not to mention the strangest of all… urine soaks!

Even if you treat your fungus-infected toenails with a prescription medication, one of these remedies for nail fungus may be useful to prevent recurrence. Dermatologists recommend preventive topical treatment weekly or monthly to keep the fungus from coming back (Skin Appendage Disorders, Sep. 2016).

Revised 2/6/17

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. Rae

    My dermatologist told me even if the nail grows back from the fungus, it remains in the skin and the only way to get rid of it is to take a pill that affects your liver. I certainly don’t want that. This is awful news. Does anyone know ow to remove it from your skin without taking something internally?

  2. Cindy M. Black

    I’m not sure why, but it is always such GREAT ENTERTAINMENT reading the comment threads for toenail fungus, soap-under-the-sheets and gin-soaked raisins. Informative too, of course. Cheers, and thanks everyone! — Cindy

  3. Linda

    Not sure why Vicks vapor rub worked on me but cleared mine overnight…slathered it on my whole foot and nails then wore socks to bed overnight. Walla. Gone..thank you Jesus..

  4. Ellen

    I tried Vicks, Listerine, and other suggestions with no success. Probably because I was not consistant with using them. Then I accidentally discovered that nail polish worked for me. I painted my toe nails red, two summers ago. As the polish wore off I noticed healthy pink nail at the base. I kept reapplying the polish for about six months. The nail continued to grow out healthy. At that point, the damaged part popped off one day when I was trimming the nails. It has been fine ever since. I have no explanation, but it was relly easy to keep the nail painted.

  5. Gregg
    Clearwater, FL

    For fungus to thrive, it needs three things: moisture, darkness, and warmth. Taking away any one of those makes it more difficult for the fungus to survive. In my experience, the best way to kill toenail fungus (and also athlete’s foot, another fungus) is to blast the fungus with bright blue-light LEDs, or use the Bioptron phototherapy device (which uses a halogen light to generate a broader spectrum of light). Phototherapy REALLY works, it is non-invasive and non-toxic.

    If you buy a phototherapy device (there are many different devices at many different price levels), you can use it for years. If you get a device with blue LEDs, do not look directly into it, because intense blue light can damage the retina. I have also found that the Bioptron quickly kills athlete’s foot fungus. Other phototherapy devices with red and infrared LEDs accelerate healing of wounds, skin diseases, and insect bites. Google “phototherapy” for more information. There are many scientific studies that confirm the effectiveness of phototherapy.

  6. c

    I use to use vicks but found that listerine worked the best. Took a nail file and filed down the top of the nail a little bit then took a cotton ball soaked in listerine and wet the nail. I use this method to keep the nail clear.

  7. Stan
    North Carolina

    My opinion about toenail fungus is that people need to let their feet air out more often. Today people wear shoes and socks all the time. Most footwear today has very little air flow and the feet sweat. The socks soak up the moisture and hold it inside the shoe. A warm moist place is ideal for fungus. Treatments won’t work if you’re putting your feet right back inside what causing the problem to begin with.

  8. Christine Mills

    I was having toenail issues that looked like a fungus, but may have been an injury. Each day, after showering, I applied white vinegar and coconut oil in the morning. At night, I applied a generic Vick’s. I decided to do my fingernails, too even though they did not appear to have any fungus, they were just weak, peeling, brittle and breaking off below the quick. Now all my nails are healthy and solid and strong. I still use coconut oil in the morning and generic Vick’s at night to keep them healthy. I can even keep nails long for guitar playing.

  9. Dave

    I’ve suffered with this since jr. high school. At that time my doctor visited our house (yes that was a long time ago) and gave me some pills to put in a hot water soak. They turned my feet purple but seemed to help–for a time. I’ve tried many things over the years but have been using a product I found at Wal-Mart for the couple of years. It seems to be working–but very slowly. It’s name is Fungi-Nail. Until I started using it at least once a month I would have an ingrown toenail on a big toe. I have not had one now for over a year.

  10. Diane
    North Carolina

    The vinegar solution even without Listerine works and softens feet at the same time. But the best solution for toe nail fungus was a shot of Kenablock that a dermatologist gave me for actinic keratosis which cleared my toenail fungus and it never came back.

  11. Marie

    a great natural remedy for toenail fungus are essential oils.

    I had horribly yellow and brittle toenails for years. I had tried some medicines for it, but nothing cleared them up, so I gave up.

    It wasn’t until a friend of mine saw my feet at the beach one summer, and she asked me if I had ever done anything to treat my toenails. I told her how nothing had worked and she told me that essential oils can be highly anti fungal, and they might just work.

    So I got on the internet and found a list of essential oils that remedy toenail fungus. I bought a few and made the blend suggested on the site, and it was like night and day, within a week I could see my nails clearing up.

    two months later my nails had pretty much regrown completely and were clear! It was amazing, it’s like this magical elixir that solved my problems, and some how people don’t know/talk about it.

  12. debbie

    colloidal silver will cure it

  13. Jackson
    Texas, USA

    The fungus on my big toe nail is almost gone! I just need a couple more months for the rest of the thick ugly nail to grow out. 3/4 of the nail is now flat and beautiful! I tried the natural stuff like tea tree oil and vinegar. I tried Vicks. I had no luck with these for three stinky months. I was ready to take the pills with all the side effects….but my last resort remedy started working in about two months. It has now been 5 months and is obviously working great.

    I went to two drug stores and purchased whatever cure looked most promising. I ended up with Fungi Cure and Woodward’s Mycocide NS. I put Fungi Cure on in the morning and Mycocide on every night and 5 months later most of my nail is perfect…only the outer 1/4 is still thick and crumbly. I use a lot of each of the treatments and use a toothpick to shove as much of each up under the nail, after scraping the underside of the nail as much as possible to get all the crumbly stuff out of there.

    It worked for me!

    • Terry Graedon

      The ingredients you are using, tolnaftate and undecylenic acid, have long been used for athlete’s foot, so they do have antifungal activity. They’re not usually thought of as powerhouse antifungals, though.

      • Jacksoon

        I was happy to read your reply! I really had no idea if what I was using was strong or not, but I am glad to hear that what is working for me is not particularly harsh. Thanks for you comment.

  14. Alan

    Get the laser treatments. Wait for a cost around $300 on Groupon. Its for all toes, both feet, 2 treatments. Then take the prescription Lamisil pills (covered with basic insurance).

    Then as an ongoing maintenance routine, keep a little bowl, toe brush and vinagar near your toilet and every time you take a dump, clean / scrub your toes in the vinegar. Put Vics Vapor Rub near you sock draw and put it on/under your toe nails before you put on your socks every morning. You will have the healthiest toes forever.

  15. Granny Gruntz
    Chicago suburb

    My comments have nothing to do with toenail fungus, HOWEVER – MUCH TO DO WITH WHITE VINEGAR! WHITE VINEGAR MAY HAVE GREAT HEALING PR0PERTIES! When the first “coolish” days of fall start, the tips of my thumbs start to split. AND IT IS VERY PAINFUL!! ALSO – I start to have recurrences of “SEVERE hang nails” on my fingers. I keep a “pump-style” dispenser next to the wash basin, FILLED WITH WHITE VINEGAR!And when I see signs of the above, I spritz my thumbs and fingernails with WHITE VINEGAR. I DUNNO – BUT IT WORKS! AND YES – I was doubtful when first told of WHITE VINEGAR having “healing properties but it WORKED FOR ME! I would rather smell like a pickle – than suffer the pain of the split thumbs and finger nails! ACTUALLY – I find there is no lingering “after smell” from using white vinegar on my hands.

  16. Wayne

    I fought toe fungus for 15yrs. Used every med possible including Lamisil that did not kill the fungus but did kill my kidneys. The sure cure is to go to a Podiatrist and have them remove the portion of the mail that is detached from the toe. You must have the infected toe mail removed, nothing that you apply to the toe nail is going to penetrate the nail. Buy a bottle of Tea Tree Oil (pure) and a small bottle of cider vinegar. Apply the oil with a Q-tip three times a day. In between applying the oil, apply the vinegar with a Q-tip three times a day. My cure took approx 3-4 months

  17. Kathy

    I have always had this problem and fought it all my adult life. I have sanded it off, Fungi Nailed it, Vixed it, soaked my feet, even tried Bleach. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

  18. Jackie

    @ Larry: “I did the cornmeal therapy for three week I don’t know why it works, and the fungus was gone.
    According to doctor on radio program in LA; the cornmeal bacteria eats/attacks the toe nail fungus……

  19. Monique
    Chicago, Illinois

    I ran across this website by mistake. I just got fungus on my two big toes. One of my big toe I have always had problems, but I started using the Listerine/White distilled Vinegar and found that is starting to fight my nail fungus. It’s really working on the nail I just got infected with the fungus. The medicines the doctors prescribe take a very long time. I would suggested using one of the suggestions on this website to find what works for you. I’m hopeful. CGW

    • Kathy

      I will try it.

      • Doris
        sequatchie tn

        This sounds good. I have had it on my two big toes for 3 years. I thought you could rid of leprosy easier than a tow nail fungus. Why doesnt the FDA help us? I am so frightened to a nail place. Thanks, will let you guys know what happens. Doris

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.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.