The People's Perspective on Medicine

Colorless Iodine for Nail Fungus

White iodine decolorized nail fungus

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 antifungal activity.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I’ve been taking Lugol’s iodine internally and externally for months with no ill effects.

I have been trying to find white decolorized iodine. I have gotten it from Walgreens in the past but now I am getting told it has been discontinued by HUMCO. Is there a way to find some through ordering? The Walgreens I have by me says they can’t even order it, is there another where I can find it somewhere?

Did it work?

July 4th I purchased white iodine and began using on nails daily. July 18th I began to have an allergic reaction. My face, neck, hands, and feet began to heat up. I began to burn and itch. My stomach began to cramp, vomiting followed with profound stomach cramps. I began to have severe difficulty breathing. I had 4 of these episodes lasting about 5 minutes each, with the exception of the vomiting which lasted about 6 hours. Iodine poisoning is what the diagnosis turned out to be. WARNING TO EVERYONE WHO USES IODINE TO STRENGTHEN NAILS……IT MAKES YOUR NAILS STRONG BUT IT ALSO CAN KILL YOU IF USED IN EXCESS.

colorless or white iodine is not nearly as antiseptic as the original Tincture of iodine.
I know it it is not esthetically pretty because of the color but it is the most effective iodine to use. the problem is women who wear sandals who may not want the discoloration.

Today, I bought colorless iodine at Walmart.

I get my clear iodine at Walmart. It’s stocked on the shelf.

I cannot buy clear iodine in oz, if I use the normal iodine will the stain wear off ???

I’ve used colorless iodine for brittle, split nails for nearly a year. It has helped but hasn’t healed them completely. I have no experience with using colorless iodine for fungus on the nail. I read two separate newspaper articles about how colorless iodine helps strengthen nails. It does. Here’s the procedure recommended: brush on iodine everyday for a week (brushing like you would brush on fingernail polish.) After the first week, continue to use iodine once a week. I noticed slight results after the first month, and more dramatic improvement after 3 months.

I used the iodine once morning and night as suggested by my nurse cousin, along with Vicks mentholatum. The infection cleared but did not completely go away. The Podiatrist I saw offered no better help than surgically remove the nail, which does not guarante the fungus will not return.

Seems I’ve tried all the procedures for toenail fungus, but my final one is actually working! Here’s the deal:
1) Using a heavy nail file (kind used with solar nails), file across the nail before showering.
2) In the shower, using a stiff nail brush and Cetaphil soap (which I understand has anti-fungal properties), scrub toenails well, both up and down and sideways.
3) Use liberal amount of white iodine several times per day.
I’m getting results with this procedure! There’s obvious new growth at the base and I’m extremely encouraged.

I just wanted to report back to this site, since I did try the “Iodides Tincture” (Decolorized Iodine) for my toe nail fungus. I found the tincture at and applied it (generously – with a cotton swab) daily for a month, then 2x weekly for the remainder of the year.
I was careful to apply to all areas of the nail – and underneath what nails pieces were there. Some additional tips: file, scrub, and clip on and around the nail to get as much “debris” away and allow the medicine to work. Cutting away my fungal nails was the hardest part (mentally) for me. It meant that I could not “fake” nice nails by sanding then polishing. I had to cut away as much as the nail as I could, and leave unpolished, AND expose my nails for others to see. (Opened toed sandals help them get fresh air.)
I had to live with not-so-pretty nails for a long twelve months – but it was WELL worth it. A full year later…I now have TEN HEALTHY TOE NAILS and could not be more pleased with the results!

I have used the generic povidone-iodine solution after trying other remedies with just moderate success. It has totally worked, killing off the fungus and pain and restoring healthy nail. Yes there is some discoloration but the success far outweighs any concerns like that. Plus the color will eventually fade on its own.

Half of my finger nail from the fungal infection is cracked, should I clip off cracked part or just leave it?

White or colorless or decolorized iodine is VERY WEAK. If you use tincture of iodine use the old-fashioned kind. Yes it stains but it is full strength and will work. apply just a drop or two once daily for a week then every other day. A little will go a long way. If a big chain store can’t get it, try a neighborhood independent store. If there is an older pharmacist in the store, he will know what you mean.
I am a pharmacist.
yes, potassium iodide is an expectorant BUT note that there is a difference between iodine, the element and poisonous if taken internally and iodide which is a cation and can be taken in small doses.

White or colorless or decolorized iodine is VERY WEAK. If you use tincture of iodine use the old-fashioned kind. Yes it stains but it is full strength and will work
I am a pharmacist.

I’ve been using tea tree oil for 5 months with little success. I really don’t see any change in my infected
nails except for them becoming brittle and darker. I purchased the decolorized iodine… and will use it with the tea tree oil.
Can anyone tell me what to expect? What is the process? Does the old nail fall off? Does the new nail push the old nail out? HELP!! Anybody..

After reading all the posts about nail fungus – and a possible cure with “Decolorized Iodine” – I would have liked to have seen pictures accompanying the article. I noticed that someone mentioned pictures making them “sick” but for the rest of us… they would be greatly appreciated and most useful. Thanks!

Iodine overdose can have potential severe side-effects. It can permanently damage you thyroid gland. If you just tell people that iodine is a miraculous medicine (indeed it is very effective), without mentioning the potential severe side-effects, someone might get dangerously misinformed.
If you go for the iodine treatment, use very small quantities (DO NOT use iodine baths), and avoid using it daily.
You can simply combine it with alternative, probably less effective treatments, like vinegar or salt baths on your feet. Just use it in small quantities, preferably applied only over the infected nails (no need to apply to surrounding tissue, as it gets easily absorbed into the skin and from there into the blood stream and all the way to the thyroid gland for absorption).
Remember treating nail fungus is a slow process requiring patience, and your treatment of choice should be such that it does not lead to potential side-effects when used for a prolonged period. Iodine treatment IS NOT suited for prolonged use.

pictures are great and help determine if other symptoms match our own. LEAVE THEM ON!

I’ve been using the decolorized iodine for 5-6 days now 3 times per day. I now have little blister looking things on the sides of my big toes. It itches. What in the world is this? It has to be from the iodine. Has anyone had this happen?

I found it at walmart and it was less than $3 for the small bottle. Not every walmart will carry it, though. I just happened to be on the other side of town one day and went to a different walmart and they had several bottles of it. Some drug stores quit carrying it because of the meth thing. I think you can order it off the CVS website, though.

I have had toe nail fungus for over 20 years and have tried any thing that any one mentioned to me, without much luck – just started using decolorized iodine about 2 weeks ago – we’ll see what happens! (was very hard to find, not a stock item around here – some places did not carry, and would not order – finally special ordered @ Walgreens).

sorry if you were waiting for my answer. I always forgot to go back on and check. Anyways, I have been using every night after my shower. I dab a q-tip into the bottle and dab my nail with it. I have just left another post about it.

I posted a post back in March, and now it is May. I have been using the colorless iodine every night since then. I just dab a q-tip into the bottle and dab it on to the toe nail. I do think they are getting better and will continue to use it for a while more. I have not had any discoloration with using this, not on my nails or skin.

I have nail fungus on toes of both feet. Have been treating it for about five weeks with Colorless Iodine. Now, what appears to be dead skin is peeling off toes. What’s going on?

My friend is using the colored iodine right now, and his toes are quite orange! I will let him know to get the decolorized, although it may be too late, they are pretty colorful! =)

If you are worried about the stain iodine leaves on you skin, I have the remedy! Make a paste out of Vitamin C powder (which can be found at a health food store or Whole Foods) and water and apply it to the stain. I tried it on myself and it works really good. I was told it works on clothes also, but I have not tried that yet.

if you have a Walgreens, you probably have a CVS.That’s where i found my 2oz. bottle for $4.99 in the first aid section. A word to the wise even though it says “decolorized” it stains yellow on your skin and nails.

After reading all the posts of people touting decolorized iodine for nail fungus, I went out a bought a little bottle. Well, it IS colorless until you get it on your nails or skin then it turns a dark mustard yellow color and stains everything it gets on. Won’t even come off right after applying with 91% alcohol. Going to give it a shot but the stain looks much worse than the minor fungus that’s there. Ugh

Please tell me how often to apply the iodine treatment for toenail fungus. Thank you.

I just bought a 2oz. bottle at the Tops Pharmacy. They did have to order it but it only took 1 day., the cost was $4.95. It is called IODIDES TINCTURE, (yes, IODIDES) and underneath it says DECOLORIZED IODINE. I plan on starting it tonight for nail fungus. Hope it works!

I can’t comment yet because I have a thyroid condition and want to check with my doctor first about the use of iodine affecting my condition. GOOD LUCK — hope it works for you !

I am about to begin the iodine remedy. Did you have any luck?

I had toenail fungus, my doctor prescribed lamisil, after reading all 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. Swabbing 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 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

The pharmacist at me supermarket told me that it is only distributed by McKesson to a handful of national chains, like RiteAid, CVS, Walgreens, etc. I bought the little 2 oz. bottle for $5 at RiteAid, but apparently if you buy a pint for $28 at Walgreen, you can keep refilling the 2 oz. bottle cheaper.

My doctor told me to apply 2x per day ( morning and night.) I use a child’s cheap paintbrush to apply, and toss it weekly. Q-tips would work fine as well.

I just went to google, typed in decolorized iodine and there are all kinds of places where you can order this!!! The bottle that I bought at CVS is a 2oz. bottle, cost about $5, and when you are on google, look at several places and read the instructions. Because it describes how often to use it. Certainly not 3 times a day as one person mentioned.

Just came home after trying 3 pharmacies for Iodine. It is not sold in this area because it has been used as an ingredient for making meth. Where can I find it (we don’t have Rite Aid pharmacies in this area)? Walgreen’s doesn’t/won’t carry it.

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.

Found tincture of iodine at local RiteAid, $3.29. Will try it for nail fungus. Started with one treatment/day will increase to 3 times. Sound OK? Thanks so much. enjoy your Q&A. Very helpful.

How do you apply the decolorized iodine to fingers? Do you dab it on with a q-tip or try to soak the fingers in the solution? How often?

My sister-in-law has used an antiseptic mouthwash to combat toenail fungus, and it worked well for her. (Her dentist told her about this trick!) I think she used Listerine, but any antiseptic mouthwash should work.

How often do you need to apply the white iodine?

I need to know where to buy Tincture of Iodine as stated in your article (a lady came to the store also asking for the same, also read your article) but we left without!
Also recently read about fermented beets juice to lower my sky high blood pressure.
I NEED this items.
I read you article every day can you answer my e-mail OR LA times?
Friendly greetings

My Wife, had read in the L.A. Times about your article of “Iodine is effective on fungus”. She had me to read it and was very surprise to read all the testimonies on the use of this product. My wife bought me a bottle of the Decolorized Iodine, I’ve been applying it on my toe nails and thumb nail. I’ll see about any results in roughly a week or so… looking forward for any positive results.

Pictures no matter how ugly can and are a good source of reference, after all, this is a medical/health help site, not a beautification site.

I got a 2 oz bottle at my local Rite Aid. It is their brand and I had to ask the Pharmacist and he never heard of white iodine but their brand is decolorized iodine. They had it behind the counter in the pharmacy. I am going to try it 3 times a day. Any idea if this is the correct dosage?

One of my friends caught fungal infection just by using her sister’s clippers

Where are answers to the above comments posted?

Finger(nail)-applying a Listerine-type mouth-wash around/behind my big-toe nails
every other day keeps such blackness cleared-up for me.

I have a hypo thyroid condition that is treated daily with synthroid medication. Will using/applying iodine to my toes daily for weeks/months at a time affect my thyroid condition ???

Another iodine solution that may fight toenail fungus is Betadine (generically povidone-iodine). It’s supposed to be a superior form of iodine for antiseptic purposes and is often used to treat wounds or for other general disinfectant uses. It is a dark reddish brown color but does not stain skin.

The only size bottle of the colorless iodine that Walgreens could get was at least a pint-sized bottle and cost $28. I was expecting a much smaller, cheaper bottle and opted not to take it after they had special-ordered it for me. I am assuming that when you use the iodine, it only takes a small amount each time. Perhaps I should reconsider that size.

Re: White iodine for toenail fungus, thank you. How many times per day is it applied?

What is the proper procedure for applying the iodine, how often for how long?

Please tell me where to buy this white iodine. I used to use it all the time. Now I can’t find it anywhere!!! Thanks

PP, could you PLEASE omit these very ugly, unappetizing pix of diseased nails, bloody, crusty noses???? We really do not need pictures, except plants and bottles, etc. These nails actually made me sick (I just ate) and so did the crusty nose.
Pleeaaase, no more!!!
Thank you.

My comment on toenail fungus: I had a toenail fungus that I could not get rid of until I started taking my grandchildren swimming at our community pool. I believe that the chlorine in the pool killed the fungus because I spent so much time in the water. Within a few weeks it was gone.

I have tried to purchase colorless iodine in several pharmacies. The pharmacists have tried but none have it nor is it available for them to order. It can be found on the internet but is only available in 1oz bottles. This is not a good size for long term use such as for fungus.

I had a nail fungal infection of my right foot. I had not heard of the iodine treatment, but remembered what my grandmother had used for a similar nail infection: white vinegar and Epsom Salts. I put hot water, 1 cup of white vinegar and 1/2 cup of Epsom Salts into a basin and soaked my feet for about 30 minutes. I did this once every 3 days. I also massaged my feet during that time and discovered a great defoliation side-benefit – dead skin rubs off w/o the use of skin abraders.
I’m a Type II diabetic and also take 1 tbls of vinegar every AM and PM – it really helps to regulate my blood sugar. After swallowing the vinegar, I chase it with milk or something else to clear the esophagus and soften the harshness of the vinegar.

I have had toenail fungus for several years and have tried all the cures ever mentioned—without success. Will now try the decolorized iodine. What I haven’t seen mentioned is how the healing process occurs. I realize it takes a long time, and maybe my question is stupid, but does the old nail change or is it replaced with new growth?

I used tree tea oil or vicks vapor rub and both work well for both nails and warts. Apply and cover with a rubber/silicon finger.

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.

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