Many people are reluctant to visit a dermatologist or podiatrist because of nail fungus. There is the embarrassment factor. Nail fungus looks kind of gross. Nasty nail fungus infections just don’t seem like that big a deal, but the longer they persist, the worse they get. When a condition is not worrisome, we are OK with home remedies. To be on the safe side, people with diabetes and those with psoriasis should have their discolored or deformed nails checked by a doctor.
Nasty Nail Fungus and the Yuck Factor:
We know that infected nails are ugly. They can start out a pale yellow color. As the nail gets thicker and more brittle, it may become a darker shade of yellow. As the fungus advances, the color may change from yellow to brown. In some cases, a really nasty nail fungus case may even turn black and start to crumble. Clipping such nails becomes a challenge.
When Does Nasty Nail Fungus Require Medical Intervention?
Some people have a hard time clipping their nails. A podiatrist can help. There are some color changes that require medical attention. White nails could be a sign of liver or kidney damage. Pale nails may indicate anemia, nutritional problems or even heart failure.
A dark streak or a black spot under a nail requires medical oversight to rule out melanoma. People with diabetes may also need special treatment to avoid complications.
There is also the possibility that nail “fungus” is not fungus! We have heard from many visitors to this website that what they thought was purely a fungal infection is actually a bacterial infection or a combination of both bacteria and fungi.
When Home Remedies Make Sense:
For most people with mild to moderate nail fungus, home remedies are an option, especially when a trip to the doctor seems intimidating. Readers of our syndicated newspaper column have been sharing their success stories for over 40 years.
Lisa points out that patience is a critical component for overcoming nasty nail fungus:
“I fought toenail fungus for several years. It seemed like I had two different kinds. One made the surface of the nail white and rough, and the other turned the nail yellow or orange. That one also caused the nail to crumble over time.
“After reading about it on the People’s Pharmacy, I tried tea tree oil first. It was very effective on the white toenail fungus. The nails grew out clear and stayed that way.
“I tried Vicks next, and it worked on the yellow toenails. That was a slower process, as there was more damage. Several times when I was just getting one nail finished, the fungus would start on another one. It took about three years to get every nail clear, but I have had no new fungus for over a year now. The treatments were inexpensive and easy, but patience is required!”
Lisa is absolutely on target. Even pricey prescription nail fungus treatments are tested for about a year. You can read about a pricey prescription anti-fungal liquid at this link:
FDA Approves Jublia for Fighting Nail Fungus
Jublia (efinaconazole) is a topical liquid for treating nail fungus. How good is Jublia? Not that great. How pricey is Jublia? Very! Is it worth the cost?
The last time we checked, the cost of a 4 ml (0.14 oz.) bottle of Jublia was over $700. A person with several infected nails might need more than a dozen bottles. The total price might add up to several thousand dollars over the 48-week treatment program.
Theresa went to a doctor to get rid of her nasty nail fungus:
“I had toenail fungus for years and finally asked for help in getting rid of it. The doctor prescribed a generic oral pill, and it took nearly a year to get rid of it all.
“A few years later, my second toe began to turn yellow again. I read about using Vicks and started applying it at night before bed. Voila! It’s gone! Now I keep the Vicks on my nightstand–just in case.”
In case you think this sounds unscientific at best and ridiculous at worst, here is a link to a scientific study titled:
A Novel Treatment for Onychomycosis in People Living With HIV Infection: Vicks VapoRub™ is Effective and Safe
Onychomycosis is the medical term for nail fungus. The article was published in the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (Jan-Feb, 2016). The nurses reported that Vicks was safe and effective for patients with nail fungus.
This reader could not talk her doctor into an oral antifungal medicine:
“I have nasty nail fungus on a thumb and both big toes. My doctor will not prescribe pills because of possible liver damage, so I would like anything that will get rid of the fungus. My thumbnail really looks bad when the polish is removed during a manicure.
“The nurse said to try Vicks VapoRub. A friend recommended white vinegar or lime juice. I can’t figure out how to get any of these under the nail. I’ve heard it might take six months to get rid of the fungus. Is there anything else that would work faster?”
The sad truth is, getting rid of nasty nail fungus is a slow process because the treated nail has to grow out healthy. This can take months.
There are many solutions you can use at home to discourage fungus, including Listerine and Pau d’Arco tea as well as vinegar or Vicks. No one remedy works for everyone, but all of them have worked for some individuals.
More Success Stories:
Julia has a complicated ritual that works for her:
“I’ve had toenail fungus for over 10 years and I’m just 25 :-( so it’s been hard. I would always hide my toes and wear closed shoes due to my toenails being so thick, yellow, dry and disgusting. People tell me I’m beautiful, but the nail fungus brought tremendous insecurity into life. I grew up to be a shy person as a result.
“I recently started to use tea tree oil, and even though it makes my nails dry, it’s working perfectly. This is what I do:
- I file my infected nails to reduce the size of the infected areas.
- Then I take a shower and I scrub my feet really well to get rid of the dead skin.
- After I’m done showering I spray white vinegar on my feet and nails, just in case I spread the fungus around. I then let the nails air dry.
- Once my toenails are completely dry, I put some drops of tea tree oil on all of my toenails, even the ones that are not infected.
- Sometimes I alternate with oregano oil.
- Finally I seal the toenails with Vicks VapoRub.
“Your nails will become so clean, that you won’t be embarrassed to wear sandals anymore, even if you are missing some of your toenail. They might get a lil dark in the beginning due to the fungus dying but a little patience will make it better :-).
“You won’t spend too much money or time. Tea tree oil is $10 or less, a foot scrubber is less than $4, white vinegar is less than $3 for a decent size and Vicks is less than $6. All these supplies will last a very long time, and we already have most of them at home. GOOD LUCK!”
Elizabeth has a special solution for soaking her toes:
“What I have used for nail fungus, with great success, is a foot soak of 1 cup Listerine, 1 cup white vinegar and 2 cups warm water. I soak for 15 to 20 minutes and towel dry the feet but don’t rinse them. This takes time but it works.”
Sharon is a Vicks enthusiast:
“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 [a British saying for it worked great]. 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.”
Manuka Honey for Nasty Nail Fungus?
We thought we had heard just about every remedy ever tried for nail fungus.
Sam surprised us with something different:
“I’ve struggled with toenail fungus on my big toe for over five years. None of the remedies I tried really worked.
“This spring I purchased a tube of ‘medical grade’ Manuka honey ointment to have on hand for burns and scrapes. I started putting just a small dab on and under my toenail before I put my socks on every morning. I noticed a difference in about a week. A lot of the darkest color had disappeared.
“Three months later, I can clearly see where my nail is growing out with no fungus. The honey is brown so it stains the nail, but that’s a more than acceptable trade-off for me. I’m guessing that after about five months of treatment, my nail will finally be back to normal.”
Gentian Violet is Bright Purple!
Another remedy that stains the nail and the toe is the old antifungal liquid, gentian violet:
“I have used gentian violet with great success. It does dye your toe purple, but with nail fungus I was not wearing open-toe shoes anyway. You can get this online or at the pharmacy. It’s cheap and effective.”
JMG uses the foot soaks to relax:
“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. It takes discipline, but it gives me an excuse to sit down, read, and relax while I’m undergoing my ‘treatment’!”
“I’ve been using the vinegar/Listerine mixture on my feet now for a month. It is working beautifully.
“I got toenail fungus from a nail salon, and have had it for over 3 years. This is the only thing that has even touched the fungus (I’ve done tea-tree oil, Vicks VapoRub, and painted some of everything on my toes religiously).
“My nail is now finally growing back normally and the fungus has turned white (from greenish-brown) and the toenail is no longer spongy. I’ll be able to wear sandals without bandaids very soon! Not only is Listerine/vinegar good for the toenails, but my feet have never looked better – the cracks and redness have disappeared.
“I soak my feet every night for 15-30 minutes. And I’m going to continue doing this until my toenails have completely grown out, at least 3 times per week.”
Penetrating the Nail Bed:
As you have correctly pointed out, getting anti-fungal ingredients under the nail is challenging. You cannot lift the nail without causing serious harm. Long soaks (at least 30 minutes) though, appear to allow enough penetration to begin the assault on nasty nail fungus.
As our readers above have noted, patience is the critical ingredient. We have found this to be true for ourselves. Reading a book for half an hour or watching television while you soak your tootsies once a day is a great start. But it could take anywhere from six to nine months to see the nails growing out pink and healthy.
What About Anti-fungal Drugs?
In studies of Jublia topical medicine, the “complete cure” rate after almost a year of continuous treatment was between 15 and 18 percent. That means the vast majority of subjects did not achieve full success in ridding their nails of fungus. And remember the cost could be thousands of dollars.
As Julia pointed out above, the cost of the home remedies she used was under $25 and there would be enough to last for a very long time.
What if Your S0-Called Fungal Infection is NOT Fungal?
We have been surprised to learn that the inexpensive topical antibiotic Neosporin may help some people get rid of long-lasting “fungal” infections of the nail bed. You can real about their successes at this link.
Decolorized iodine may also work for a similar reason. Iodine has both anti-fungal and antibacterial activity! You can read about decolorized iodine for treating nail “fungus”at this link.
Do You Like Home Remedies?
During this pandemic, many people have delayed treatments for relatively minor health problems such as nail fungus. That’s completely understandable. It also explains why home remedies are more popular than ever.
We have two options if you would like to learn more. Our eGuide to Favorite Home Remedies is an electronic resource that you can refer to on your computer. You can find it in the Health eGuide section of this website. It provides scientific rationale behind many of our favorite remedies.
If you are the kind of person who loves to hold a book in your hand, we recommend The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies (published by National Geographic). It is 264 pages and can be found in our bookstore.
Have you tried a home remedy to fight your own nail fungus? How did it work? Leave your story in the comment section below.