The People's Perspective on Medicine

Nurses Know that Home Remedies Knock Out Nasty Nail Fungus

Nasty nail fungus is hard to eradicate but patience is a necessary ingredient for all remedies. How to get anti-fungal ingredients underneath the nail.

Q. 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?

A. 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.

Success Stories


“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 a 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, its working perfectly. This is what I do:

  1. I file my infected nails to reduce the size of the infected areas.
  2. Then I take a shower and I scrub my feet really well to get rid of the dead skin.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Sometimes I alternate with oregano oil.
  6. 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, afoot 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!”


“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.”


“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?

Lest you think six to nine months is far too long to be practical and “real” medicine might be just the ticket, consider this. Information about a new prescription like Jublia (the manufacturer is advertising this topical product on television), offers some sobering stats. In studies of this pricey prescription 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. If insurance doesn’t cover the cost of a bottle, you could pay over $400 for 4 milliliters and you will need quite a few bottles to complete the program.

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.

You will find additional directions for these and other home remedies in our Guide to Hair and Nail Care. By the way, please be cautious with lime juice. Using it before sun exposure can lead to a severe sunburn.

Have you tried a home remedy to fight your own nail fungus? How did it work? Leave your story in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I’ve had toenail fungus for years all the women in my family seem to get it and it never goes away I’ve been getting treated by a foot doctor for it for years I’ve been on pills, layered and the only that helps us some special nail polish the doctor developed that keeps its at bay. The doctor has since retired and I don’t know if I will be able to get it anymore

What about laser treatments?

Has anyone had the experience of using tea tree oil for toenail fungus, only to have it get much worse and migrate to other areas of the foot? This happened to me and is most puzzling. I am immune compromised. Now the fungus seems to be traveling up my shins as well. I stopped the tea tree oil and am using OTC antifungals now, which are not much help either.

Apple cider vinegar applied by a Q tip or dipping the whole toe in it twice a day. Had big toe fungus for 21 years, and this is the only thing I tried that worked. Or you can spend $1000 on laser treatments and pills that may or may not work. Wow, I cured mine for under $3! Up to you! FYI, got toenail fungus wearing steel-toed safety boots at the factory I once worked in. My feet got sweaty and no circulation. Good luck!

Tea tree oil has been working for my 2 toes that have been infected for over 11 years. I use a cotton swap with a generous amount of oil, 2-3 times a day, and file them down before applying it a couple of times a week. The new nails are growing, slowly, and the thick, lifted and raised part of the nails are now close to my skin. It’s been 6 months, and I expect a clean, pink nail in another 3 or 4 months. I’m very pleased! Another important thing is to let your toes air out–wear sandals as much as possible to dry out the fungus, even in the winter when you’re home. I always had my toes covered in socks and shoes, and this made the fungus continue to grow. Good luck to all!

I do hope that the tea tree oil will be the solution for the nail lifting problem of mine. I got so stressed by just looking at my fingernails.

Here’s a great way to make the Vic’s Vapor Rub stay on, and not get wiped away on your sock…put a ton of it on, and then wrap it up in Saran Wrap before slipping your feet into socks and shoes. No tape needed, it all stays together and my guess is that it helps keep the air out and a lack of fresh oxygen in this case, is a good thing.

I have found cayenne pepper tincture to be far more effective than Vicks. Just apply it to the infected area couple of times a day. Had no negative impact from it. Make sure to keep cutting the infected nails as it grows.

I have toenail fungus on my big toe left side. I tried many treatments for it, but nothing. I tried Vicks Vaporub and kept using it almost every day for about 3 months, with a bandaid to cover it up when wearing my socks and shoes. Paitence is the key. Slowly it is clearing up, and its already starting to come back to its normal color.

I was wondering if you can still wear nail polish on your toes if using vicks vapor rub for toe nail fugus?

Tea tree oil dripped behind toenail into the crust fungal stuff. No filing or cutting down. Repeat application every few days. Takes months to grow out good nail. Amazingly my husband’s nail is nearly grown out.

Yesterday I used a q-tip soaked in purex for my fingernail fungus and today it is clear.

Purex – Bleach? Straight from the bottle, you are using, then onto the nail? In one day?
Your nail fungus must have been very recently acquired through some route. Have you been able to track down where you think you might have picked up this unwelcome hitch-hiker from?

You would get better penetration if you soak your feet in warm water before applying.

Help!!! Tea Tree Oil isn’t working for me and it’s made my nail fungus worse. I had a small nail fungus on my big toe and I started treating it with apple cider vinegar soaks nightly and dabbing on Tea Tree Oil. I also started wearing a band aid over it since it was winter and I wanted the oil not to smudge off on other things or sheets at night. Well it made the fungus worse and made my nail yellow and crack from the middle. Now a part of my nail to the right side has cracked and lifted and raised off. I won’t pull it off but now what do I do? Do I stop using the tea tree oil because it’s too strong on me. Has this oil dried up my healthy nail? The fungus is still there in the middle of the nail. What have I done wrong?

Years ago a large wood splinter got under my pointer finger. Didn’t get it all our and became incredibly infected. Since then there is a gap where part of my nail never attached back to nail bed. For the past 7 years I have been battling recurring infections, where I need to remove most of my nail and have it grow back (which takes months). It stays healthy for a while, then I guess germs get under where the space is, you can actually see it. Any ideas?? One dermatologist said maybe a plastic surgeon to close up the space…

Tea tree oil has done wonders for nail fungus and plantar wart!!

I spray my toenails twice a day with Hydrogen Peroxide. It seems to kill the fungus and seems to prevent it from coming back. I spray after the morning shower then let air dry as I get ready. Then I spray again before bed.

I have toe nail fungus under the nail caused by cleaning my cuticle that bled and then got infected which led to countless infections and the fungus. Every time I take a shower my toe gets infected at the corner of the nail and lifts the nail encoucouraging the fungus to grow. What’ the best treatment for this frustrating dilemma?

I agree that there are different strains of fungus as I tried some recommended treatments over several months and had little success. Then I applied some Clove oil and had an immediate response. The nail is looking much healthier now and it’s only been a few weeks. I use Young Living oils as they are guaranteed 100% pure since the company controls the planting and harvesting of the oils. It’s their “Seed to Seal” guarantee.

I got nail fungus from a nail salon and my mother, a retired LVN told me to make a paste by adding drops of water to comet and pushing the mixture up under my nails for a couple of minutes. Then take a clean unused tooth brush, wet it and and scrub under my nails. I did this 2 X a day for a week and fungus was gone and never returned. Hope it can work for someone else.

you must change your shoes and disinfect stockings, etc. it is very difficult to get rid of because the fungus enters the skin. Listerine and vicks worked for me (but I got rid of my old shoes and bought new natural material shoes — NO PLASTIC–)

I had a really stubborn case of toenail fungus. I used a Dremel grinder to grind my nails down. I heard about a solution and it really worked:

I used a large Tupperware type cake pan (reuseable) filled with white vinegar. Once every two weeks, I soaked my feet in it for twenty minutes. The fungus was gone after six months, along with cracks (diabetic) in my soles, and a stubborn, unhealed sore on my foot.

My cost was about $20.00 – far less than all of these costly over-the-counter remedies that I had tried and which failed.

Now, I do a soak every 6-8 weeks just to keep it all at bay.

First of all: avoid nail salons. It isn’t worth to end up with a fungus and painted nails at the same time
I swim a lot and no matter how careful I am, once in a while, I end up, with a toenail, that need immediate treatment.
I use 1/2 apple cider vinegar and half mouthwash Start at the heel of the feet and work towards the toes(infected on last) I use wipes and 1 wipe for every foot This to avoid the fungus to spread to other toes.
Works real well. As a special treat, I use Vicks( can be found at the $ store, for, yes a $
Good luck

Be very wary of products from the $ store that you put on or in your body. 20-20, 60 Minutes, and other news organizations have had articles on toothpaste and other similar products from these sorts of stores not being what they are claimed. Packaging is very similar, but a detailed examination reveals that the products are not manufactured by the brands or in the countries claimed.

Pay the little bit extra and get it from your local grocery or pharmacy.

About 20 years ago, I had fungus on my right big toe all the way through the quick. My doctor said to soak it a few times a week in warm water and industrial grade sulfur. I did that for some weeks. Also, I physically attacked the fungus by keeping my nail trimmed and filed as closely possible to the quick. I also filed the top of the nail and scored it in both directions using a pocket knife and a three sided metal rasp (see Home Depot). After about a month, the nail came loose and I pulled it out. It grew back clear, and the fungus has not reappeared.
I found the sulfur at a local nursery that carried sulfur to battle plant fungus.

I fought toe nail fungus on my big toes for years. I have had it for over 20 years and began fighting it in earnest about 9 years ago. I used tea tree oil twice a day for several years. My nail would look cured but then, within a few days, the fungus would show up and run over much of the nail. So I would start the whole process over again.

Then I tried Listerine–soaking my nails for several minutes twice a day. That never worked. I guess you must soak for a longer time (which I just didn’t have the time for), or possibly this just doesn’t work on my fungus.

Last winter I decided to try Vicks Vapor Rub. I could push the ointment under the nail twice a day. This time, I think I have really cured the fungus. I have not seen any indication that it still exists for over 3 months. But, I still keep checking and using the Vicks since I was surprised and disappointed so many times with the tea tree oil.

DO not forget the cornmeal mush PP mentioned before, corn meal
and real warm water soak. Some type fungus responds to a fungus in corn meal, I read this some time ago on PP. As the doc said, different remedies for different fungi problems. Yellow corn meal it
said. And that is cheap, too. Ole’

I too have been treating nail fungus on two toes on different feet. No history of athlete’s feet. I do not visit nail salons. I have been treating the condition with a combination solution of the recommended possibilities, Listerine, Tea Tree oil, Vicks, Vinegar with indications of improvement. I addition to daily shower and drying I apply the solution to the affected nails which are in a toenail bandage so that it soaks into the nail. My question is “Is their an enabling dietary imbalance that creates body chemistry which allows fungus to thrive?”

Eating sugar and dairy seem to keep the nail fungus alive and thriving. I believe you have to clean out the inside of your body to get rid of the fungus.

“I’ve also been using the vinegar/Listerine mixture including Vick’s Vapor Rub on my thumb nail for about 2 month. It has improved the appearance on the nail. Not completely but apparently it does take time. Just being patient. As Judith Ronat commented “I believe there is no quick fix”.

People with fungus should not use nail polish. If they are foolish enough to go to a salon for a manicure or pedicure they should bring their own equipment. In fact, everyone should. Sometimes the salons don’t sterilize their equipment even though they are supoosed to.

Hoping for a solution to a long time problem.

I also had two toenails and one fingernail that was infected with fungus from a nail salon for years. Ironically someone from a salon told me about this cure and it has worked for me. Use one tablespoon of sea salt to about 1/2 cup water. Soak for no more than 10 minutes once a day. I tilt the container up with a rolled towel since there is so little water. It does take a while to grow out the healthy nail but it works. My pinkie nail and one toenail had almost detached and one toenail had “rolled” into a u-shape. All of that has been returned to normal condition.

I had in thumbnails (don’t know how) and read of ways on net but not until I added use of a nail brush did I start to win battle!
Nail clear, healthy now and use nail brush few times a day.

You can also cure nail fungus with clear iodine. My nail tech recommended this and it’s painless and quick. Walmart carries this behind the pharmacy counter. You have to ask for it. I applied liberally to affected nail and nails next to it first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Gone in less than a week. (Fingernails, I don’t know if toenails take longer)

I did have fungus in my system some years back as indicated by my toe nails. What I did was to apply tea-tree oil on the affected parts, put a piece of sliced raw garlic over the area and bandage with sticky tape. In no time (6 months) the nail was OK again.

I meant to state that one or two nights I used Vicks and then one or two nights used the Listerine. Still did the tissue and foil with socks with each product.

In 2010 I visited a ‘clean’ looking nail salon for a pedicue. Nearly 3 months later I had on toe nail with fungus.

Thankful for my weekly People’s Pharmacy newsletter because I started an almost nightly treatment using Vick’s Vapor Rub and regular (gold color) Listerine. After my nightly bath, took toilet tissue and folded it in triple layer, then soaked it with the Listerine. I wrapped it around the middle infected toe. I then took a strip of aluminum foil and molded it around the tissue toe so it would keep moist during my sleep. Finally I placed socks on my feet to secure the wrap.

It took about 6 months of doing this to completely eradicate all evidence of the nail fungus. It has never returned. I have only gone for a professional pedicure 1 time since then and made sure to tell them I did not want any fungus!

Alternating different remedies was to make sure the ‘cure’ would have a higher chance–it worked!

SIDENOTE: Sleeping with socks has afforded me a better night’s sleep so I still do it. Placing foot cream on the heels has given me a softer and prettier look so there is not the need to go get a pedicure. Painting the toes myself has saved me lots of cash. Plus not painting the toes during the winter gives my toes a break since red polish turns the nails a yellow color as well.

I believe that different treatments work for different people because there are a number of different fungi which can cause this phenomenon, and possibly it’s the different fungi which respond to the various treatments.

I believe there is no quick fix: trial and error where each trial is usually several months!

Judith your are correct. And some of the alleged fungus attacks are viral, as in wart virus which get started in the nail instead of on the skin. Also, I am not clear that the infection is “under” the nail. The pathogens seem to thrive in the material of the nail itself, and migrate back toward the lunella. I have successfully use hydrogen peroxide on a dampened nail, and I remove every fragment of nail whatsoever which will peel away.

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