The People's Perspective on Medicine

Vicks VapoRub Overcame Stubborn Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus foot

Q. Recently you mentioned Vicks as a possible treatment for nail fungus. I’ve struggled with this condition on both feet for the last eight months. Neither tolnaftate nor undecylenic acid was helpful. I also tried OTC foot soaks.

Nothing worked until I read about Vicks. It cleared the fungus up quickly! Now I can see only a faint trace of it under one nail.

A. Vicks VapoRub contains several antifungal herbal oils, including thymol and eucalyptol. Persistence in applying it morning and evening is usually the key. One study actually showed a “positive clinical effect” (Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Jan-Feb, 2011), although some dermatologists remain skeptical.

Although it does not work in every case, you will find many testimonials on the use of Vicks VapoRub for toenail fungus at  There are also a number of other interesting applications for this OTC remedy on the website and in our Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks.

For other home remedies for nail fungus, you may be interested in our Guide to Hair and Nail Care.

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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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    Any thoughts on the old school use for toe-nail fungus;
    –Soak feet nightly with Epson salts in warm water–
    Doctors of past years recommended this !

    Vick’s worked like a charm for me, maybe about 3 weeks. I was thrilled. I now apply it nightly to all toe nails even only two had it. I did the oil, I also used OTC vaginal yeast infection cream, that helped a little but the cost was outrageous. Seems that different things work for different people. Good luck. BTW, I did have polish on at the time, had run out of remover.

    For toenail fungus, I poured the amber Listerine in a bowl and soaked my foot every night when I was cleansing my face, etc. The fungus disappeared in several weeks.

    How does one use Vicks on toes, and can it be applied over nail polish?

    No, of course not. It has to applied to the fungus, and nail polish makes fungus worse because it covers and suffocates it.

    I want to try Vicks for toe nail fungus. Cannot take prescription meds for this. I’m female, 70 years old, and for about one year having toe nail fungus on all nails.
    Question: how and when does one use Vicks? Can I apply nail polish while using the Vicks?
    Thank you.

    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.
    Incidentally, I tried to download the article, but can’t seem to get it.

    I applied Vicks VapoRub to my toenails twice a day for 11 months and also ground down the nails to facilitate penetration. This treatment was a waste of time and money for me. Vicks VapoRub did not get rid of my toenail fungus.

    I’ve had toenail fungus for a couple years before I finally focused on getting rid of it over a year ago. At first I soaked my foot in a 50/50 solution of white vinegar/water on and off during the day, then coated the nails in Vicks overnight. I was seeing progress after a couple months and decided to drop the vinegar soaks since they were inconvenient and go full-time with Vicks.
    Unfortunately, over a few months the fungus returned. I have since dropped Vicks and returned to the vinegar/water mix, which is again getting rid of the fungus (toenails grow very slowly, so it takes several months to see progress, but I have fresh healthy growth at the base and just a little fungus at the old tips). So unfortunately, for me, Vicks did not work as a convenient treatment, but good old vinegar/water did.

    I had nail fungus on my big toe and I soaked my feet in undiluted vinegar – same vinegar you can buy in any grocery store. The pills that the dermatologist prescribed, didn’t help, but soaking feet twice a week for a couple of months have cleared the nail fungus.

    have tried Vicks but with questionable results. Anyone know how fast results might be expected and if successful, should it be used as a preventative to re-occurrence of the fungus?

    At the age of 60 I noticed that my feet were developing an ‘old lady’ smell and my toenails and callouses were yellowing. I tried several different OTC soaks and a few homemade ones, and wiping my feet with alcohol or vinegar before putting my shoes on, but the problem persisted.
    One day in the detergent aisle at the grocery store I saw a small red bottle of old-fashioned Lysol. When I shower I first cover the drain and add a Tbsp. of Lysol. When I am done showering, I open the drain and scrub my feet. I am now 67 and have not had smelly feet for over 6 years. An added bonus is that my toenails and callouses are no longer yellow.
    BTW, I sent for the Udderly Smooth cream with 20% urea, and my callouses are considerably thinner and softer. I have asked the local stores that carry that brand to carry the 20% formula, but to no avail. I must mail order it or buy it when I am visiting there: my family lives in the town where it is produced.

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