Toenail fungus, known clinically as “onychomycosis” is unsightly and embarrassing, and can cause cracking, splitting, and even complete loss of the toenail. The good news is that toenail fungus is curable. It may require medical treatment but there are positive things you can do to stop fungus without medical bills. Read on to learn how to get rid of toenail fungus.
Home Remedies for Toenail Fungus
Use commercial anti-fungal cream. You can find products for the removal of toenail fungus in a drugstore or a beauty supply store’s nail care section.
Use sulfur powder. It’s available in most drug stores as a non-prescription item, or look for it in the gardening department. You can also mix this with an over-the-counter anti-fungal powder.
Deprive the fungus of oxygen. This may stop the spread of the infection into new nail as it grows. One remedy is to coat nails nightly with vaseline. Only use this on a thoroughly dried toenail to avoid sealing in water that promotes fungal growth.
Remove excess nail. For toenails that have advanced fungus underneath that is growing and lifting the nail up off its bed, soak the foot (or feet) with any affected toes for 20-30 minutes in warm water. Then, begin trimming the nail. You will be surprised to find that your nail is no longer attached to your toe in the places where the fungus has invaded beneath the nail––this is normal even if worrying. Simply cut away all of this unattached nail and scrape off the thick, flaky fungus matter. Remove as much of the abnormal looking stuff as possible. Push the cuticles back. It is vital from this point on to be consistent in your care.
- Never tear off toenails with your fingers. Always use a clean nail clipper or long-handled nail scissors. Trimming after bathing is often the best time, as the nails are at their softest.
- If there is any pain involved, do not do this yourself. See your doctor or podiatrist. Proper removal can help to ensure the regrowth of a healthy nail rather than a deformed one.
Change the environment. Fungus is a growing, living thing, and by changing the environment that it lives in, you may stop its growth.
- Wear open-toed shoes when you can, and expose your feet to the sun. If you can’t do that, try wearing more spacious shoes, at least. Fungus likes warm and dark places. If sunning, don’t forget to use sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
Take foot baths. There are various solutions that people have tried that may work for you.
- Soak your feet in water with vinegar added:
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) of vinegar
- 2 quarts (2 liters) of water. Do this every day for at least two weeks, then at least once a month.
- Using peroxide and baking soda:
- 4 cups (1 liter) hot water
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) peroxide
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) baking soda
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) epsom salts
- Mix ingredients, then add 1/4 cup (60 ml) white vinegar
- Soak the affected toe in vinegar. In the morning, take a cotton ball and soak it in white vinegar. Set it on the nail, and tape in place. Secure with a small balloon. Change out the cotton in the evening. Continue this regimen until your fungus has disappeared—about four weeks.
Try Listerine mouthwash. Listerine mouthwash, which kills bacteria and germs in the mouth, can also be used to treat toenail fungus. The mouthwash has several compounds as well as alcohol that act as a strong antiseptic to keep away harmful bacteria and fungi.
- Fill a small tub with Listerine mouthwash, or a combination of equal parts of Listerine and white vinegar.
- Soak the affected foot in this solution for about 30 minutes, and then scrub the infected toenail gently.
- Rinse it off and dry the affected area thoroughly.
- Repeat this remedy once or twice daily until the infection clears.
Apply garlic. Garlic contains the antifungal compound ajoene and has been shown to be effective against a number of fungal infections including athlete’s foot and Candida. In fact, a 1% ajoene solution applied twice weekly for two months was found to have a 100% cure rate of athlete’s foot (compared to a 94% cure rate for a 1% solution of Lamisil). Note that ajoene solutions are not commercially available. Instead, finely crush several garlic cloves, add them to a foot bath, and soak your foot for 30 minutes. Alternatively, mix freshly-minced garlic with olive oil and rub it on the affected area with a cotton ball.
Use Vick’s VapoRub(TM), or a generic brand. Keep “Vapor Rub” salve by your bedside and apply a small amount to affected toe and toenails before donning socks. Be sure that the toes are dry before applying the Vick’s to avoid sealing moisture in under the rub. This method takes a while, but so do commercial applications and this one is both cheap and reliable.
Use orange oil. Another method is a five to ten percent solution of pure orange oil, available in garden and farm centers (not orange oil cleaner) in a mixture of vinegar and rubbing alcohol. Apply daily between toes, on and under toe nails. You can obtain a medicine dropper at a drugstore or Walmart.
Snakeroot extract. This product comes from plants of the sunflower family. In a study of 110 people, it was about as effective as ciclopirox. It was applied every third day for the first month, twice a week for the second month and once a month for the third month.
Try other oils. As an alternative, you could use a few drops of tea tree oil, neem oil, thyme oil, argan oil or oregano oil. These can be bought in vitamin or health food stores.
- Snakeroot leaf extract has been shown to be effective to some degree.
See Your Doctor
Understand the importance of medical treatment. Toenail fungal infections are incredibly complicated to treat and can take a great deal of time to heal completely. If treated incorrectly, they can easily come back. Please see a doctor about your infection but in the meantime or during treatment, you may be able to use certain supplemental treatments to minimize pain and aid the healing process. Consult with your doctor to ensure that these treatments do not conflict with the medication they have prescribed.
Seek treatment early. It is important to treat the condition as early as possible. This will ensure that the condition is easier to treat, reduce the likelihood of recurrence, and help ensure that you do not need to have the nail removed. This is important: the infection will not go away on its own and home remedies are rarely effective.
Make an appointment. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you have onychomycosis and if so, will know the best way to treat a stubborn case. Options are;
- Topical medications may be prescribed in certain cases. These are creams and lotions which you will apply as your doctor sees fit.
- Oral medications are also commonly used to fight fungal infections. There are a variety of drugs available but many can cause health complications for those with certain health conditions, so be sure that your doctor is aware of your medical history.
- Antifungal lacquer is occasionally used to combat these infections. Placed on the nail like nail polish, this can be an easy way to solve the problem but requires a prescription.
- Also taking anti-fungal tablets and using anti-fungal lacquer at the same time- is an effective method.
- Your physician may also want to use laser therapy instead, or in addition to other remedies.
- Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal nail polish called ciclopirox (Penlac). You paint it on your infected nails and surrounding skin once a day. After seven days, you wipe the piled-on layers clean with alcohol and begin fresh applications. You may need to use this type of nail polish daily for a year.
- Laser and light-based therapies. More study is needed, but these methods — alone or with medications — may help your nails improve. One study tested the effectiveness of carbon-dioxide laser therapy combined with antifungal nail cream. Most of the 24 people in the study benefited from the treatment.
Follow your doctor’s instructions. Again, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions, as a lapse in treatment can cause the infection to come back or worsen. You should also consult with your doctor before combining different treatment methods.
For severe cases, have surgery. In this procedure, a doctor will entirely remove a nail, which may take up to a year to re-grow. Your doctor may choose to simultaneously treat the nail bed with an antifungal. This is recommended for pain and/or extreme infection.
How to Prevent Toenail Fungus
Strengthen your immune system. A weakened immune system puts you at great risk for developing toenail fungus and other opportunistic infections.
Exercise. Because your feet have diminished blood circulation compared to other parts of your body, it’s harder for your body’s immune system to detect and eliminate foot infections. However, instead of taking up a strenuous activity that produces lots of sweat or requires thick footwear, start walking for exercise. This will increase your blood flow, improve your immune system, and not require thick, non-breathable shoes.
Avoid bare-footing. Wear sandals in public showers and locker rooms.
Keep it toxic (to fungi). If your habits or wardrobe are a risk factor, regularly dust your feet with an absorbent or anti-fungal powder.
Avoid wearing tight shoes. Tight shoes push your toes together, potentially transferring fungus and often creating the perfect moist, warm and closed environment so beloved by fungus. If you like wearing heels, it might be a good idea to take a break from them if they’re bunching up your toes. It can also help to shift to wearing only shoes that “breathe”. Tight hosiery can cause similar problems.
Dry your feet thoroughly after getting wet. After bathing, swimming and any activity that leaves your feet sweaty or wet, dry them thoroughly. This will help keep the infection from worsening. Be especially careful of public pools and similar opportunities to spread your infection. Avoid these places or find ways to keep your feet covered.
- Disinfect all tools used to cut or scrape nails.
- Use caution when sleeping in socks. Wear loose fitting, clean socks…
- Your feet may perspire: that moisture can promote fungi and make feet feel cold as the perspiration evaporates.
- If one has very slowly healing bacterial infections of legs, feet or toes, then one should be checked for diabetes by a physician using blood tests. Bacterial infection with untreated, uncontrolled diabetes does cause severe non-healing problems with long-lasting effects possibly including tissue death (gangrene) and surgery (Diabetes also may cause nerve damage (neuropathy) in any part of the body!).
- If your “cold” feet do not perspire, then you might try sleeping in clean, loose or thin socks that breathe well. Alternatively, place additional loose cover from the knees down, being sure that doesn’t make your feet so hot that they become “sweaty” from those covers.
- Don’t apply nail polish to infected nails. (unless it is prescribed by your doctor)
- Keep hands away from face, eyes, nose, ears, and other moist body areas; who needs “jungle rot” in your various body parts?
- Toenails grow slowly. It may take 6 months or more for healthy nail to replace diseased tissue. Be patient and consistent with your remedy in order to see results.
- Try to keep your feet dry.
- Any solution recommended may not work for everyone in the known or advertised time frame, so it is recommended to try before investing more time and money.
- If the baby or elderly person has the infection, some recommend using external-use natural solution that is based on natural oils. When a person has diabetes or another disease it is not recommended to experiment with your body and try first no harmful to the body natural solutions (argan, tea tree and other oils).
- If your feet are also red you may have a mixed fungus and yeast infection. The vinegar will kill the yeast infection also, but avoiding eating yeast and sugary foods will also help in this case.
- Clean the inside of all your shoes with vinegar. Sit them in the hot sun to dry.
- But be aware—toenail fungus’s nickname is athlete’s foot, which basically mean you can get it nearly in any public place like swimming pool or gym.
- Try an anti-fungus treatment formula containing natural ingredients such as tea tree oil, lemongrass oil, argan and almond oil.
- Carefully read the directions of all products used.