Toenail fungus — also known as fungal nail infections — can be embarrassing and long-lasting. It can cause discolouration, foot odour and pain. Over time, people have come up with many different remedies for treating this common foot condition. One such home remedy is the toenail fungus vinegar soak — but does this really work?
In this post, we’ll be talking about vinegar foot soaks and other natural remedies, and assessing how effective they really are, particularly compared to medical treatments available for fungal nail infections.
If you’d like to read more about the symptoms, causes and treatments of fungal nail infections, then head over to this page.
Do vinegar soaks help toe fungus?
In short, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest vinegar foot soaks can help you to get rid of fungal toenail infections over time and with repeated use.
There are further benefits to a vinegar soak. It could remove dry, cracked or dead skin cells from your feet. It’s also thought that giving your feet a vinegar bath could help tackle other fungal infections, like athlete's foot.
But will vinegar kill toenail fungus? There’s no concrete clinical evidence to suggest that soaking feet in vinegar will definitely work, though some users do report that the treatment can work on mild cases of fungal infections. It is also a low-risk treatment, so it is unlikely to cause you any harm if you do decide to test out this home remedy.
Usually, your doctor will recommend using medication to treat toe fungus rather than relying on a home remedy.
There are two main types of medical treatment that are normally recommended for fungal nail infections: nail paints and tablets.
Amorolfine nail paint is available from our online pharmacy for the topical treatment of fungal toenail infections. The antifungal nail paint works by stopping the growth of fungus that causes infections. It also breaks down the fungi cells and removes the fungus as the nail grows out. Amorolfine is the cheaper generic version of the branded Curanail (Loceryl) antifungal treatment. You could also use Loceryl 5% nail lacquer, which is a prescription treatment you apply directly to your infected nail(s).
Antifungal tablets like Terbinafine also treat fungal nail infections but have to be prescribed by a GP or nurse and may require an initial blood test before you start treatment.
Why does vinegar soak work?
The idea behind taking a vinegar foot soak for toenail fungus is relatively simple: vinegar is acidic, which gives it antifungal and antibacterial properties.
To explain a bit further, vinegar is a diluted form of acetic acid (of course, one that is perfectly harmless — we do put it in and on our food!). As a result, it is an antifungal agent — meaning it slows down the growth of some types of foot fungus and may kill fungus entirely.
It might also make your body less hospitable to fungus because the acidity affects the pH level of your skin. This makes fungal overgrowth and infection much more unlikely.
It’s worth noting though, that there is no scientific evidence that shows vinegar soaks is a reliable method for treating toenail fungus.
How do you make a vinegar foot soak?
If you would like to try out a vinegar foot bath at home, you can follow the instructions below.
Step 1: Get a bottle of vinegar. The type of vinegar you use doesn’t necessarily matter — most people either take a white vinegar foot soak or an apple cider vinegar foot soak. The important thing is the pH of the vinegar, which should typically be 2-3. So, it’s not a question of what is better for toenail fungus (white vinegar or apple cider vinegar), it’s a question of whether you’ve selected vinegar with a pH of 2-3.
Step 2: Fill a sink or bowl with 1 part vinegar and 2 parts warm water (you can add a cup at a time if you’re worried about getting quantities right, but this is just a rough guide).
Top tip: if you’re finding the smell of vinegar too strong or unpleasant, you can add a few drops of essential oils to the mixture, such as lavender oil.
Step 3: Soak foot (or feet) for 15-30 minutes daily in the mixture. Do not soak for longer than 30 minutes.
Step 4: Make sure that you dry your foot/feet thoroughly after your soak. The fungus grows best in a moist environment, so leaving feet damp encourages fungal growth — especially if you are putting on socks or shoes next.
Step 5: Repeat this process daily until you can see that your infection has disappeared.
If you have particularly sensitive skin, you may find that vinegar causes some skin irritation. If this is the case, you can try decreasing the time you spend soaking your feet to 10-15 minutes or diluting the mixture with more water. You could also try reducing the amount of foot soaks you try to a few times a week instead.
Similarly, if you aren’t having any skin irritant issues and are not seeing any improvements, you can increase the vinegar in the mixture to equal parts vinegar and water. You can also try and bathe your feet twice a day.
If your condition is severe, it is unlikely that a vinegar foot soak on its own will rid you of toenail fungus. In these situations, it is best to seek advice and a prescription treatment from your doctor. Medical treatments don’t tend to work immediately, so you may be able to continue using vinegar soaks while you’re waiting for the medication to kick in — as long as your doctor says it’s okay.
What other home remedies for toenail fungus are there?
Vinegar foot soaks aren’t the only home remedy for toenail fungus. Alongside nail fungus vinegar soaks, there are a number of different household products you can try (with varying results) to tackle fungal infections.
Mouthwashes like Listerine have antibacterial and antifungal properties, so have been reported to be used to treat toenail fungus. Some home remedy recipes suggest mixing mouthwash with vinegar in a 1:1 solution (or adding 2 parts water for a more diluted solution).
As with vinegar, using a mouthwash has no further scientific evidence to back or explain how it works against fungal infections.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has antifungal and antiseptic properties too, so may help to treat fungal infections. This is not the most effective of methods, however, especially if your fungal infection is well established — most people report that tea tree oil rarely works.
If you’re going to try out tea tree oil, clean the infected area first and then apply the oil directly to the toenail using a cotton swab. Allow to soak into skin and nail for approximately 10 minutes and then wash off. Repeat as necessary.
Other essential oils such as lavender oil have been reported to be used in a similar fashion.
Epsom salt is something else you can use for an antifungal foot soak. Giving your feet an Epsom salt bath can draw out your toenail infection. It can also soften the skin on your feet, helping to boost the effects of taking medication for your infection.
You can give yourself an Epsom salt foot soak for fungus on your toenails by following the steps below:
- Clip your toenails before preparing the bath
- Fill a foot bath or basin with warm water
- Add half a cup of Epsom salt to your foot bath — stir until it dissolves
- Soak your feet for between 30 and 60 minutes
- Dry your feet thoroughly — get between your toes to stop the fungus from spreading
- Let your feet air dry for as long as you can
- Put socks back on once your feet are completely dry
Some people may find it more beneficial to have two shorter soaks (20-30 minutes) instead of having a longer one. If you do opt for two shorter soaks then you could bathe your feet once in the morning and once in the evening.
Patients have said mentholated ointments like Vicks VapoRub can help treat toenail fungus. This could potentially be because these ointments contain eucalyptus oil, menthol, and camphor — all of which have antifungal properties.
Vicks VapoRub toenail fungus treatment can be effective. However, there is no clinical evidence to suggest this works.
Doctors or pharmacists can prescribe clinically proven medication
Toenail fungus home remedies can be effective at tackling infections. However, it is worth remembering that a doctor would prescribe a clinically proven medication to successfully treat toenail fungus.
If your infection doesn’t improve or appears to get worse, you should stop using these treatments and contact your doctor for advice.
Vinegar solutions can work for toenail fungus in some cases — especially if you only have a mild infection. However, there is no scientific evidence to back the use of vinegar foot soaks.
The main benefit of trying out a vinegar soak (or any other natural remedy) is that it is easy and cheap for you to try at home. You are also very unlikely to encounter any negative side effects.
However, prescription treatments that have been specifically created to combat fungal infections are much more effective.
In most cases, we would recommend speaking to a doctor or pharmacist to get prescription or over-the-counter treatments. Nail paints like Amorolfine are highly effective: you can start a free online consultation and buy Amorolfine from us with next-day delivery.
To see what real users think about Amorolfine, take a look at our Amorolfine customer reviews page.