Toenail fungus (onycomycosis) is caused by a living organism called a dermatophyte that thrives in damp, dark places; therefore, underneath and around the toenail is adequate for fungus growth. A variety of treatments exist to combat the fungus, though the easiest, cheapest and some say most effective way to treat the condition at home is with Listerine mouthwash.
Listerine, named for Dr. Joseph Lister, was invented as a surgical antiseptic and disinfectant in 1879, and has been used as a treatment for gonorrhea and a floor cleaner, among others. Despite its long and varied history, it didn't become known exclusively as a mouthwash until the 1970s.
How It Works
Listerine can feasibly work as a toenail fungus treatment by utilizing the various antiseptic properties of different alcohols and other substances found in the mouthwash.
Ingredients and their curative properties include: thymol, an alcohol soluble substance initially used to preserve mummies in ancient Egypt that appears not only in mouthwash but also powders designed to treat fungal infections of the skin; euchalyptol, an essential oil made up of 90 percent eucalyptus oil and known for its antimicrobial properties and its ability to act as an immune system stimulant; and salicylate, an organic acid that causes a greater amount of dead skin cells to shed, leaving room for new skin cells to grow.
How to Use
Fill up a small basin with enough Listerine in which to submerge the affected toenails and let soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat this process two times a day until toenails fully heal. This process requires dedication, as it could take months to fully heal the infected toes.
A less effective method due to the frequency in which it must be done is the application of the Listerine directly to the toenail using a small brush. This is a more concentrated method, yet the amount of Listerine used is far less, and as such requires more applications throughout the day.
Some prefer to make a 1:1 mixture of Listerine and vinegar instead of unadulterated Listerine. Vinegar is highly acidic, and fungi have an extreme difficulty surviving in an acidic environment.
Side Effects and Precautions
Soaking your feet in Listerine is completely safe, with the only side effect being aesthetic. Due to the green tint of the mouthwash, the feet can temporarily turn a greenish color but will disappear quickly.
As with all homeopathic or folk remedies, the use of Listerine as a cure for toenail fungus has not been tested in an official research environment, and therefore the level of success might vary from person to person, if it exists at all.
To prevent toenail fungus from reoccurring before, during and after treatment, be sure to keep the toe well-ventilated, wearing loose-fitting shoes and frequently changed cotton socks. Beyond this, keeping your feet dry and maintaining clean, short toenails ensures a much smaller chance of falling victim to toenail fungus.
Brad McHargue is a writer, content manager, screenwriter and film critic living and working in Denver, Colo. He has a focus in film criticism, digital marketing, history, and health and wellness. He has written for sites such as the A/V Club - Denver/Boulder, Screen Invasion, Bloody Disgusting, and Fangoria, while currently his work can be found on Dread Central and the local newspaper the Bright Standard Blade.