Toenail infections can be troubling, embarrassing, and downright painful if they become severe. Caused by a variety of pathogens, including fungi and yeasts, athlete’s foot, known as tinea pedis, is one of the most common toenail fungi. While athlete’s foot is a pretty common skin condition, it can stick around without the help of some tried and true at-home remedies.

Who Gets Fungal Nail Infections?

Anyone can get a toenail fungus, however, for people with ultra-dry cracked skin on their feet, the risk of contracting athlete’s foot greatly increases. Because the fungus that causes athlete’s foot thrives in dark, damp places, try to avoid this type of environment.

Eliminating athlete’s foot can be more challenging for adults with the following health problems:

If you suffer from itchy, painful symptoms, try these five effective home remedies for toenail fungus.

1. Tea Tree Oil

This antibacterial, antifungal essential oil is a fragrant addition to any cleansing foot soak. Also a clinically proven remedy to kill the fungus that causes athlete’s foot, tea tree oil is cooling, refreshing, and able to relieve the itching and pain commonly associated with fungal infections of the foot.2

Fight toenail fungus with 40-50 drops of organic tea tree oil for every 4-5 gallon foot soak. After cleaning and drying feet, soak them in lukewarm water plus tea tree oil to ease infections.

toenail fungus | Footmedix

2. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

This home remedy for athlete’s foot is ideal for getting into deep cracks, between toes, and under toenails, where infections can fester. To use apple cider vinegar for toenail fungus, simply pour the vinegar over the affected area to relieve inflammation and kill the fungus. Additionally, you can spritz a small amount of apple cider vinegar into the soles of close-toed shoes.

Note: Only purchase 5 percent vinegar that contains “Mother” of Vinegar – the lingering, brown, cloudy substance at the bottom of the bottle. It’s the purest and most effective form of ACV.

3. Garlic

Ok, ok … so athlete’s foot stinks enough, right? Well, garlic may be stinky, but it is also one of the most powerful natural antibiotic substances on Earth. Able to kill off even some of the hardest-to-handle pathogens, garlic extract can be purchased in a dropper bottle for easy topical application, and even use in the kitchen. You can also purchase high-potency garlic supplements in the form of tablets or capsules.3

4. Olive Oil

Soothe the peeling, cracked, and painfully dry skin that often accompanies fungal infections of athlete’s foot with ozonated olive oil. The omega-3 and omega-6 essential fats it contains penetrate skin cells quickly, delivering ultra-hydrating moisture right where you need it most. Research shows that the olive oil compound hydroxytyrosol is also a clinically proven antifungal compound in vitro.4

toenail fungus | Footmedix

5. Baking Soda

Similar to cornstarch, baking soda can be used to help absorb excess moisture inside of your shoes – a common breeding ground for bacteria and fungus, including athlete’s foot. The added antibacterial activity of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) helps to reduce the risk of a fungal toenail infection. Just sprinkle the powder inside of your shoes or socks before you start your day, and again in the afternoon to help absorb foot sweat.5

Preventing Toenail Infection

With every ailment, it’s always easier to prevent than recover. So, practice these five tips to keep your toenails, toes and feet healthy:

  • If you need to keep an extra pair of clean socks in your workplace, do it! It’s worth it to stave off those troublesome toenail fungal infections worsened by moisture.
  • Trim back toenails, and always cut them straight across to avoid lingering fungus in tight places.
  • Never walk barefoot in locker rooms, public pools, or showers.
  • Do not share nail care products with others.
  • Only visit nail salons with a state license from the cosmetology board and that use sanitized tools (they usually come in a sealed bag.)

The tinea pedis fungus that causes athlete’s foot can lead to an infection that spreads in warm, damp environments. If that itchy, painful fungus grows in between your toes, on top of your feet, or under toenails, try these simple home remedies for fast relief.

For more foot health tips, keep reading here:

5 Signs You’re Wearing Shoes Too Small

3 Flat Feet Exercises (that really help strengthen arches!)

1.Fungal Nail Infections.
2. Andrew C Satchell, Anne Saurajen. Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: A randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study.
Australasian Journal of Dermatology (2002) 43, 175–178.

3. Ledezma E, Marcano K. Efficacy of ajoene in the treatment of tinea pedis: a double-blind and comparative study with terbinafine. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2000 Nov;43(5 Pt 1):829-32.
4. Zoric N, Horvat I. Hydroxytyrosol expresses antifungal activity in vitro. Curr Drug Targets. 2013 Aug;14(9):992-8.
5. Drake D. Antibacterial activity of baking soda. Compend Contin Educ Dent Suppl. 1997;18(21):S17-21;quiz S46.


About the Author

Dr. David Watts

Dr. David Watts is a world-famous plastic surgeon working at Johns Hopkins Medical School. He also spent 16 years in the Army Reserve, reaching the rank of Major, and is blessed to have helped thousands of our nation’s soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.