How to Cure Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus or Onychomycosis is a common nail infection characterized by whitish or yellowish discoloration of the cuticles and a thickened and brittle nail appearance. Occasionally the nail may be separated from the nail bed with/without accompanying symptoms of discomfort or pain.

Various fungal infections resulting from sweat, faulty hygiene practices, and improper drying can lead to the condition. Fungal conditions impact both fingernails and toenails. But toenails are more prone to invasions because of their skin texture and slightly slower blood circulation, making it easy for fungus to affect the aid area of the dermal-cuticle region.

While anyone can get a toenail fungus, people with a nail injury, weakened immune system, venous insufficiency, or systemic conditions like peripheral arterial disease or diabetes are more prone to the infection

Treatment conditions for toenail fungus can be tricky, but fortunately, the condition can be managed when treated in an early manner.

Method 1: Oral Medications

Itraconazole and Fluconazole are some of the common fungicides that have successfully treated toenail fungi of a complicated nature. Griseofulvin and Terbinafine are other fungicides that have proven more effective in improving the infection rate and nail condition and appearance in less time.

A review of 48 studies, including 10200 participants with subungual fungal infection of the toenails, has found high-quality evidence of the superiority of Azoles and Terbinafine in achieving a clinical cure for the condition.

Method 2: Olive Oil / Olive Leaf Extract

Olive contains Oleuropein, a glycosylated Seco-iridoid that has antioxidant and anti-microbial properties. In-vitro studies have shown that Oleuropein inhibits the growth of Staphylococcus Aureus and Pseudomonas solanacearum, the pathogens behind toenail fungus and green nail syndrome (fungal infection resulting in greenish/blackish discoloration of the nail fold).

It has even shown effectiveness against Candida Albicans, responsible for infection of the scalp, torso, and nails in children. Olive oil/Extract can be applied directly on the infected area or ingested in capsule form.

Method 3: Medicated Nail Polish

Also known as Ciclopirox, medicated nail polish has a success rate of 46.7%-85.7% against toenail fungus conditions. But it takes 2-6 months for the solution to work and needs to be combined with regular nail trimming for satisfactory results.

Lab experiments have proved that Ciclopirox chelates polyvalent cations like aluminum and iron. The chelation effect inhibits metal-dependent enzymes like 5-lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase, which are responsible for degrading peroxides inside fungal cells.

Studies conducted worldwide have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of Ciclopirox for toenail fungus conditions. You must apply it once daily before bedtime in a thin layer and remove it on the 7th day by using alcohol to trim the treated nails.

Method 4: Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil consists of terpinen-4-ol, which alters the permeability of Candida albicans cells to destroy the pathogen successfully. Candida Albicans is a fungus that thrives in a warm, humid environment and impacts the keratin content of toenails, resulting in discolored, brittle nails and thin nails with a powdered surface. TTO also inhibits respiration in C. Albicans in a dose-dependent manner.

In addition to Candida Albicans induced toenail fungus, studies have even shown the effectiveness of tea tree oil on Trichophyton rubrum, a dermatophytic fungi that are responsible for conditions of Athlete's foot, toenail fungus, jock itch, and ringworm.

You can apply tea tree oil directly on the nail area or use it as a combined treatment. But you must be careful to clean the air thoroughly and trim/file the nail areas to maximize its effects to the best possible extent.

Method 5: Hygiene Practices

Studies have shown that good hygiene practices can prevent the virus from invading the toenail regions and making it its breeding ground. Some of these hygiene practices include −

  • Wearing clean shoes and socks and replacing them regularly

  • Avoiding warm, humid/damp conditions as they are the perfect conditions for the pathogens to incubate and breed

  • Avoiding foot perspiration by wearing well-fitted shoes that have extra toe space

  • Avoid going barefoot in public areas

  • Wearing breathable socks like copper compression socks or sprinkling antifungal powder in them

Method 6: Baking Soda

In-vitro studies have found that baking soda works on the three pathogens responsible for toenail fungus, i.e., yeast, dermatophytes, and molds. Though the exact mechanism is still unclear, some studies state that it is because of the property of baking soda to absorb moisture that can promote fungal growth.

Other studies have shown that it has fungistatic properties that inhibit further growth of the fungus instead of killing it altogether. It can take 6-18 months of regularly using baking soda to cure toenail fungus successfully. You can either add it to a foot soak or make a paste of it with a minimal amount of water and apply it for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off.

Can Vinegar Help?

There is no concrete evidence of the fact that vinegar can work on conditions of toenail fungus. But users have reported vinegar produces satisfactory results. In a study conducted to assess the relative efficacies of commercially available cleaning agents with published or anecdotal use for indoor fungal remediation, two common multi-purpose industrial disinfectants, 70% ethanol, vinegar (4.0%−4.2% acetic acid), and tea tree oil, were tested in both liquid and vapor form.

Each antifungal agent was assessed for fungal growth inhibition using a disc diffusion method against a representative species from two commonly found indoor air fungal genera, Aspergillus fumigatus and Penicillium chrysogenum, that were isolated from air samples. Tea trees appeared most effective for the fungus of all four agents in liquid and vapor form. Vinegar (4.0%–4.2% acetic acid) inhibited the growth of P. chrysogenum, while 70% ethanol did not affect the growth of either fungus. There was a significant inhibition in sporulation, distinct from growth inhibition after exposure to tea tree oil and vinegar.

White and apple cider vinegar is proven effective against toenail fungus conditions. But apple vinegar has a lower level of acetic acid (5-6%) compared to white vinegar (5-10%). It is also costlier than white vinegar, making the letter a preferred option for toenail fungus conditions. In addition to removing the underlying fungus, vinegar works on the microbes causing foot odor. It helps you eliminate foot odor problems in addition to relieving dry skin and healing warts.

Despite its advantages, vinegar is an acidic agent, and soaking the feet in undiluted solutions can lead to inflammations and skin sensitivities in the long run. For safe usage, it is advised to use vinegar in the following ways for toenail fungus.

  • Diluted with equal amounts of water water

  • Mixed with equal portions of Listerine

  • Mixing vinegar with baking soda

  • Combining it with Hydrogen peroxide

Soaking your feet for 15-20 minutes twice-thrice daily in the above-mentioned solutions can help gradually reduce the fungus.


Toenail fungus is not a deadly infection, and the problem is more of a cosmetic nature. But if left untreated, the problem can acquire painful symptoms and permanently damage your nails. Additionally, the nails can become separated from the bed, and the problem can start affecting other parts of the foot if you are immunocompromised.

Medications and home remedies are some of the best ways of ensuring the safety of your nails. But preventative measures in the form of healthy foods, hygiene management, and ensuring ventilation of your toes/foot can go a long way in reducing its occurrence.