Foot Soaks

Does Listerine for Toenail Fungus Work?

Listerine for toenail fungus is a popular, easy-to-use home remedy. What could be better than a relaxing foot soak that can clear up a fungal infection of the nails? The internet is awash with publications that state Listerine can get rid of toenail fungus fast, but is this accurate?

Although no scientific evidence proves that it works, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that it could be effective for toenail fungus and athlete’s foot. Many of the ingredients (thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate, and menthol) have antifungal properties.

If Listerine does work, the effectiveness will depend on how much the fungus has advanced. You’re significantly more likely to get results if your fungal infection is mild. Early treatment is advised.

We will assess whether Listerine mouthwash kills toenail fungus. We’ll look closely at the different agents in Listerine and question the validity of any anecdotal claims from online communities.

What is Listerine?

Listerine is a brand of antiseptic mouthwash, produced by Johnson & Johnson. It is named after the father of modern antiseptics, Joseph Lister.

Listerine became a household brand when it was awarded the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. It was the first ever over-the-counter solution to receive such a distinction.

Listerine is a clinically proven cure for halitosis and dental plaque. The company does not promote Listerine as a treatment for toenail fungus or athlete’s foot (tinea pedis).

Why Use Listerine for Toenail Fungus?

Onychomycosis can be hard to treat. Statistics from UCLA Health show that conventional medicine used to treat toenail fungus are only successful up to 70 percent of the time.

Furthermore, the standard prescription medications can have unpleasant side effects. Patients that have been treated with pharmaceutical drugs have experienced complications such as abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite, and yellowing of the skin.

Prescription medications have also been linked with more severe side effects such as heart conditions, kidney damage, and liver disease. If you have an immunodeficiency disorder, then taking pharmaceutical drugs such as oral Lamisil is not recommended.

As information surfaces about the body’s natural ability to heal, more people in the U.S. are turning to alternative remedies. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 38% of U.S. adults (about 4 in 10) are experimenting with complementary alternative medicines.

About 5% of Americans only use alternative treatments. This suggests people are gradually turning their back on conventional medicines.

How to Use Listerine to Treat Foot Fungus

  1. Fill a bowl with warm water and wash the feet/toenails thoroughly
  2. Add Listerine. The recommended solution is 50% water and 50% Listerine
  3. Soak your feet for 30 to 60 minutes
  4. Dry your feet properly with your own towel
  5. Use a soft-bristled brush to remove dead skin cells

Does Listerine Work for Toenail Fungus?

There is no scientific or clinical evidence to support claims that Listerine works for toenail fungus.  The only evidence we have to go on is purely anecdotal.

However, there is a case to support that Listerine could work. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not include Listerine on their list of effective treatments for fungal toenail infections. It is only listed as a suggested treatment for halitosis due to its antiseptic properties.

listerine toenail fungus cure

Furthermore, the FDA has classified Listerine as a Class 1 product. This means the company cannot claim it treats conditions that it doesn’t. Johnson & Johnson does not brand Listerine as a treatment for fungal infections.

Listerine has active ingredients that are used in antifungal treatments. Therefore, it stands to reason that Listerine can kill fungi and prevent it from spreading. When feet are soaked in water with Listerine, the active ingredients should be able to penetrate the epidermis of the skin.

Pros and Cons of Listerine for Toenail Fungus


  • Readily available over-the-counter
  • Inexpensive to buy
  • Easy to use
  • Convenient and safe


  • No scientific evidence to support claims
  • Can take a long time to get results
  • Can cause dry and cracked skin
  • Skin discoloration
  • Exposes unaffected nails

Ingredients In Listerine That Kill Fungal Spores

Listerine has four active ingredients:

  1. Thymol
  2. Eucalyptol
  3. Methyl salicylate
  4. Menthol

Together with the antiseptic and antifungal properties, the solution also contains ethanol which binds the essential oils together, so they do not separate in the bottle.

1) Thymol

Thymol is extracted from the herb, Thyme. Rich in vitamins A and C, together with iron, calcium, magnesium, and manganese, thymol absorbs into the skin and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent that boosts blood circulation and immunity.

Subsequently, thymol is an active agent that can fight fungicide and has been used to treat fungal skin infections for thousands of years. Known for its ability to kill fungus, thymol’s healing properties inhibit the growth of dermatophytes, the aerobic fungi that cause onychomycosis.

Thymol oil is also used in Vicks VapoRub, which is another favorite toenail fungus home remedy.

2) Eucalyptol

Eucalyptol is an essential oil that comes from the eucalyptus leaf. Indigenous to Australia, it was used by the Aborigines to treat a wide range of illnesses including fungus and other skin complaints.

The eucalyptus leaf has numerous antimicrobial properties including antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. The oil is therefore known to boost the immune system and enhance blood circulation which helps to fight off a fungus.

3) Methyl salicylate

The medicinal properties of methyl salicylate are far ranging. Subsequently, the organic acid is used in multiple compounds that are used to treat various ailments. One of its distinguishing qualities is its ability to shed dead skin cells which allow new, healthy cells to grow in their place.

Methyl salicylate also has non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents with analgesic properties. The antifungal properties of salicylic acid are often used in treatments designed to eliminate toenail fungus, athlete’s foot, and various other skin infections.

4) Menthol

The use of menthol for medicinal purposes can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt. Extracted from the mint plant, menthol is an organic agent that has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that are an effective agent against fungal infections.

Menthol penetrates the skin and exudes a cooling, soothing effect which acts as an anti-irritant. It also has stimulating effects which trigger the cold receptors in the skin. This invites blood to flow to areas of the body where the solution is applied.

Side Effects of Listerine

Listerine is put into the mouth, so it’s not a harmful solution.

The FDA categorizes Listerine as a Class 1 medicinal ‘device.’ There is a low risk of developing complications after use. Side effects are rare, but here are the most common ones:

  • When used as a foot soak, the most common side effect is cosmetic. It could turn your skin light blue or green, depending on the flavor/color.
  • Listerine contains alcohol which dries out the skin. It could cause the skin to crack. If you have sensitive skin, you should test the solution on a small patch of your foot.

Listerine and Peroxide for Toe Fungus

Hydrogen peroxide is used as a disinfectant for cuts and wounds but can kill fungal spores. It is suggested that applying hydrogen peroxide to a Listerine foot soak will yield faster results.

While the hot water softens the skin and nails, the active ingredients in Listerine and peroxide work together to inhibit the growth of fungus and stimulate blood flow to the foot.

How Long Will It Take for Toenail Fungus to Heal?

Treat toenail fungal infections with Listerine for at least six months. The infection will take longer if the condition is severe.

The typical healing time for toenail fungus is 6-18 months depending on the severity of the infection. The longer fungal infections are left untreated, the longer they take to heal. Whichever cure(s) you choose to heal foot fungal infections, perseverance is needed.

You will be able to accelerate the healing process by using antifungal creams in combination with Listerine. Creams will also help to rehydrate the skin after soaking them in alcohol.