As of right now, the only FDA-approved, clinically tested treatments proven to work specifically on toenail fungus are available by prescription only. Though effective, these medications can have significant side effects, including lighter wallets.
And even if you can afford it, many see toenail fungus as more cosmetic than life-threatening. As a result, many try over-the-counter antifungal medications and home remedies, one of which is using alcohol to treat toenail fungus. But does alcohol kill toenail fungus?
In this article, we are going to take a closer look at toenail fungus, and alcohol as a popular home remedy to see how effective it really is. We’ll also give you a few tips to avoid a toenail fungal re-infection in the future.
What is Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus is much more common than most people think! If you are one of the 10% of the general population that has it, you’re not alone.
Toenail fungus can affect people of all ages, though it becomes much more common as you age.
About half of people over 70 have had a toenail fungal infection. As we age, so do our nails, which become prone to being brittle and dry, which can result in cracks in the nails that make them susceptible to fungal infections.
Toenail fungus usually starts off as a small white or yellowish spot at the edge or underneath of the nail. As the fungal infection spreads and entrenches itself deeper into the nail, it causes the nail to discolor.
As the fungus starts to separate the keratin in the nail plate, the nail becomes opaque, thickens, and eventually crumbles at the edges.
What Causes Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus can be caused by different types of yeasts and molds, which are both types of fungi. It can also be caused by dermatophytes, which are fungi that require keratin (what our nails are made of) for growth.
Small cracks or cuts in the nail or surrounding tissue can allow fungi to enter the nail and cause an infection.
Be careful of nail splits and breaks!
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A good glass of Zinfandel will definitely make you forget about the fungus, but that’s for a different blog.
Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is used to sterilize and disinfect. It kills germs and bacteria, and even fungus on contact.
So to answer the question at hand: does alcohol kill toenail fungus? Rubbing Alcohol can be effective in killing the fungus that causes toenail infections. BUT (and it’s a big ‘but’) it’s only been found effective to eliminate surface-level fungus in the earliest stages of an infection.
In other words, if you’ve just noticed a little white dot on your nail, rubbing alcohol MAY work to get rid of it. But it’s unlikely to get rid of a toenail fungal infection that you’ve had for months or years that’s taken hold in the deeper layers of the nail.
However, alcohol is a good way to prevent the spreading of your toenail fungus.
Does Alcohol Kill Toenail Fungus On Nail Clippers?
Yes, a soak in alcohol is one of the best ways to disinfect your nail clippers.
Pour some rubbing alcohol into a bowl and soak your clippers in it for 20 minutes. This should kill any toenail fungus on the clippers, and you should be safe to use them once again without worrying about spreading any nail fungus to other nails.
Other Home Remedies for Toenail Fungus
If you find yourself with a toenail fungal infection that you’ve had for a long time, it’s unlikely that alcohol will get rid of it. But the following are the top three home remedies for treating toenail fungus that are safe to use.
All these have antifungal properties and might actually work for you.
Like all home remedies out there, none of these have been studied or tested as to their efficacy, specifically with regard to treating toenail fungus. So there are no guarantees.
But there are quite a lot of people out there who swear these have worked for them.
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Vicks VapoRub was invented more than a century ago. The same ingredients that have made it a medicine cabinet staple ever since for easing coughs, colds and chest congestion, also all have antifungal properties. Vicks VapoRub contains camphor (4.8%), thymol (1.2%), and menthol (2.6%). We talk about Vicks for Toenail Fungus here.
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Vinegar is acidic, which gives it antifungal and antibacterial properties. It slows down the growth of some types of fungus and may even get rid of it entirely.
Though apple cider vinegar is usually the recommended go-to, white vinegar will achieve the same results, so best keep the more expensive ACV for the salad dressing.
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Anything stronger than 3% can cause irritation or potentially cause damage to the surrounding skin tissue.
How do I know if my toenail fungus is dying?
One of the worst things about toenail fungus is how long it takes to get rid of it. Unlike a regular fungal infection on your skin that “clears up” when treated returning the fungus-affected area of your skin back to normal, the part of the toenail that is infected with fungus will never return to normal.
You have to wait until that part of the nail grows out and is replaced by the new healthy nail.
You will know that the treatment is working and the infection is clearing up when you see a new, healthy nail starting to grow from the nailbed. Because on average, a toenail only grows about 1.6mm per month, it takes a while before you start to see new regrowth of the healthy nail
As your nail grows out, keep trimming off the part of the nail that was infected until all you are left with is a healthy nail. And don’t forget to disinfect your nail clippers.
Toenail Fungus Prevention
Toenail fungus is extremely hard to get rid of and treatment takes months, so the last thing you want once your toenails are finally healthy again, is to contract more toenail fungus! Here are a few tips to prevent re-infection:
- Keep your feet clean and dry.
- Clip your fingernails and toenails short and keep them clean.
- wear flip-flops in locker rooms and showers at the gym or pool
- Don’t share nail clippers or shoes with other people.
- Make sure your nail salon is properly sterilizing equipment
- treat athlete’s foot as soon as possible to avoid it spreading to nails
- wear clean socks every day