10 Home Remedies for Athlete's Foot

Medically Reviewed By Dominique Fontaine, BSN, RN, HNB-BC, HWNC-BC
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Athlete’s foot can resolve with home remedies, including methods that help destroy the fungi on the skin, such as tea tree oil. Other measures, such as properly drying the feet, help destroy the fungi’s ideal environment. Read on to learn 10 home remedies for athlete’s foot, including the science behind them and how to try them. We also explain when to contact a doctor and how you can help prevent athlete’s foot.

1. Hydrogen peroxide

A closeup of a person's feet in running shoes
BONNINSTUDIO/Stocksy United

Hydrogen peroxide can be an effective home remedy for athlete’s foot as it can destroy the fungus that grows on the skin.

According to a 2013 study, hydrogen peroxide mixed with iodine could kill 16 types of fungi.

Try mixing iodine solution and hydrogen peroxide in a bowl. Apply it to the affected areas, ideally in a bathtub or shower to avoid accidental bleaching and staining. You can do this two times a day until the infection subsides. Be aware this method may cause stinging and irritation.

2. Tea tree oil

The antifungal and antibacterial properties of tea tree oil can be a useful home treatment for athlete’s foot.

According to a 2015 study, tea tree oil may be more effective at killing fungi than several other antifungal agents, including vinegar.

An older 2002 study specifically focusing on tea tree oil and athlete’s foot found that solutions containing 25% and 50% tea tree oil were much more effective than a placebo in treating affected areas between the toes.

The tea tree oil also treated the infection in 64% of the participants who used it, while just 31% of those who used a placebo saw a complete resolution of their symptoms.

Tea tree creams may be available from local pharmacies. You can also try placing a few drops of tea tree oil into a carrier oil, such as olive oil. Rub it on your feet two times a day. Never use tea tree oil without a carrier oil, and be aware this method may cause irritation.

3. Neem oil or extract

Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide. It comes from the seeds of the neem tree.

Neem oil and neem leaf extracts have antifungal properties that can help treat athlete’s foot.

Apply the product directly to your feet a few times a day. Make sure to massage it into the skin.

4. Garlic

Garlic is known for its antifungal properties.

An older study on athlete’s foot found that even a garlic derivative, with no additional products, led to a complete resolution of the condition in 79% of study participants who applied it after 1 week.

You can try a garlic foot soak using fresh garlic cloves by crushing a few garlic cloves into warm water. Soak your feet regularly until symptoms subside. Dry them thoroughly.

5. Hair dryer and powder

Drying your feet thoroughly can help kill the fungi that cause athlete’s foot by removing the damp environment that helps them thrive.

Using a hairdryer and powder, such as cornstarch or talcum powder, after your feet have become wet can help prevent and treat athlete’s foot.

6. Moisture-wicking socks

Similar to drying the feet well with powder, wearing socks that wick moisture away from the skin can help keep the feet dry.

Consider the following materials when purchasing socks:

  • wool
  • bamboo
  • synthetic wicking fabric, often called tech socks

7. Baking soda

Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, may be beneficial in treating athlete’s foot at home as it may have antifungal properties. An older 2012 study found that it can be a useful tool against antifungal infections if applied to the skin.

Make a foot bath with baking soda by mixing half a cup of powder in a large basin of warm water. Soak your feet for around 15 minutes twice daily, and ensure you dry them thoroughly afterward.

8. Sea salt

Researchers have long been aware of sea salt’s antibacterial and antifungal properties. It may help prevent, treat, and reduce athlete foot complications.

You could try mixing sea salt with vinegar to form a paste and apply it to affected areas. Alternatively, make a salt bath for your feet by mixing 1 cup of sea salt into a basin of warm water and soaking your feet.

Always dry your feet well after soaking them.

9. Vicks VapoRub

There are many anecdotal reports of the antifungal properties of Vicks VapoRub. Although no research is available on Vicks and athlete’s foot specifically, one study focused on the product and its effect on another fungal infection that can affect the feet and nails, called onychomycosis.

Researchers found it had a positive effect on treating the infection.

Try applying Vicks VapoRub directly to the affected areas and massage it into the skin. Repeat every night until symptoms subside.

Learn more about the surprising benefits of Vicks.

10. Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments

Many OTC powders, sprays, ointments, and lotions are available for purchase that can help treat athlete’s foot. You can purchase these yourself, or ask a doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Apply these treatments directly to the affected area. Follow the instructions on the label or from a clinician to prevent the infection from returning.

When to contact a doctor

Although athlete’s foot usually clears up with home remedies, you should speak with a doctor if your symptoms have not improved after a couple of weeks.

You should also contact a doctor if you notice athlete’s foot frequently returning even after the initial resolution of symptoms. It may spread to other parts of the body.

If you notice signs of an infection, including swelling, pus, redness, and pain, seek medical care as soon as possible.

Causes and prevention

Certain types of fungi cause athlete’s foot.

The fungi that cause athlete’s foot usually attack the feet rather than other body parts for several reasons:

  • Shoes and socks often create a warm, moist environment favorable to the fungi.
  • Walking barefoot in public places such as changing rooms or shared showers can expose feet to more germs.
  • The area between the toes is often damp and warm.

You can prevent fungal infections that can cause athlete’s foot by:

  • wearing sandals or waterproof shoes in public places that often get wet
  • thoroughly washing and drying your feet regularly
  • letting your shoes dry completely before wearing them again
  • never sharing towels, shoes, or socks
  • disinfecting the bathtub or shower if someone in your home has athlete’s foot
  • clipping your toenails short

Summary

Home remedies for athlete’s foot include hydrogen peroxide, iodine, tea tree oil, baking soda, and sea salt. Home remedies can be effective at treating the condition. However, you should always contact a doctor if your symptoms worsen or do not resolve after a couple of weeks.

In addition, if you notice you are persistently experiencing recurring athlete’s foot, speak with a doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: Dominique Fontaine, BSN, RN, HNB-BC, HWNC-BC
Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 29
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