Home Remedies for Athlete’s Foot

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
August 29, 2022

Athlete’s foot is an itchy fungal infection that causes a scaly rash on the skin of the feet. 

It’s called athlete’s foot because it spreads easily in moist, damp environments like gyms and locker rooms, and is common in athletes. Home remedies, used correctly, can be very effective at curing athlete’s foot.

In this article, we’ll explore 11 home remedies for athlete’s foot. We’ll also go over how to prevent athlete’s foot, the causes and symptoms, and when to seek medical care.

Home Remedies for Athlete’s Foot

Many home remedies effectively treat athlete’s foot.

Over-the-counter treatment

Over-the-counter medicines for athlete’s foot are applied directly to the fungus and often used for up to a week after symptoms resolve to prevent the infection from returning.

OTC antifungal medications for athlete’s foot work similarly and include:

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can effectively treat fungal infections like athlete’s foot. 

It can also disinfect surfaces contaminated by fungi, bacteria, and other infectious substances..

Hydrogen peroxide can be poured directly onto the affected area, but needs to be used cautiously and in small amounts to avoid irritating the area. It may produce white bubbles if you have open wounds or cracks in your skin. 

While it may initially sting, this is a normal response and will only last for a short time. Apply hydrogen peroxide two times per day until all signs of infection are gone. Stop using it immediately if you develop redness, pain, burning, or irritation.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has antibacterial and antifungal properties and can be used to treat various mild skin infections. 

In orderto use it for an athlete’s foot, mix it a small amount of the tea tree oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil. It’s important not to apply pure tea tree oil directly to skin as that can cause burning and inflammation.

Apply this to the affected skin using a dropper or cotton swab two times a day until the infection clears. Stop using it right away if you develop irritation.

Neem oil

Neem oil has antifungal properties. 

You can apply it to the affected skin directly or with a carrier oil 2-3 times per day. For infection between the toes, massage the neem oil into the skin. 

Neem oil is also good for treating athlete’s foot that infects the nail beds, but will need to be used for a prolonged period of time for it to be effective.

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can also kill the fungus that causes athlete’s foot. Apply it directly to the affected area or make a foot soak of 70% rubbing alcohol and 30% water and soak feet for 30 minutes daily.

Garlic

Fresh garlic has potent antibacterial and antifungal properties. Crush 4-5 garlic cloves and apply the paste directly to the affected area two times per day until the infection clears.

Sea salt baths

Sea salt can prevent fungal infections from growing on the skin. Dissolve 1 cup of sea salt into a bucket of warm water to create a foot bath, and soak feet for 20 minutes twice daily. 

Thoroughly dry the feet, especially between toes, before wearing socks or shoes.

Talcum powder

Since the athlete’s foot infection thrives on dark, damp surfaces, talcum powder, baby powder, or corn starch can all help to prevent athlete’s foot by keeping the feet dry. To use, clean and thoroughly dry feet. 

Then apply talcum powder before wearing socks or shoes to maintain dryness.

Baking soda

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, can have antifungal benefits when applied to the skin. Make a baking soda foot soak by adding a half cup of baking soda to a large bucket of warm water. 

Soak your feet for 20 minutes two times per day and thoroughly dry your feet afterwards.

Vinegar

Vinegar soaks have not been clinically tested for athlete’s foot. However, vinegar has antifungal properties and is unlikely to cause negative effects.

You can make a vinegar foot soak by combining 1 part vinegar and 2 parts warm water in a bucket. Soak feet for 20 minutes a few times per day as needed, then thoroughly dry feet.

Vicks VapoRub

Vicks VapoRub contains eucalyptus and menthol, two ingredients that have antifungal properties. Vicks can be directly applied to the affected area overnight to address athlete’s foot. 

Repeat nightly until the infection goes away for at least one week.

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What Is Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot, medically known as tinea pedis, is a contagious infection caused by fungus. It can affect any area of the skin but mostly happens between the toes

In more severe and prolonged cases, can also infect toenails. In people who have compromised immune systems, it may spread more easily to hands or fingernails.

Athlete’s foot is rarely serious, but it can be uncomfortable, irritating, and hard to cure.

Causes

Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungal infection known as tinea. 

It can be spread from person to person or from touching surfaces that are contaminated with the fungus. 

Anyone can get athlete’s foot, and the following are common sources of transmission:

  • Public locker rooms and shared shower spaces or bathrooms
  • Swimming pools
  • Shared socks or shoes

You may be more likely to develop athlete’s foot if you:

  • Wear tight or poorly fitting shoes
  • Wear socks all the time
  • Have especially sweaty feet

Symptoms

Athlete’s foot causes some common symptoms:

  • Itching, stinging, or burning sensations on the soles of feet or toes
  • Blisters on the feet
  • Cracking or peeling skin between the toes or on the soles
  • Severely dry skin on the soles or sides of the feet
  • Raw skin on the feet
  • Toenails that come away from the nail bed
  • Discolored, thick, or crumbly toenails

Prevention

Athlete’s foot can develop into a recurring infection if you do not address the source of it and clean surfaces to ensure that you do not reinfect yourself. The fungus that causes it thrives in dark, moist areas like bathroom floors, showers, gyms, steam rooms, and inside of shoes.

To prevent athlete’s foot, clean and sanitize areas in your home that your bare feet touch. 

Wear sandals or shoes in gyms or public spaces. Also keep your feet dry and clean: Change socks if they become damp or sweaty, and wear breathable shoes that do not trap moisture or heat.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Athlete’s Foot

If you try home care for athlete’s foot but it does not improve after a week, see a medical provider, especially if you have diabetes or other conditions that weaken your immune system.

Foot infections can quickly become serious in those cases. A medical provider may prescribe a stronger antifungal medication to clear the infection.

Get immediate medical attention if you have athlete’s foot and any of the following:

  • Redness that extends beyond the fungal area
  • Pus
  • Swelling
  • Fever
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How K Health Can Help

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Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What kills athlete's foot instantly?
Nothing instantly kills athlete’s foot, but home remedies or OTC treatments can help resolve infections within a few days to a week.
What is the best home remedy for athlete's foot?
There are many effective home remedies for athlete’s foot, including hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, neem oil, and OTC antifungal medications.
How do I cure my athlete's foot naturally?
Athlete’s foot responds well to home treatments like tea tree oil, neem oil, and hydrogen peroxide.
Does hydrogen peroxide help athlete's foot?
Yes. Hydrogen peroxide kills the fungus that causes athlete’s foot. It can also kill bacteria that live on the surface of the skin and can worsen athlete’s foot or cause additional infections. Use hydrogen peroxide on athlete’s foot two times per day until the infection is gone. Also clean and sanitize showers, shoes, or other surfaces that bare feet touch to prevent reinfection.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.

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