Can Hydrogen Peroxide Treat Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a common fungal infection of the feet. It typically causes scaly, peeling skin between the toes and on the soles of the feet. These areas can burn, itch, or sting, creating a rather uncomfortable skin condition.

The fungi that cause athlete's foot thrive in warm, damp places like pools, showers, and locker rooms. You have several options to treat this condition.

This article covers different home remedies, including hydrogen peroxide, to treat athlete's foot.

Woman applying hydrogen peroxide to athlete's foot.

PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier / Getty Images

Can Hydrogen Peroxide Treat Athlete’s Foot?

Hydrogen peroxide has many uses, like cleaning, disinfecting, and being used as a bleach solution. However, there is no current research that shows hydrogen peroxide is a successful treatment for athlete's foot.

A study from 2013 did show that a combination of hydrogen peroxide and iodine was successful at stopping the growth of 16 types of fungi, yet that study did not specifically look at using hydrogen peroxide and iodine to treat athlete's foot.

Not only is hydrogen peroxide not recommended as a treatment for athlete's foot, health experts suggest avoiding hydrogen peroxide to clean cuts and wounds. It has been shown to slow the healing process by irritating wound-healing cells.

How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide has two hydrogen and two oxygen atoms. It is very reactive and breaks apart as oxygen and water, causing bubbles. The most commonly found concentration of hydrogen peroxide is 3%. Stronger concentrations are used in different industries, such as hair coloring.

Just because hydrogen peroxide isn't a recommended treatment for athlete's foot doesn't mean there aren't other uses for the solution. The EPA cites hydrogen peroxide as an approved disinfectant for home surfaces, killing many different kinds of germs.

Risks of Hydrogen Peroxide

Despite being sold at many major stores, hydrogen peroxide is a chemical solution that does carry some serious risks when used incorrectly.

One of the most serious risks is gas embolism. As the solution breaks down, it releases oxygen. If air gets into the bloodstream, it can cause air emboli, which can lead to a stroke or other serious consequences. Thankfully, this risk is rare.

Other hydrogen peroxide risks include:

  • Skin burns
  • Vomiting when drunk
  • Lung irritation when inhaled

Other Remedies for Athlete’s Foot

Besides hydrogen peroxide, there are other ways to treat athlete's foot. Here are several other remedies and their mixed results in treating the condition.

Essential Oils

Tea tree oil has shown some promise as a treatment for athlete's foot. When used on the skin, tea tree oil has antifungal and antiseptic properties.

A study from 2002 reported a cure rate of 64% of participants who used a 50% tea tree oil solution on the skin twice a day for four weeks.

A 2019 report that reviewed studies on essential oils for the treatment of various conditions found that tea tree oil treatment of athlete's foot showed some promise.

However, tea tree oil may not be the best solution. A study from 2021 doesn't support the use of tea tree oil for athlete's foot. It recommends using over-the-counter antifungal creams.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is used in hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and in the hospital setting as a disinfectant. Despite its ability to kill germs, its use as an athlete's foot treatment has not been supported by medical studies.

Rubbing alcohol can cause a skin rash, redness, itching, and dryness.

Garlic

Garlic contains a powerful compound called allicin. It is found in fresh garlic and is what gives it a strong smell and taste. Garlic has been used as an alternative medicine for hundreds of years. It has been shown to work as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and protective agent for the cardiovascular system. But there is no current research that supports garlic as a treatment for athlete's foot.

A 2014 review found several studies that supported garlic as an antifungal. It showed great promise as an alternative to eliminate fungi, yet the evidence is lacking in the actual use as a treatment for many fungal infections.

Epsom Salts

Epsom salts are a magnesium sulfate compound used in foot baths. The Epsom salt will not treat the fungal infection that causes athlete's foot, but it may help clean and wick away moisture from the feet.

To make an Epsom salt bath, pour half of a cup of Epsom salt into a warm bath. Soak your feet for 15 to 20 minutes.

Talcum Powder

Talcum powder is an easy, at-home treatment for athlete's foot. It keeps the feet dry and wicks away moisture, which is an important step in treating athlete's foot. It will not kill the fungus that causes athlete's foot.

Sprinkle talcum powder on the feet and on the inside of your shoes. The powder will help keep the feet dry.

Over-the-Counter Creams

Athlete's foot can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Several medications are available that come in cream or spray form. Look for treatments that include one of the following medications:

  • Lotrimin (clotrimazole)
  • Micatin (miconazole)
  • Lamisil (terbinafine)
  • Nizoral (ketoconazole)


If at-home remedies don't improve the condition within two to four weeks or it gets worse, then it's time to contact a healthcare provider for a stronger treatment plan.

Summary

Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection that causes itchy, scaly skin between toes and on the soles of the feet. Using hydrogen peroxide as an athlete's foot treatment is not recommended. There is no research to show that it is an effective treatment, and it can cause skin irritation.

Other home treatments can successfully treat or prevent athlete's foot, like talcum powder, Epsom salts, and over-the-counter creams. If athlete's foot does not improve within two to four weeks, contact a healthcare provider for additional therapy.

A Word From VeryWell

Athlete's foot is an incredibly common foot infection. Despite its name, it doesn't affect only athletes. Anyone can get it and its uncomfortable symptoms. To prevent athlete's foot, wear sandals in locker rooms, public showers, and pools. Keep your feet dry, and change wet socks or shoes. Don't be afraid to reach out to your healthcare provider for help diagnosing athlete's foot or for additional treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do you keep your foot in hydrogen peroxide for foot fungus?

    Health experts do not recommend using hydrogen peroxide to treat foot fungus. It is not an effective treatment for athlete's foot and can slow wound healing.

  • Is hydrogen peroxide an antifungal?

    Hydrogen peroxide has been shown to work as an antifungal in certain circumstances. It can be used as a disinfectant to clean hard surfaces but does not work at killing fungus on the skin.

  • Why does hydrogen peroxide bubble on my feet?

    Hydrogen peroxide is a highly reactive solution. When it comes into contact with a catalase, it releases oxygen and water causing bubbles. If there is blood, bacteria, or another catalase on the skin, hydrogen peroxide will react with it and cause bubbling.

  • When should you not use hydrogen peroxide?

    Hydrogen peroxide should not be used to clean wounds. It has been found to slow down wound healing. Hydrogen peroxide can also irritate the skin and cause skin burns at high concentrations.

16 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.