Are There Benefits to a Listerine Foot Soak?

A Home Remedy For Athlete’s Foot, Cracked Heels, and Callouses

You may have heard that soaking your feet in Listerine mouthwash can kill funguses, soften calluses, and even treat diabetic foot pain. It's true that ingredients in Listerine contain antibacterial, antioxidant, and antifungal properties, but can it help your feet?

A Listerine foot soak may help you refresh your feet by removing dead skin or treating a mild case of toenail fungus or athlete’s feet. There are no official studies on Listerine foot soaks, though. More severe fungal or bacterial infections need to be seen by a healthcare provider.

This article explains the possible benefits of a Listerine foot soak. It covers some side effects you should be aware of and includes a few notes on who should (and should not) try a Listerine foot soak.

A person soaking their feet in a footbath.

Jasmin Merdan / Getty Images

 What Is a Listerine Foot Soak?

A Listerine foot soak is, as the name suggests, an at-home treatment that involves soaking feet in a bath made up of warm water, Listerine, and vinegar.

Proponents of this therapy say that it has potential benefits in treating athlete's foot (a fungal foot infection commonly spread in locker rooms) and soothing dry, cracked, and scaly feet.  

Listerine Foot Soak Benefits

There is no formal research or other scientific proof that a Listerine foot soak can eliminate toenail and foot fungus.

Listerine does contain four essential oils that have been shown to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties:

Thymol, the main active compound in thyme, has antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-parasitic, and antioxidant qualities. Its anti-inflammatory properties may soothe skin irritation, itching, and redness.

Menthol, an oil from the menthol plant, has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-itch, and pain-relieving qualities. Menthol has a cooling effect that makes it a common ingredient in icy-hot patches and other similar products.

Eucalyptol, the main active compound in eucalyptus, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities and can help speed up recovery time. Research shows that eucalyptol has tremendous potential for treating diabetes-related pain and infectious diseases.

Methyl salicylate, a compound derived from wintergreen or sweet birch bark, is a common ingredient in topicals used to treat musculoskeletal aches and pains. Methyl salicylate also helps the skin absorb other herbal ingredients better.

Certain ingredients in Listerine mouthwash are proven to have powerful health benefits. However, there is no formal evidence in support of using Listerine to treat foot funguses or other infections.

Simply soaking your feet in warm water has benefits in and of itself: As anyone who has ever gotten a pedicure knows, enjoying a warm footbath can be relaxing and soothing to the skin.

The practice also has study-proven benefits: Several studies have found that soaking feet and lower legs in warm water for 20 to 60 minutes before bed significantly improves sleep quality. Other studies suggest a footbath can help improve circulation to the lower extremities.

Listerine Foot Soak Recipe

For a basic Listerine foot wash, you will need three things:

  • Listerine mouthwash
  • Warm water
  • A large bucket or tub that is large enough to fit both of your feet

Other at-home ingredients you may consider adding to your mixture include:

  • Epsom salt
  • Lemon juice
  • White or apple cider vinegar

How Does Listerine and Vinegar Cure Toenail Fungus?

There is little evidence that vinegar will cure a toenail fungus but it may help. Research shows that vinegar slows the growth of some funguses including Candida, the fungus responsible for athlete's foot.

Preparing a Listerine Foot Soak

To do a Listerine foot soak:

  • Prepare your Listerine foot soak at the sink
  • Add one part warm water and one part Listerine mouthwash until there's enough to submerge your feet
  • Grab your bucket and find someplace comfortable to sit
  • Soak your feet for 45 to 60 minutes
  • Wash your feet with cool water and dry them thoroughly
  • Repeat daily or as often as possible until the fungus clears up

Don't have enough time to soak for 45 minutes to an hour? You'll still get some benefits from a shorter 20 to 30 minutes soak.

Who Shouldn't Use a Listerine Foot Soak

A Listerine foot soak should be avoided if you have the following conditions:

  • Blisters on the feet
  • Open sores, cuts, or cracked skin on the feet
  • Allergies to menthol, thymol, methyl salicylate, or eucalyptus
  • Contact dermatitis, psoriasis, or other inflammatory skin conditions
  • Signs of infection
  • Bleeding from the feet

If you notice anything unusual on your feet or have a foot fungus that has gone untreated for a long time, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. They can give you a diagnosis and advise you on the proper treatment.

Listerine Foot Soak Side Effects

It's important to use some caution when trying a Listerine foot soak. Listerine may irritate sensitive skin and cause stinging or burning if you have open wounds.

Listerine Foot Soak DIY Recipes

For when you want to give your feet an even more thorough soak or do some exfoliating, there are a few ways to modify your Listerine mixture:

  • Mix equal parts warm water and Listerine to cover your feet; stir in 1 cup of Epsom salt
  • Mix 1 cup of Listerine and a few drops of lemon juice into 1 gallon of warm water
  • Mix 1 gallon of warm water, ½ cup of Listerine, and ½ cup of white or apple cider vinegar

For an extra relaxing scent, you can also add a few drops of lavender oil or other fragrant essential oils.

You can also use a cotton ball to apply Listerine directly to a fungus-infected toenail to help treat the infection.

Before trying any DIY treatment on the skin, especially if you have a skin condition or open wounds, contact your healthcare provider to make sure the ingredients are safe for you to use.

Summary

Listerine foot soaks have become popular around the internet as a possible treatment for athlete's foot and other fungal infections of the feet. While there is no research to verify the benefits of this practice, Listerine does contain four antimicrobial essential oils that may be effective at killing fungi.

A Word From Verywell 

Soaking your feet in Listerine may sound a little funky. But if this practice intrigues you, there's no real harm in trying it, as long as you don't have any other skin conditions. A Listerine foot soak may even have some benefits, like cooling you off, easing aches and pains, or helping you sleep.

That said, using an over-the-counter antifungal cream or other medical treatment is still the fastest, more effective way to clear up athlete's foot and toenail fungus.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does research say about Listerine foot soaks?

    There is no research regarding Listerine foot soaks specifically. But research does confirm that four essential oils found in Listerine have antimicrobial and antifungal properties that may help kill fungi and bacteria.

  • What ingredients get rid of dead foot skin?

    You can make DIY exfoliating foot scrubs by mixing 1 cup of sugar or salt with a few tablespoons of coconut oil or mix baking soda with water to form a paste and use it to scrub away any dead skin from your feet.

  • How long should you soak in a Listerine foot bath?

    The general recommendation is to soak your feet for 45 to 60 minutes. This allows plenty of time for the essential oils in the mixture to soak into skin and toenails and kill the fungus. A shorter soak of 20 to 30 minutes will still have benefits.

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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 Yvelette Stines
Yvelette Stines, MS, MEd, is an author, writer, and communications specialist specializing in health and wellness.