Are There Benefits to a Listerine Foot Soak?

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When you think of Listerine, the first thing that likely comes to mind is a mouthwash to help reduce cavities and gingivitis. But this common household staple is also becoming popular as a foot soak to help treat toenail fungus and athlete’s feet and remove dead skin.

Although this home remedy is garnering a lot of internet attention, we wondered if there was any proof that it works. What we learned: While there is no current research on the treatment, ingredients found in Listerine (a particular brand of mouthwash) are known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties that may be beneficial for feet.

This article will explain the possible benefits of a Listerine foot soak, side effects to be aware of, and how to try it at home.

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.  

How It Works

There is no research or other scientific proof that soaking feet in Listerine or other mouthwashes can eliminate toenail and foot fungus.

Listerine does contain four essential oils that have been shown to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties: thymol, menthol, eucalyptol, and methyl salicylate (a compound derived from wintergreen or sweet birch bark). These ingredients may help kill fungus that causes athlete's foot, toenail fungus, and other foot infections.

Other possible ways Listerine may benefit feet include:

  • Cooling: Menthol has known cooling effects.
  • Exfoliating: Essential oils can help to soften skin and may help slough off dry, dead, or flaking skin cells.
  • Ease aches and pains: Menthol and methyl salicylate have pain-relieving properties, which is why they are also common ingredients in icy-hot pain patches.
  • Reduce inflammation: Thymol and other essential oils have anti-inflammatory effects that may help soothe skin irritation, itching, and redness.

What's more, 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.

Potential 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.

A Listerine foot soak should also 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 on proper treatment.

Listerine Foot Soak DIY Recipes

If you want to try a Listerine foot soak at home, you'll need a large bucket or tub that is large enough to fit both of your feet. Then you'll fill the basin with a Listerine mixture. Proponents of the treatment recommend soaking feet for 45 to 60 minutes. Then, repeat daily or as often as possible until the fungus clears up.

Short on time? You'll still get some benefits from a shorter 20 to 30 minutes soak. You can also use a cotton ball to apply Listerine directly to a fungus-infected toenail to help treat the infection.

Three do-it-yourself (DIY) foot soak recipes to try:

  • Mix an equal measurement of 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.

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. Still, if this practice intrigues you, there's no real harm to trying it, as long as you don't have any other skin conditions, and it 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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4 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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