Home Remedies for Athlete's Foot: What Works

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on November 12, 2020

Athlete’s foot is easy to pick up, but getting rid of it can be difficult. A lot of people have their own ways to deal with it at home. There’s not much scientific research out there on how well these remedies work, but some work better than others.

Tea Tree Oil

This oil comes from the leaves of a tree that grows in Australia. Because it can kill some types of bacteria and fungus, people have used it as a home remedy for many years.

When rubbed into the skin twice a day, tea tree oil can reduce the itching, scaling, swelling, and burning of athlete’s foot. But it may take up to a month to see progress and it doesn’t work for everyone.

Tea tree oil can cause a skin rash or trigger allergies. So talk with your doctor before you try it. They can suggest a tea tree product for you to try, or explain how to dilute the oil to avoid side effects.

Never take tea tree oil by mouth since it can be toxic.

Bitter Orange

This fruit comes from a certain type of orange tree. It’s been used for years in Chinese medicine and by people who live in the Amazon rain forest.

Bitter orange oil is a natural fungus fighter. Besides athlete’s foot, it may help clear up ringworm and jock itch.

One study found that when people applied a watered down form of bitter orange oil to their feet three times each day, the fungus cleared up after a week or two.

Bitter orange can inflame your skin if you use it in its pure form. It can also make you more likely to get a sunburn, so be sure to protect your skin from the sun if you use it.

Ajoene from Garlic

Ajoene is a natural chemical found in garlic. It may ease the symptoms of athlete’s foot. You can take it by mouth as an antifungal pill. You can also find it in a gel form.

In one study, people who applied it to their feet once a day saw their symptoms go away after one week. This method could also help keep your athlete’s foot from coming back.

Sunflower Oil

Made from the pressed seeds of sunflowers, this oil has long been said to fight germs. A brand called Oleozon which contains ozone (another germ-killer) has been shown to get rid of athlete’s foot as well as being an antifungal medicine. You apply the oil to your feet instead of taking it by mouth. It’s unclear whether all brands of sunflower oil work as well as Oleozon, but it may be worth trying.

Green Tea

Soak your feet in lukewarm green tea and you may notice less symptoms like peeling and redness. That’s because nutrients in green tea called polyphenols have antifungal powers.

But this method won’t work quickly. You may have to soak your feet every day for 3 months. And more studies are needed to prove that green tea can get rid of the fungus, not just make your feet feel and look better.


People in rural parts of Mexico use leaves of the Solanum chrysotrichum plant, also called Giant Devil’s Fig. Studies show that a cream made from an extract of this shrubby plant works as an antifungal that you put on your athlete’s foot. It could also prevent it from coming back.

But while studies show that sosa is safe to put on your skin, it may be hard to find.


Some people believe that soaking your feet in a mixture of water and vinegar will get rid of athlete’s foot. While a vinegar soak won’t do your feet any harm, there’s not enough research to prove that it will do much good either.

Over-the-Counter Medicine

You can buy many creams, gels, and sprays that treat athlete’s foot at your drug store without a prescription. These will ease your symptoms. But the fungus itself could take 6 weeks to fully go away.

If you can’t find some of the ingredients you need to try any of these remedies, ask a pharmacist or check out a health food store.

If you’ve tried one or two of these methods and your athlete’s foot still doesn’t clear up, call your doctor. You may need another plan to get rid of it.

Show Sources


U.S. National Library of Medicine, “How effective are athlete’s foot treatments?”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Tea Tree Oil.”

International Journal of Dermatology: “Oil of Bitter Orange: New Topical Antifungal Agent.”

The Australasian Journal of Dermatology: “Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution.”

Clinical Microbiology Reviews: “Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties.”

Mycoses: “Efficacy of ajoene, an organosulphur derived from garlic, in the short-term therapy of tinea pedis.”

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: “Efficacy of ajoene in the treatment of tinea pedis.”

Mycoses: “Efficacy of ozonized sunflower oil in the treatment of tinea pedis.”

Journal of Applied Microbiology, “Antibacterial activity of ozonized sunflower oil (Oleozon).”

Cleveland Clinic Wellness, “Sunflower Oil.”

Ikeda, S. Foot (Edinburgh, Scotland.) June-September 2013.

Natural Health Research Institute, “Benefits of Green Tea Foot Baths.”

Journal of Ethnophamacology,Solanum chrysotrichum (Schldl.) a plant used in Mexico for the treatment of skin mycosis.”

Herrera-Arellano, A. Planta Medica, 2003.

Johnston, C. Medscape General Medicine, 2006.


© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info