What You Should Know Before Using Bleach for Toenail Fungus

Although it's certainly not visually pleasing, toenail fungus is a common infection, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. If you're a swimmer or frequent exerciser, you're probably no stranger to fungal infections, as they are commonly developed around pools or in gyms.

Some people claim bleach can help a fungal nail infection. Here's what can actually work. (Image: Getty Images/Stockbyte)

The convenience and low cost of an at-home bleach treatment for toenail fungus may sound appealing. However, treating fungus with bleach is neither safe nor widely recommended. Before you're tempted to treat an infection on your own, consult a doctor for the safest and most effective options.

What Is Nail Fungus?

Beginning as a small white or yellow spot under your nail, fungal infections are common and can affect several nails, according to the Mayo Clinic. Also known as onychomycosis, a mild case of nail fungus may not need treatment at all (especially if you're not bothered by it). However, in some instances, fungus can be painful or cause thickened nails.

Toenail fungus can develop at any age, but infections are more common in older adults. As nails age, they may become more brittle and cracked, which allows fungi to enter and infect the nail. Other risk factors include heavy sweating, a history of athlete's foot, minor skin or nail injuries or circulation issues.

Nail fungus can often be confused with other conditions such as bruising or discoloration due to polish. Common symptoms of fungal infections include thickened nails, whitish or yellow-brown discoloration, brittle nails and foul smell, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Popular Nail Fungus Treatments

There are several treatment routes for nail fungus, including over-the-counter products, prescription topical treatments, oral medications and home remedies, according to Harvard Health Publishing. In order for a product to successfully treat toenail fungus, it must seep into the nail and nail bed.

Over-the-counter products are a common solution, as they can be easily bought in drugstores and are relatively inexpensive. Often, OTC toenail fungus treatments are applied with a brush, like nail polish. While many of these treatments don't promise a cure, they can at least provide temporary relief or improve the appearance of your nails.

A doctor may prescribe an oral medication to treat a fungal infection. Common medications include itraconazole and terbafine, which can eliminate the fungus in about 10 months, according to Harvard Health Publishing. These drugs can be harmful on the liver, though, and your doctor may take steps to check your liver function before you begin taking them.

Home remedies for toenail fungus may seem simple, but they can quickly become unsafe or irritate the infection. Before you try at-home treatment, consult a doctor. Bleach, a common household disinfectant that's also been used as a DIY fungus treatment, is no guarantee to fungus-free toenails and is not recommended by medical professionals.

Preventing Foot Fungus

There are several measures you can take in order to prevent fungal infections. Wash your hands and feet regularly, recommends the Mayo Clinic. If you have an infected nail, make sure to scrub up after touching it to prevent spreading the infection. Keep your nails clean and trimmed and don't forget to disinfect your clippers!

Opt for sweat-wicking socks and shoes constructed with breathable mesh fabrics. Be sure to wear footwear in pool areas and locker rooms.

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