Does Soaking Your Smelly Feet in Listerine Really Work?

Smelly feet can be an embarrassing and frustrating problem. The bacterium that causes foot odor, brevibacterium, thrives in the warm, moist environment inside shoes. This leads to an unpleasant odor that some compare to cheese or vinegar. While good hygiene practices like washing and drying your feet daily can help reduce odor, sometimes it just isn’t enough. This leaves many wondering – does soaking feet in Listerine antiseptic mouthwash really cure smelly feet?

Listerine has gained popularity over the years as a home remedy for eliminating foot odor. The antiseptic properties in Listerine are thought to kill the bacteria responsible for the bad smell. Simply soaking feet nightly in a basin filled with Listerine is purported to freshen feet. But does the science actually back this up? Let’s take a closer look.

Why Listerine May Work

Listerine Original antiseptic mouthwash contains four essential oils – menthol, thymol, eucalyptol, and methyl salicylate. These oils create the cooling, clean, tingling sensation in your mouth when you rinse. They also happen to be antimicrobial, meaning they kill bacteria and fungi.

Studies have found the essential oils in Listerine have bactericidal activity against streptococcus mutans, a common oral bacteria responsible for tooth decay and plaque buildup. The makers of Listerine also claim it can kill up to 52% of germs that cause bad breath when used for 60 seconds twice daily.

Considering foot odor is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria on the skin, soaking in an antimicrobial solution like Listerine could hypothetically help reduce the bacteria population. This may lead to less breakdown of sweat by bacteria, and therefore less odor. The menthol in Listerine also provides a cooling, refreshing sensation.

What Limited Research Shows

Very few scientific studies have actually looked at whether soaking feet in Listerine has any effect on foot odor. However, one small study published in 2002 in the journal Dermatology did find some benefits.

The study had a group of 30 people soak their feet in Listerine antiseptic and a control group soak their feet in tap water for 20 minutes daily for one week. The feet were assessed for odor by the study participants themselves and two dermatologists at the end of the week.

The Listerine group reported a noticeable improvement in foot odor, with 80% saying their feet smelled better after the week of soaking. The dermatologists also assessed the Listerine group as having significant improvement in odor. The tap water group showed no difference.

The researchers concluded that Listerine can reduce foot odor after consistent use, likely due to its antimicrobial properties. However, the study was small and had limitations, so larger scale research is still needed.

Trying Listerine Soaks at Home

Based on the limited research, soaking feet in original Listerine antiseptic may help reduce odor by killing bacteria. To try it at home:

  • Fill a basin with enough Listerine to cover your feet. Use the original antiseptic formula, not a whitening or anti-cavity variety.
  • Soak your feet for 20-30 minutes daily, either in the morning or before bed. The longer you soak, the better the results.
  • Dry feet thoroughly after soaking, especially between the toes where moisture gets trapped.
  • Apply a foot powder like Gold Bond to help wick away moisture and further discourage bacterial growth.
  • Use a pumice stone regularly in the shower to exfoliate away dead skin cells and calluses where bacteria can thrive.
  • Disinfect your shoes using antibacterial shoe sprays or UV shoe sanitizers to keep them odor-free.
  • Wash socks in hot water with antibacterial laundry detergent. Rotate shoes daily to allow them to fully dry out.
  • Apply lotion to moisturize feet, since bacteria thrive on dry, cracked skin.

Be patient, as it can take a week or more of routine Listerine foot soaks to notice a difference in foot odor. The key is consistency. It’s best to make foot soaks part of your daily hygiene routine.

Science shows the antimicrobial ingredients in Listerine likely help kill odor-causing bacteria on the feet. While evidence is limited, soaking feet daily in Listerine appears a simple, low-risk method to help control smelly feet alongside good foot hygiene. Consistency is key to see results. Just be sure to dry thoroughly afterwards and see a doctor if odor persists despite your best efforts.