What Does Soaking Your Feet in Listerine Do?

Listerine, the popular mouthwash brand, is well-known for its antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties. Some people also use Listerine as a foot soak, believing it can help treat foot conditions like athlete’s foot, calluses, and foot odor. But does soaking your feet in Listerine really do anything? Here’s a look at the evidence behind this home remedy.

How Listerine Works

First, it helps to understand how Listerine works in the mouth. Listerine contains essential oils like eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate, and thymol, which give the mouthwash its distinctive taste and cooling sensation. These oils have antimicrobial effects, meaning they kill bacteria and fungi.

When used as a mouthwash, Listerine reaches areas of the mouth that brushing and flossing may miss, helping control plaque and gingivitis. The American Dental Association (ADA) has approved Listerine for its ability to reduce plaque and gingivitis when used alongside regular oral hygiene.

The antimicrobial properties of Listerine are what lead some people to believe it could also treat problematic foot conditions.

Using Listerine for Foot Conditions

Here are some of the ways people use diluted Listerine foot soaks and what the research says about its effectiveness:

Athlete’s Foot – This fungal infection thrives in the moist, warm environment of the feet. The antifungal effects of Listerine make it seem like a sensible home treatment. However, there’s no evidence that Listerine foot soaks can cure athlete’s foot. Antifungal creams and oral medications are more effective. A Listerine foot bath may help temporarily reduce itching and inflammation.

Calluses – Soaking the feet softens thick, hardened skin. Some claim Listerine’s acids help break down calluses quicker. But plain warm water works just as well. Once softened in a foot bath, use a pumice stone to gently rub away dead skin.

Foot Odor – Listerine’s antibacterial properties may curb bacteria growth responsible for foot odor. A Listerine foot soak could provide a cooling, deodorizing effect. But it won’t solve the underlying cause. Try dusting antibacterial foot powder in shoes.

Nail Fungus – Toenail fungus is challenging to treat and may require oral antifungal medication. There’s no good evidence that a Listerine foot bath can cure nail fungus. At best, it may temporarily help reduce infection while using other treatments.

Warts – The high alcohol content of Listerine helps dry out warts on the feet. But it’s unlikely to fully eliminate the human papillomavirus that causes warts. See a dermatologist for medical wart removal methods.

Neuropathy – For people with diabetic nerve damage in the feet, soaking in Listerine brings cooling relief from discomfort and tingling. But it doesn’t treat the nerve damage. Proper diabetes management is key.

Cracked Heels – The moisturizing effect of a foot soak softens and rehydrates dry, cracked heels. However, plain water works just as well as Listerine for this purpose. Use a thick, glycerin-based moisturizer after soaking for even more hydration.

How to Use Listerine for Foot Soaks

If you want to try a Listerine foot bath, here are some tips:

  • Dilute Listerine with warm water at a 1:4 ratio (1 part Listerine to 4 parts water). Soaking in undiluted Listerine may irritate skin.
  • Soak feet for 15-20 minutes daily or a few times per week.
  • Rinse feet after soaking and pat dry.
  • Apply a moisturizer post-soak while skin is still damp.
  • Discontinue use if skin becomes irritated or overly dry.

The Verdict

While a Listerine foot soak may help temporarily reduce foot odor, itching, or irritation, it generally isn’t a cure for foot troubles like athlete’s foot or nail fungus. It should not replace medical treatment for persistent foot conditions. For basic softening of calluses, moisturizing cracked heels, and cooling sore, sensitive feet, a Listerine foot bath may provide modest benefits. But plain warm water soaks work equally well.

In summary, Listerine foot soaks are a safe, inexpensive home remedy to try. But their antimicrobial power seems to be less effective on the feet compared to the mouth. Approach Listerine foot baths as a soothing complement to proper foot care, not a medical treatment. And talk to your doctor about any foot condition that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter remedies. With the right blend of at-home foot care and professional treatment, your feet can stay healthy, clean and odor-free.