How I cured my thick, unsightly toenails for under $10

Spring and summer is coming (yes, it is actually coming, contrary to the crazy weather this year) and we are looking at shorts and sandals or flip-flops making a comeback. For many of us men and possibly some of you women, that puts us in a bit of a predicament. Approximately 3% of the population is affected by unsightly, thick, and discolored toenails; primarily caused by fungal infections.


I am one of this 3%. I blame the fact that I wear heavy boots 90% of the year (at least) and quite honestly, do not make a huge attempt to take care of my feet. Nonetheless, it is embarrassing and people who suffer from this condition are self-conscious about it.

Several years ago, I spoke with a doctor about getting a referral to a dermatologist to get the problem fixed. By that point, two of my toenails started getting very thick and difficult if not painful to keep trimmed. One large toenail also started curling under on one side, adding extra pain and trimming difficulty. My doctor, also a bit of a whole-health enthusiast, told me that he could but the process was long, not guaranteed to work, and I needed to consider my decision. One common medication used to treat this fungus causes heavy strain on the liver and can lead to damage, especially taking it for the six months or longer needed to see good results. I’m not a health fanatic, but I certainly do not want to ruin my liver just to clear up a couple of toenails.


I decided not to act on the referral. Years later, the problem only grew worse. I decided that I needed to get this thing under control once-and-for-all. The pain at times, especially depending on the style of boots and shoes I wore, was almost unbearable. It got to the point that I wanted to just have a doctor remove the toenail altogether, though I’m not convinced I could have gotten one to do it.

nail_fungus_1Instead, I searched online for home remedies. There were a lot of them. What I ended up going with was tea tree oil. I started by filing my nail down as far as I could from the top and applied skin lotion to soften it. (A normal metal file or emery board works fine.) Immediately, the nail uncurled, eliminating almost all of the associated pain. I applied the lotion for a couple of days, just to ensure it was good and soft. Then, I started using a cotton swab to apply tea tree oil to the nail. I did this two or three times per day for a few days, then scaled back to once a day or every other day. Then, I sat back and kept my fingers crossed.

Two months later, my nails looks healthy, clear, is back to normal thickness, and hasn’t started curling again whatsoever. Another nail trim or two and the previous damage will have grown out completely. Best of all, my liver is still in great shape and I paid less than $10 to do it all.

Bring on the flip-flops, baby!

*Disclaimers: All images were retrieved online. These are not my feet (I didn’t have before photos.) As with any home remedy or medical treatment, consult your doctor before attempting. Use caution when using Tea tree oil as some people’s skin can be sensitive to it. This remedy worked for me, but please do not construe this article as medical advice. See our legal page for additional disclaimers. Featured image courtesy of http://www. groomingguys. com/grooming-tips/overcoming-the-agony-of-da-feet/.


The Beginning
About Brandon P. Duncan

Brandon is a dad, husband, US Soldier, and co-founder of Dads Round Table.
When not knee-deep in one of those things, he can often be found tinkering with a woodworking project, writing, drawing, or Photoshopping something... or napping... or he's hurt himself again... or... something...

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  1. It would’ve been good to see before & after shots of your toe nails.

    • Brandon P. Duncan says:

      By the time I had the guts to put my nasty feet out there, I was already well into the process and was clearing up. I didn’t have the before shots.

      • Steve says:

        Thanks for your post I served in the army for 10 years and not wear work boots all the time too and it’s my big toes nails what are effected I shall try this so many thanks

  2. Where did you get the tea tree and what brand?

    • Brandon P. Duncan says:

      I got mine from Wal-Mart. Brands will vary by area. Just look to see what they have in the health section near the pharmacy.

      • Thanks! Will let you know how it works.

        • Yea I need to try this as well, so let me know how you make out Frances. Both my big toes are thicker then usual and both are curling like your Brandon… crossing fingers this corrects the issue.

      • brian says:

        If you got it at Wal Mart, can I even hope I’ll find it at another Wal Mart.

  3. Janalou Sonafrank says:

    Thanks for this!! My husband describes his as planks. I admit they are the thickest I’ve ever seen….approximately 1/8-1/4 inch thick. He seriously broke my nippers, so we ended up using a set of side-cuts (dykes) after softening them and thinning them with a file. We’re trying this next. Thankyou for the post.

    • Brandon P. Duncan says:

      Goodness! Best of luck to you, seriously. Just filing them down alone will feel a lot better, guaranteed.

      • Dawn says:

        LOL @ “Goodness!”! Your reaction to that description is too funny! Anyway, thank you for sharing, Brandon.

  4. rick f says:

    Im gonna try this…tea tree oil huh? My toes are further gone than the pics. I got the same referral. Pills for six months that might dammage the liver. Well i have six months till summer so ill try that.

  5. Evelyn C says:

    I got rid of athlete’s foot and fixed my thick, curled toenail by putting baking soda in my socks regularly. I had been using tea tree oil when I had a flare up, but then I had one on vacation in a rental house and had no oil. I thought the baking soda would change the pH and maybe make the environment inhospitable for the athlete’s foot fungus – I was desperate because of the itching. Well, in one day the top layer of skin fell off, but I kept going. I’ve been doing it since August and have had no sign of athlete’s foot and as a bonus, my nail that has been gross for years has cleared up! The nail took a couple months, but the itching went away in a day or two. With any of these treatments you must continue long past the disappearance of symptoms to make sure the fungus is all gone.

  6. Robert says:

    I was told by a dermatologist that I have pencil toes and there is no cure. I have nothing to lose. I will be giving this a try. Wish me luck.

  7. wises4057 says:

    I have to say, I like this idea….mine are THICK…and i mean THICK….I had to have them completely pulled out when I was younger(played soccer and kept getting in-grown toenails). When they finally grew back they looked distorted and very very thick with a yellowish color. The doctor gave me the same response you got “we can pull the nails again and let them grow back and just use the meds for x amount of time, but it can be hard on your liver”….need less to say, I passed lol. I am DEFINITELY gonna try this, cause I have a new friend and shes all excited about going to the beach with me….which i havent done in years because of this….so I REALLY hope this works!! thank you!

  8. Robbie from the UK says:

    Thanks for the tip. Sounds like a good plan to me. I am definitely going to give this a try. Good old internet eh fellas!!!

  9. karan says:

    This sounds great Brandon, I just wish I could try it. You see, I have a foot phobia and I can’t touch my feet at all. If they itch, I have to scratch it on my leg. It’s a horrible thing to live with not being able to touch your feet. When I was very young my father, an alcoholic, used to take his teeth out of his mouth and put my feet in his mouth and pretend to eat them. He thought this was very funny. And now at the age of 49, I still can not touch my feet. It takes me a week just to trim my thick nails, and that’s one foot. My hands shake and I get very nervous when I trim my nails I can’t even imagine putting a file on my toes. But kudos to the rest of you.

    • sarah says:

      Guess I’m not the only one who can’t touch her foot and that makes all very difficult. I’ve heard great things about that oil. I seriously have to get over my phobia. This gave me hope. My toenail is curling and I don’t know how to make it stop! 🙁 hate this haven’t been to the beach in years.

      • Angela M says:

        I don’t have your phobia but you can use what I am doing as an option… you can by tea tree oil in a foot soak (it is granuals that dissolve). I read good things about this so I am giving it a shot. I’ve done the soak 3 times so far and the pain is better. No foot touching required 🙂

    • Rachel says:

      A foot phobia? What is that?! How weird!

  10. Sharon Maxwell says:

    My husbands are so bad he actually has holes in his big toenails and doesn’t have the pain in them as he used to. All ten nails are infact thick and hard to cut. We will try the tree oil suggestion…thanks for the tip. I really hope this helps heal them a little.

  11. Derek says:

    For the application of the Tea Tree Oil, was it solely on the nail or after trimming, underneath the nail between the toe and the nail or both?

  12. Suzi says:

    Does anybody know if it would still work you put the Teatree oil on published toenails? I’m trying the oil but I’m going to the beach soon and would like to wear polish. Thanks

    • Suzi says:

      Polished toenails not published. Sorry, autocorrect got me

      • Pat says:

        They sell tea tree oil nail polish on amazon

  13. margie says:

    thanks for the tip, I will sure try the tea tree oil.

  14. Nicole says:

    Just to clarify.

    You filed the nail down, not from the end of the toenail but across the top, then put on lotion to soften?

  15. CC McCabe says:

    I’m going to try this remedy. I’ve got nothing to lose except my poor foot image. I haven’t been happy with my non sandal worthy toes for many years… decades. This is a great site and evidently good not only for dads.
    Thank you, Brandon.

  16. Sandi says:

    waiting for answers

  17. alita says:

    When you say you filed your nail from the top down, do you mean filing the whole flat top surface of the nail, or just the top end/edge of the nail? Thanks-

  18. alita says:

    Oops never mind! Saw this was asked before-

  19. 00pabk00 says:

    I am not sure I follow this with regard to getting toe nails thinned out and more importantly uncurled. Filing across the top of the nail makes it shorter but not thinner. It makes sense that the tee tree oil will kill the fungus. How does it thin and uncurl the toe nails? Also, does the tee tree oil work if your toe nails are polished? Thanks.

  20. brian says:

    No woman has ever remained with me cause of my thick big toe nail.

  21. TruthAnyhow says:

    This was awesome. My pinky toe is thick and I will try this.

  22. Sylvia says:

    Been trying this for about a week. Hope it works!!

  23. KD says:

    I tried this method and it works really well. Unfortunately, I had to stop as my dog accidentally got a tiny drop of tea tree oil on her and it nearly killed her. I’ll either have to find a different treatment or a safer way to use it around my dogs. Maybe a tea tree coated cotton ball under a bandage and a pair of socks.

    • Denise says:

      I am so glad you said something about it alsmost killing your dog, I was thinking of trying this until i read that. I may try it over the winter when I pretty much wear socks all the time….it would kill me to know I did something that hurt my pups.

    • rhonda says:

      Silver shield gel by natures sunshine also works great a non toxic

  24. NJ says:

    12/29/15, 64yrs … Big toe fungus, only one toe, since I was a teenager. I also have tried tea tree oil, but I diluted it with sesame oil once & olive oil the 2nd time. This solution definitely improved the nail but I can’t say it ‘killed’ the fungus. I’ll try it straight. I am assuming that’s what you did as you didn’t talk of any carrier oil. By the way I did have some ?bites? on my forearm this past summer. Never saw a mosquito or bug, didn’t look like spider bites, but REALLY itched. I used the hair dryer method of stopping the itch and I thought I was done with it until approximately 1 month ago and the itch and bumps (more than before) came back … and of course …. I scratched and scratched AND scratched. I used the hair dryer on them again to stop the itch and this time used the tea tree oil mixture. Maybe it’s poison ivy. If so, hope I can find what re-infecting me. Time will tell. Thanks so much for sharing….I believe it’s why we are here….and it brings me joy to watch it happen.

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