Close-up of a hand holding a bottle of antifungal nail treatment, highlighting the affected green nail. Focus on the solution's label for effective treatment against green nail fungus.

How To Get Rid Of Green Nail Fungus: A Complete Guide

Green nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is an unsightly infection that can cause the nails to thicken, discolor and become brittle. If ignored, it can spread and lead to more serious complications.

Getting rid of green nail fungus requires diligence and consistency, but with the right treatment plan, you can banish it for good.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Soak nails in a 50/50 vinegar and water solution, apply an over-the-counter antifungal lacquer daily, and take oral medications if prescribed by your doctor.

Understanding Green Nail Fungus

What Causes It

Green nail fungus, also known as chloronychia, is caused by a buildup of the pigment called melanin in the nail bed. This discoloration is often the result of a fungal infection, most commonly caused by the dermatophyte Trichophyton rubrum, which accounts for 90% of nail fungal infections.

The fungus lives on keratin, a structural protein found in nails, skin and hair. As the fungus grows under and into the nail, it can disrupt the nail matrix where keratin is produced, leading to increased melanin deposits that show up as green discoloration.

Pseudomonas bacterial infections can also cause green nails. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is commonly found in soil and water and can infect the nail bed, leading to green discoloration as well as nail plate separation and foul odor.

In rare cases, green nails may be caused by skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema, or as a side effect of medication like the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Systemic diseases affecting the kidneys, liver or heart can also manifest with green nails.

Risk Factors

Certain factors put you at increased risk of developing green nail fungus:

  • Wearing artificial nails or nail polish – This can trap moisture and allow fungus to thrive.
  • Injuries to the nail bed or cuticle – Damaged nails are more prone to infection.
  • Walking barefoot in public places – Increased exposure to fungus.
  • Having wet hands frequently – Moisture promotes fungal growth.
  • Smoking or diabetes – Poor circulation can increase infection risk.
  • Weakened immune system – Makes it easier for infections to develop.
  • Use of shared nail tools – Can spread fungus from person to person.

Men aged over 60 are at the highest risk, but anyone can develop green nails if exposed to fungal pathogens. Being proactive and avoiding risk factors whenever possible is key to prevention.

Signs and Symptoms

The most obvious symptom is a greenish discoloration of one or more nails. The green color may be light or dark, solid or in streaks, and affect part or all of the nail plate. As the infection worsens, additional symptoms can include:

  • Thickening or crumbling of the nail
  • White spots or streaks on the nail surface
  • Brittle, distorted or separated nail plate
  • Debris buildup under the nail
  • Foul odor from the nail
  • Pain or swelling around the nail

Green nail fungus affects toenails more often than fingernails. Multiple nails are usually infected at once. The nail may detach from the nail bed over time if left untreated. Seeking early treatment provides the best chance for clearing infection and regrowing a healthy nail.

Diagnosing Green Nail Fungus

When to See a Doctor

Green discoloration in nails can be caused by different conditions, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from a doctor. Here are some guidelines on when to see a medical professional:

  • If the green color is accompanied by other changes like thickening, brittleness or distortion of the nail.
  • If the discoloration spreads to multiple nails.
  • If nail changes are accompanied by pain or discomfort.
  • If over-the-counter antifungal treatments don’t improve the condition after several months.
  • If you have risk factors like a compromised immune system or diabetes.
  • If you suffer from recurrent fungal infections in the nails or skin.

Seeing a doctor promptly can help determine the underlying cause and start appropriate treatment before the infection worsens. Delaying treatment may lead to permanent nail damage and spread of infection to other nails.

Physical Exam and Tests

To diagnose green nail fungus, doctors often begin with a physical exam of your infected nails. They look for characteristic signs like thickened nails, debris under the nail, distorted shape and detached nails. The extent of nail involvement is also assessed.

Your doctor may then clip a tiny nail sample and send it to a lab for a potassium hydroxide (KOH) test. This helps identify fungal elements under the microscope. A fungal culture involves isolating and growing fungi from the sample to identify the specific type.

Other tests that may be done include:

  • Shining a special UV light on the nail to detect fungal presence.
  • Removing nail tissue for a biopsy.
  • Testing nail samples with PCR (polymerase chain reaction) for accurate diagnosis.

Your doctor will also assess if you have any conditions like diabetes or psoriasis that may increase susceptibility to fungal nails. Blood tests may sometimes be ordered to check for such conditions or other infections.

Once green nail fungus is diagnosed, your doctor can prescribe appropriate oral medicines or topical treatments to get rid of the infection.

Home Remedies for Green Nail Fungus

Vinegar Soaks

Vinegar is an effective home remedy for treating green nail fungus due to its antifungal properties. Make a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts warm water. Soak the affected nails in this solution for 15-20 minutes daily.

The acetic acid in vinegar helps kill fungus and prevent further infection. Vinegar soaks have been scientifically proven to treat toenail fungus with a success rate of around 92% according to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Remember to dry your feet thoroughly after the soak.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antifungal that can be applied directly to green nails to kill the fungus. Use a cotton swab to apply undiluted tea tree oil to the infected nail twice daily. Be sure to use 100% pure tea tree oil.

According to the Mayo Clinic, this remedy has a success rate of about 18% for curing nail fungus. The antifungal properties help destroy stubborn fungal infection. However, it may take several weeks or months to see improvement. Be patient!

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a household staple with antifungal abilities. Make a paste with equal parts baking soda and water. Apply it to the affected nails and let it sit for 10 minutes before rinsing. Baking soda creates an alkaline environment that makes it difficult for fungi to thrive.

A small 2007 study found baking soda soaks cured fungal infections in some patients. While more research is needed, it’s an inexpensive remedy to try.


Listerine contains thymol, eucalyptol, and menthol – compounds that have antifungal effects. Soak nails in undiluted Listerine for 30 minutes per day. One study showed a cure rate of about 52% after daily Listerine soaks for several months.

The antiseptic ingredients help kill fungus and prevent further growth. Just be careful, as soaking too long can dry out nails. Pat nails dry after and apply moisturizer to avoid brittleness.

Medical Treatments for Green Nail Fungus

Oral Medications

Oral antifungal medications like terbinafine or itraconazole are often prescribed for treating stubborn green nail fungus infections (also called onychomycosis). These drugs stop the growth of fungus by interfering with their cell membranes.

Terbinafine is usually taken for 6-12 weeks while itraconazole, a broad-spectrum antifungal, is taken for 12 weeks. Oral antifungals have a cure rate of 65-80% for toenail fungus but can cause side effects like headache, diarrhea, rash, or liver damage in some people.

Topical Medications

Topical antifungal nail lacquers and solutions containing ciclopirox or amorolfine can help in milder cases of green nail fungus. These are brushed onto infected nails once or twice daily for up to 48 weeks. The medications penetrate the nail and disable the fungus.

Topicals have a lower cure rate of less than 60% but cause fewer side effects than oral meds. However, they may not penetrate down to the nail bed and may need to be used indefinitely to stop reinfection.

Laser Therapy

Laser treatments that target fungus with focused light beams are also used nowadays. The laser light passes through the nail to zap fungi in the nail bed, without damaging surrounding skin. Multiple sessions are required, about 2 weeks apart.

Clinical studies found laser therapy to have moderate effectiveness of 36-56% cure rate for nail fungus. While safe for most people, laser therapy can sometimes cause pain, swelling or nail discoloration as side effects.

Nail Removal

In severe or persistent cases, temporary surgical removal of the infected nail might be done to get rid of stubborn fungal infections. The nail can be removed either partially or totally depending on the extent of infection.

After that, oral antifungals are given to clear any remaining fungus before the nail regrows. This combo treatment has a high success rate of 85-90% for getting rid of nasty fungal infections. However, it may be uncomfortable during the removal procedure and while waiting for the new nail to grow back.

Preventing Green Nail Fungus

Keep Feet Dry

One of the best ways to prevent green nail fungus is to keep your feet dry. Fungus thrives in warm, moist environments so it’s important to thoroughly dry your feet after bathing, swimming, or exercise. Use a clean towel each time and make sure to dry between the toes.

It’s also a good idea to wear sandals or flip flops when using public showers or pool areas. Staying on paved surfaces rather than damp grass or dirt can also minimize exposure.

Wear Clean Socks and Shoes

Wearing clean, dry socks and rotating shoes daily is another effective way to avoid fungal infections. Sweaty feet provide the perfect condition for fungus to multiply, so socks should be changed often on hot days or after exercise.

Shoes can harbor fungus too, so it’s wise not to wear the same pair two days in a row. Also, avoid sharing shoes with others.

Don’t Share Nail Tools

You should never share tools that come in contact with nails, such as nail clippers, files and scissors. These items can pass fungal spores very easily. Have your own set for personal use only. Salons should disinfect all tools between customers, but it doesn’t hurt to verify that they do.

Trim Nails Straight Across

Trim toenails straight across to avoid ingrown nails, which can allow fungus to enter. Don’t round off corners or dig into the sides. Use clean, sharp clippers so the cut is smooth and clean. File any rough edges with an emery board or nail file. Damaged nails give fungus more place to grab hold.

Get Pedicures Cautiously

Pedicures can be risky due to shared foot baths that may harbor fungus spores. However, you can enjoy pedicures safely by choosing reputable salons with proper sanitation practices. Make sure tools are sterilized between customers and foot tubs are cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant.

Bring your own tools if allowed. It’s also wise to skip callus removers and scrubs that break the skin barrier.


Green nail fungus can be stubborn, but with diligent treatment and preventive care, you can eradicate it for good. See a podiatrist for proper diagnosis and personalized treatment options for the best outcome.

With a combination of oral and topical antifungals, consistent foot hygiene and preventive measures, you can kiss green nail fungus goodbye and get back to showing off pretty, healthy nails.

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