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Prevent Return of Toenail Fungus: Wash Socks in Very Hot Water

By HERWriter
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hot water washing helps prevent toenail fungus return MonkeyBusiness Images/PhotoSpin

Talking about toenail fungus is not the most exciting topic. However, permanently getting rid of toenail fungus may be something you are struggling with.

You may not have thought of it, but your socks may be the problem.

American Family Physician states that about one-third of skin fungal infections are due to onychomycosis, which is the medical term for nail fungus.

The Free Medical Dictionary says that up to 90 percent of the elderly are affected, men more often than women. Toenails are more affected than fingernails.

Treatment for nail fungus can be challenging. Topical treatments are usually tried first before moving on to oral medications. Oral treatments can have side effects. Sometimes the person has relapses and must be treated again.

Tinea pedis is a common skin fungus that affects the soles of the feet and interdigit areas. It is typically known as athlete’s foot. Medscape states that 70% of the population will be infected with tinea pedis at some time.

While nail fungus is often caused by a different “tinea” such as tinea unguium, American Family physician says that with onychomycosis, “some degree of tinea pedis is almost always present. The infection is usually caused by Trichophyton rubrum, which invades the nail bed and the underside of the nail plate."

Researchers from Israel recently tested to see whether or not laundering socks at high degree water temperatures would kill any fungal spores that may lay dormant in stockings or shoes.

They collected socks from 81 subjects with onychomycosis and tinea pedis. The socks were washed at either 40 degrees Celsius or 60 degree Celsius in a home-type washing machine. The socks were dried at room temperature and fungal cultures were taken from both the heel and toe areas of all the sampled socks, as well as socks used as the control socks.

Socks washed at 40 degrees showed 36 percent positive cultures for fungus. Socks washed at 60 degrees only had 6 percent positive fungal cultures. Trichophyton rubrum, the fungus found in athletes foot, was found in the 40 degree washed socks, but not in the 60 degree washed socks. Aspergillus spp., a type of mold, were found in both groups of socks.

Yeasts were killed during the 40 degree washing of samples.

Journal Watch point out that other studies have shown similar results, that washing clothes in hotter water kills fungus spores. They state that the temperature of 40 degrees is close to that of body temperature so any fungus killed in that temperature wash, may have just occurred because of the detergent.

They recommend that all socks, even those not previously washed, of people who have been treated for onychomyocosis be washed in temperatures above 60 degrees to kill any dormant spores that may still be present. You might even want to wash them twice.

“Fungi are hardy creatures, and socks previously washed at ecologically trendy low temperatures may retain fungal spores waiting to sprout and infect a moist foot or nail."


Sock It to Me by Mark V. Dahl, MD reviewing Amichai B et al. Int J Dermatol 2013 Nov. Web Jan 4, 2014.

Amichai MD, Boaz. et al. The effect of domestic laundry processes on fungal contamination of socks. Web Jan 4, 2014.

PHILLIP RODGERS, M.D., and MARY BASSLER, M.D., Treating Onychomycosis. Am Fam Physician. 2001 Feb 15;63(4):663-673. Web Jan 4, 2014

Tinea Pedis. Web Jan. 4, 2014.

Onychomycosis. The Free Medical Dictionary by Farlex. Web Jan. 4, 2014.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Instead of "all socks, even those not previously washed" don't you mean "all socks, even those previously washed"?

April 30, 2016 - 5:41am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Actually what I had is correct. From the source it says: 


"Aspergillus spp. molds seem able to survive this temperature. Perhaps it is prudent to recommend laundering all socks (previously washed and unwashed) at 60ºC after treatment of onychomycosis. Fungi are hardy creatures, and socks previously washed at ecologically trendy low temperatures may retain fungal spores waiting to sprout and infect a moist foot or nail. "

Thanks for the close reading though.  Made me go back and check the source.



May 1, 2016 - 10:29am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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