The minimum inhibitory doses (MIDs) of essential oils by vapour contact to inhibit the growth of Trichophyton mentagrophytes and Trichophyton rubrum on agar medium were determined using airtight boxes. Among seven essential oils examined, cinnamon bark oil showed the least MID, followed by lemongrass, thyme and perilla oils. Lavender and tea tree oils showed moderate MID, and citron oil showed the highest MID, being 320 times higher than that of cinnamon bark oil. The MID values were less than the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values determined by agar dilution assay. Furthermore, the minimum agar concentration (MAC) of essential oils absorbed from vapour was determined at the time of MID determination as the second antifungal measure. The MAC value by vapour contact was 1.4 to 4.7 times less than the MAC remaining in the agar at the time of MIC determination by agar dilution assay. Using selected essential oils, the anti-Trichophyton activity by vapour contact was examined in more detail. Lemongrass, thyme and perilla oils killed the conidia, inhibited germination and hyphal elongation at 1-4 micrograms ml-1 air, whereas lavender oil was effective at 40-160 micrograms ml-1 air. The in-vivo efficacy of thyme and perilla oils by vapour contact was shown against an experimental tinea pedis in guinea pigs infected with T. mentagrophytes. These results indicated potent anti-Trichophyton action of essential oils by vapour contact.