Locations:
Search IconSearch

Can Duct Tape Remove Warts?

It’s an effective treatment, but only on certain kinds of warts

Person wrapping finger with duct tape.

Every once in a while, you hear about a home health remedy that’s so wacky, it has to be real. Why? Well, because nobody would believe it otherwise.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

This is one of those times.

If you or your child has a wart, you should really consider putting duct tape on it. Seriously. Not only is it an effective home remedy, but it’s also affordable.

Don’t believe us? Honestly, we can’t blame you. It’s a bit out there. That’s why we asked dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD, to explain why duct tape works, what kind of warts you can use it on and when you need to put down the tape and head to the doctor instead.

How to remove a wart with duct tape

The duct-tape occlusion method is very simple:

  1. Cut a piece of duct tape down so that it will sit comfortably over the wart. Children and adults alike might enjoy the process more if you use duct tape that comes in a fun color or pattern.
  2. Place the tape over the wart and leave it there for approximately five days. The duct tape will likely fall off from time to time. When that happens, replace it with a new piece as soon as you can.
  3. On day five, remove the tape, soak the wart in warm water and use a piece of sandpaper, a pumice stone or an emery board to slough off the top layer of the wart. Dr. Piliang recommends using sandpaper because it’s affordable. You can cut it to size and you can throw it out after using it without feeling like you’ve wasted money.
  4. Leave the wart uncovered overnight (10 to 12 hours).
  5. Put a new piece of duct tape on the wart and start the process over. You should expect to do this process several times — usually, four to six weeks — until the wart is completely gone.

Advertisement

You can double up!

You can also use duct tape in concert with over-the-counter treatments like a 20%–40% salicylic acid gel, says Dr. Piliang. By themselves, these treatments may take weeks or months to work. Together, things could move faster.

Why does duct tape kill warts?

Have you ever noticed that your skin looks a bit odd when it’s been covered with a bandage for a while? Duct tape has a similar effect, says Dr. Piliang.

“Covering warts with duct tape makes the skin wet, pale and wrinkly, which isn’t an ideal environment for a wart,” she explains. She also notes that duct tape is such a strong adhesive that — when you pull it off — you’re likely to remove a layer of the wart along with it.

Some experts think that the chemicals in duct tape’s adhesive could be triggering an immune response, speeding up the healing process. Others note that warts usually resolve by themselves eventually. And maybe keeping it covered isn’t doing anything to treat the wart, but it is preventing the virus from spreading to other parts of your skin.

What kinds of warts can you use duct tape on?

Duct tape occlusion is only an effective treatment for certain kinds of warts on certain parts of your body. Don’t use duct tape if:

  • Your wart is located near mucous membranes (like your mouth, your nasal cavity or around your eyes), or is in close proximity to your armpits or genitals. That skin is very sensitive and could tear.
  • You have periungual or subungual warts (warts under and around your nails). Duct tape is magical, but not that magical.
  • You have genital warts. The strain of HPV that causes genital warts can also cause cervical cancer. Whether you have a cervix or not, you want to get treated as soon as possible, so you don’t risk infecting somebody else.
  • You have plantar warts (warts on your foot). The skin on our feet is pretty tough. Not only is duct tape likely to be less effective on it, but the tape is also likely to fall off a lot.

Advertisement

Side effects

You know the scene in movies where the hero rips the duct tape off the mouth of the dude that’s been kidnapped? You know how said dude never looks super thrilled about it? Now imagine doing it to yourself by choice.

While it’s likely going to be less painful than freezing a wart, for example, that doesn’t mean ripping duct tape off yourself is going to be fun. If you have sensitive skin — or a condition like eczema or psoriasis — it could be downright damaging. And, of course, if you’re allergic to the materials in duct tape, you could end up with a nasty case of contact dermatitis.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that the most common side effects of duct tape occlusion all have to do with skin irritation: bleeding, rash and redness.

What to do if you still have a wart?

Just because treating warts with duct tape is easy doesn’t mean it’s fast. In fact, you can expect the duct tape occlusion method to take weeks. It may even take months.

“If the wart is still there after two months, it’s probably time to speak to your doctor about other options, like freezing or laser treatment,” Dr. Piliang advises.

When to see a doctor

The goal of duct tape occlusion is to avoid a trip to the doctor, but that isn’t always possible. Give a call to the doctor’s office if:

  • The wart is still there after two months. It may be time to consider other treatment options.
  • You have multiple warts. Duct tape occlusion treats the wart, but it doesn’t treat the underlying virus. If you have a lot of warts — or you’re noticing new ones popping up — it may be time to treat the virus itself.
  • You’re immunocompromised or have a condition like diabetes. The virus could spread, or you could end up with a bad infection without realizing it.
  • You’re in pain. While it’s not unheard of, most warts don’t cause pain. If you’re experiencing pain, you may be dealing with a different kind of skin condition.
  • It looks infected. If the wart looks red and puss-filled, or it’s cracking and bleeding, that’s concerning. The wart could be infected, and that fluid could allow the virus causing the wart to spread to other parts of your skin.
  • The wart is changing color. Treat a wart that changes color the same way you would a mole and make an appointment with a doctor immediately.
  • It’s impacting your day-to-day activities. Are you finding it hard to walk? Are you avoiding going out because you’re embarrassed by how it looks? Is the itching becoming unbearable? Then, put down the duct tape and pick up the phone. You don’t have to deal with this by yourself.

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person touching aching ear, with home remedies floating around
March 28, 2024/Ear, Nose & Throat
Home Remedies for an Ear Infection: What To Try and What To Avoid

Not all ear infections need antibiotics — cold and warm compresses and changing up your sleep position can help

Ingrown toenail on big toe
March 27, 2024/Orthopaedics
Ingrown Toenail? Try These Home Remedies

Pain meds, toenail protectors and petrolatum jelly may spare you a trip to a podiatrist

Jar of honey and fresh garlic on cutting board
Is Fermented Garlic Honey Good for Colds?

On their own, honey can help soothe a sore throat and garlic has immunity-boosting properties, but you don’t need to go the fermented route

Person with pink eye
March 22, 2024/Eye Care
Here’s How To Get Rid of Pink Eye Fast

Eye drops and cold water rinses can help speed up healing for viral and allergen-related conjunctivitis, but a bacterial infection will need antibiotics

Applying aloe vera to irritated skin
February 27, 2024/Primary Care
Do Home Remedies for Ringworm Actually Work?

Some natural home remedies may offer relief, but they lack scientific evidence and won’t typically cure the condition

fire cider in a mason jar
Fire Cider: What Is It? And Can It Prevent Illness?

This spicy concoction can do more harm than good, upsetting your stomach and causing painful acid reflux

female soaking in a tub
January 7, 2024/Pregnancy & Childbirth
Home Treatment for Vaginal Tears After Birth

Rinses, sitz baths, ice and medication can help the healing

hands using mortal and pestle with cocoa powder, surrounded by soaps and bath salts
December 19, 2023/Skin Care & Beauty
The Health Benefits of Cocoa Butter

Pure cocoa butter can help keep your skin supple, with a subtly delicious scent

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad