Have you ever had a wart? Most people have had at least one at some point. These skin growths may be ugly, but they are not usually dangerous. Although they often go away on their own, this can take a long time, up to two years (StatPearls, May 13, 2019). Waiting for them to resolve may require more patience than most people can muster.
What causes warts? When the human papillomavirus invades the top layer of skin, the response is an overgrowth of keratin. This hard protein creates rough bumps, usually skin-colored, but sometimes darker than the surrounding skin. Because they are caused by a virus, warts can spread. If you touch a wart, wash your hands well afterward.
Dermatologists frequently remove warts by freezing them off, cutting them out or burning them off with electrosurgery. This slash-and-burn approach hasn’t changed much for decades. Though it often works, people would sometimes prefer to treat their warts at home.
One popular home remedy for warts is duct tape. Although this approach hasn’t been well-studied, early research showed that it worked as well as freezing (Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, October 2002).
To use this approach, apply a small piece of duct tape, the size of the wart. Leave it in place for a week, then remove it, wash the wart and sand it down with an emery board. After 12 hours, apply a new piece of duct tape and repeat the cycle for six weeks if necessary (Canadian Family Physician, May 2019).
One reader offered this testimonial for using duct tape on plantar warts on the soles of the feet:
“I have found the original style of very sticky gray duct tape to be the best cure for warts. Years ago, I bought used shoes at a thrift store. It took me a while to realize that’s where the plantar warts had come from.
“For over a year, I tried a paste of salicylic acid compounded by a pharmacy per my doctor’s instructions. I peeled and peeled the skin that was killed by the acid, and finally solved the problem, but it was time-consuming and painful.
“Years later, I got another wart. I tried the duct tape method, and the wart came out of my skin into the tape within two weeks. My best guess is that the duct tape somehow causes the body to reject the wart. I did not have a recurrence.
“Wash the foot bottom thoroughly with soap, rinse and dry well. Make a patch of tape that you have not stuck your fingers over (otherwise it will not stick as well). Put it on the spot and make sure it adheres well. The idea is to keep the tape stuck on the spot 24/7. Check it a few times daily to make sure it is still in place. Replace the tape after showering, or whenever it comes off. The wart will come off into the tape when you pull it off during changing within a few weeks.
“Don’t wear other people’s shoes. If you try on shoes, new or used, first put on at least a nylon footlet or sock to protect yourself and others.”
Keeping the wart covered with a piece of duct tape has the advantage of isolating the virus from contact. Dermatologists often recommend wearing flip-flops at the pool or in public locker rooms to keep from picking up or spreading plantar warts.
King Features Syndicate