How to get rid of plantar warts

By Dr. Anna H. Chacon, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology Feb 09, 2022 • 8 min

Plantar warts are warts that occur on the bottoms of the feet.

While plantar warts are almost always harmless, they can be very painful if they occur in a spot on the foot that supports your weight. Plantar warts are very common, and they typically go away on their own. However, although some plantar warts disappear in a couple weeks or months, it can take as long as a couple of years for them to go away.

If you have plantar warts and want them removed, you have a number of options for treating them at home, or you can visit your healthcare provider for plantar wart removal. Here's what you need to know about getting rid of plantar warts.

Over-the-counter wart treatments

There are wart treatments that are available over the counter for home use.

  • Salicylic acid is available in a number of over-the-counter plantar wart removal products, including gels, liquids and patches. These range in concentration from 17% to 40%. For warts on thick skin, use a product with a higher concentration, and for those on thinner, more sensitive skin, use a lower concentration.

To remove warts with salicylic acid:

  1. Soak the plantar wart in water for 15 minutes to soften it.
  2. Use a pumice stone or emery board to remove the top layer of dead skin.
  3. Rinse and thoroughly dry the wart.
  4. Apply the salicylic acid product to the wart. Try to avoid getting it on the surrounding skin. Allow the product to dry before putting on shoes or socks.
  5. Repeat these steps once or twice a day until the wart goes away.

It can take as long as three months for the wart to go away. Once the wart is gone, continue treatment for another week or two to help prevent it from growing back.

  • Freeze sprays are another over-the-counter option for plantar wart removal. These products typically contain a mix of dimethyl ether and propan. The product is briefly applied to the surface of the wart to freeze it. When using this cryotherapy method, it is important to follow the instructions on the package carefully to avoid burning the skin.

Home remedies for warts

While using duct tape isn't a highly researched remedy for plantar warts, the studies that have been done show mixed results. Still, anecdotal evidence shows that for some people, duct tape is a tried-and-true wart remedy, and it's worth a try if you're not too keen on having to apply salicylic acid to the wart every day. Scientists aren't sure why duct tape works, but some suspect it may suffocate the wart—or simply remove the skin and virus in layers until the wart disappears.

To treat a wart with duct tape, choose the classic silver variety, which is stickier than other types. Follow these steps:

  1. Soak the wart for 15 minutes.
  2. Gently file the wart with an emery board or pumice stone.
  3. Rinse and thoroughly dry the wart.
  4. Place a piece of duct tape directly over the wart so that it extends beyond the perimeter of the wart. Press firmly to create a strong bond.
  5. Leave the duct tape on for up to a week. If it falls off, replace it.
  6. On the sixth or seventh day, remove the duct tape, soak and file the wart, and leave it uncovered overnight.
  7. The next day, reapply the tape, and repeat the same process until the wart disappears.

Some people remove warts with salicylic acid treatment combined with a duct tape patch.

Can you pull out a plantar wart with tweezers?

No, never try pulling out plantar warts with tweezers. Pulling out a plantar wart yourself is extremely painful, and it's unlikely that you'll get all of it. This means it's more likely that it'll grow back. Pulling out plantar warts with tweezers can also lead to a serious infection.

Can you cut off a plantar wart?

No, never attempt to cut off a plantar wart at home. If you want your wart completely removed, visit your healthcare provider.

Plantar wart treatment by your healthcare provider

For complete plantar wart removal, visit your healthcare provider, who will use one of a few effective methods for getting rid of plantar warts, including:

Cryotherapy. One of the most commonly used plantar wart removal methods involves freezing them off, a procedure known as cryotherapy. To freeze plantar warts, your healthcare provider will swab or spray liquid nitrogen onto the wart and a small area surrounding the wart. The liquid nitrogen is extremely cold and burns the skin, killing the virus-infected cells. Freezing plantar warts is painful and causes redness and, in some cases, blisters. It typically takes several treatments spaced two to three weeks apart to freeze plantar warts completely off.

Electrodessication. Also known as zapping and cutting or cautery and curettage, electrodessication involves drying the wart with an electric needle and using a small, scoop-like instrument called a curette to dig out the wart. Electrodessication typically leaves scarring, and it's not generally recommended for plantar warts unless they don't respond to other treatments.

Other plantar wart treatment methods

Other options your healthcare provider might recommend for plantar wart removal include:

  • Cutting the wart out with a scalpel, which produces similar results as electrodessication, including possible scarring.
  • Prescription drugs like topical imiquimod, an immunotherapy drug, or topical fluorouracil, a chemotherapy drug. These are applied to the wart as a cream. The chemotherapy drug bleomycin is a plantar wart treatment medication that's injected into the wart.
  • Intralesional immunotherapy, which involves testing the patient for a positive reaction to skin test antigens for mumps, Candida or Trichophyton. If the test is positive, the wart is injected with the antigen, which causes an allergic response that breaks down the HPV virus to remove the wart.

If your plantar warts aren't causing you pain or discomfort, you can let them go away on their own. But if they're painful, itchy or bothersome, visit your healthcare provider for advice on plantar wart treatment. Many healthcare providers will recommend over-the-counter treatments first. If your wart doesn't respond to these treatments, your healthcare provider will explain your options and help you decide which removal method is best for you.

Published February 2022.

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