Can Duct Tape Get Rid of Warts?

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on February 13, 2018Written by Kathryn Watson on February 13, 2018

Warts, also known as common warts, are small bumps on your skin that are caused by a virus. They’re most common in children and young adults. Warts usually go away without treatment, but they can take several years to fully go away. However, some people might want to get rid of their warts faster.

Duct tape is a popular home remedy for warts, but it isn’t a good idea for everyone. Keep reading to find out if you should use duct tape to get rid of a wart.

How to use duct tape to get rid of warts

To use this remedy:

  1. Apply a small piece of duct tape directly to the area of your wart and go about your day.
  2. Once every three to six days, remove the duct tape and rub the wart with an emery board or pumice stone. You may also consider soaking the wart in warm water while it’s exposed.
  3. Replace the duct tape with a new piece after 10 to 12 hours of air exposure.

This process is called “duct tape occlusion,” and it should remove the wart, layer by layer. It may take several weeks for this method to fully get rid of a wart.

Some doctors recommend using salicylic acid as an over-the-counter topical treatment for warts. You can find a wart removal treatment that contains salicylic acid at nearly any drugstore. Using a treatment like this in addition to duct tape could help your wart go away faster.

Why does duct tape get rid of warts?

Warts are a virus within the body. They can reoccur. Unlike other treatments, duct tape doesn’t seek to treat the underlying virus that causes the wart or to identify the “root” of the wart. Instead, covering a wart with duct tape prevents the virus from spreading further by stopping the wart from ing other parts of your skin.

Duct tape is made of three layers: a strong, stretchy layer that resembles a fabric; a mesh layer; and an adhesive chemical layer. The combination of strength in the upper layers and chemical adhesion in the bottom layer might be a clue to what makes duct tape work to treat warts.

The duct tape adheres to the top layer of the wart. When you tear the tape off, a layer of the wart will often come off with it. This may be less painful than remedies like freezing. Additionally, it uses fewer chemicals than over-the-counter oral treatments and is more cost-effective than laser treatment.

There is that seems to demonstrate that duct tape works better for wart treatment than other methods, such as freezing. But there’s also that concludes treating a wart with duct tape is no better than a placebo treatment. One study claims that duct tape is for speeding up the rate at which warts go away. But almost every study that looked into the science of this treatment has had a relatively small sample size.

More clinical research is needed to discover if, and why, duct tape works to get rid of warts.

What to know before you use this method

Avoid using duct tape on a wart that is:

  • near your genitals
  • under your armpits
  • close to one of your mucous membranes (inside your nose or mouth)

Plantar warts, which occur on your heels or other parts of your feet, may be more resistant to these treatments because the layers of skin on your feet tend to be more difficult to remove.

If you have genital warts, you should be examined by a doctor. Human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes topical and genital warts, can be transmitted sexually. Women with certain strains of HPV may be more at risk for cervical cancer. Since men and women can spread genital warts sexually, you should be tested to see what strain of HPV you have before you try any home treatments for your warts.

Duct tape can cause redness, bleeding, rashes, and pain upon removal. If you have sensitive skin, this method is not a good choice.

Talk to your doctor before trying home remedies if your warts:

  • are painful
  • interfere with your daily activities
  • crack and bleed

These are symptoms of other types of skin growths.

The bottom line

Using duct tape to treat warts won’t work for everyone. And the data that we have about treating warts with duct tape is still inconclusive, but it’s probably a low-risk approach. Other approaches such as topical salicylic acid and freezing (cryotherapy) might be a better choice. If you try this remedy without success, remember that most warts will eventually go away without treatment. See a dermatologist if you’re concerned about a wart’s appearance or if you have warts that keep coming back. 

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