Splinters occur when a small, thin fragment of wood or other material punctures the skin and becomes embedded. In most cases, it will be possible to remove the splinter at home. However, anyone attempting this should always wash their hands and any equipment they will use first. If the area becomes infected, it may be necessary to see a doctor.
In this article, we cover simple methods to remove a splinter and explain when a person should seek medical attention.
It is possible to remove a splinter at home using one of several methods. The best method depends on:
- the location of the splinter
- how deep the splinter is
- the size of the splinter
- the direction of the splinter
Below are the most common methods for getting rid of a splinter:
Most people with a small, easy-to-access splinter will use tweezers to remove it. Tweezers make it possible to pinch the splinter and pull it out.
This method involves:
- disinfecting the tweezers with rubbing alcohol
- pinching the end of the splinter between the tweezer’s arms
- pulling the splinter out gently and slowly
Duct tape is a very strong tape that can help remove a deeper splinter. This method is often painless.
A person can use duct tape to remove a splinter by:
- cleaning the area thoroughly
- applying duct tape to the splinter
- waiting about 30 minutes
- pulling the tape off
If this method does not work the first time, it is worth trying again.
Needle and tweezers
When the splinter has fully punctured the skin, and no part of the material is visible, a person may be able to expose part of it using a needle. Once part of the splinter is exposed, they can then use the tweezers to remove it.
A person can remove a splinter using a needle and tweezers by:
- disinfecting both the needle and tweezers with rubbing alcohol
- puncturing the skin with the needle over the part of the splinter closest to the surface
- pinching the splinter with the tweezers and pulling it out gently and slowly
Use a solution to draw out the splinter
While this method still needs medical testing, some people try soaking the area in a solution in an attempt to draw out a buried splinter.
Some commonly used solutions include:
- hydrogen peroxide
- Epsom salt mixed with water
- baking soda mixed with water
- lavender oil
- warm water
Using one of these solutions, try removing the splinter by:
- soaking the splinter in the liquid for a few minutes
- using a sanitized pair of tweezers to remove the splinter once it has surfaced
However, if a splinter is completely beneath the skin, it is usually best to visit a doctor to have it removed.
It is important for a person to assess their wound before choosing a removal method. Things to look for include:
- Is part of the splinter sticking out?
- Where is the splinter located?
- In which direction is the splinter going?
Before getting started, a person should thoroughly wash their hands with soapy water and sanitize any equipment that they plan to use, such as tweezers. Always clean the wound after removal to help avoid infection.
If available, use a magnifying glass to help see the splinter. It is also possible to use a lamp or bright natural light from a window.
Finally, it is essential never to squeeze or pinch the skin around the splinter. Applying pressure can cause the splinter to break into more pieces or push it further below the surface.
A person should seek medical attention when:
- there is redness or discoloration around the splinter
- the area swells
- the wound is leaking pus
- the splinter is large
- the skin is warm to the touch
- the splinter is near the eye
- the wound is excessively painful
- the splinter is stuck deep in the skin
A splinter is a common but painful injury that it is usually easy to treat at home. Before removing a splinter, a person should be sure to follow proper precautions, such as washing their hands and sanitizing any equipment.
A person should ask a medical professional to remove the splinter if it is very large, is positioned near the eye, or appears infected.