Using duct tape to remove a wart is a home remedy that some people believe can work. However, studies have produced mixed results on its effectiveness, and it can cause skin irritation in some people.
Warts develop as a result of a viral infection that the body takes several months or years to mount an immune response against. Therefore, it can take a while for warts to resolve on their own.
Duct tape wart removal may help people get rid of warts more quickly, but this method requires frequent and repeated applications of duct tape, which can be difficult to keep up.
For this reason, some people might prefer other home remedies or medical treatment options.
In this article, we explain how to perform duct tape wart removal. We also discuss other ways to remove warts.
Proponents of using duct tape for wart removal think that it may work for several reasons. One theory is that the tape deprives the skin cells of oxygen. By “suffocating” the wart, the duct tape makes it more likely that the skin cells will die.
The process of applying and removing the duct tape may also remove additional skin cells, which can make the wart less bulky and noticeable.
However, there is a lack of recent research into using duct tape as a wart removal treatment, and earlier studies have produced mixed results.
One 2002 study found that the duct tape method was significantly more effective than cryotherapy, which involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart. The study included 51 participants ages 3–22.
They received either up to six sessions of cryotherapy, which took place every 2–3 weeks, or 2 months of duct tape application. Warts resolved entirely in 85% of the participants in the duct tape group and in 60% of those in the cryotherapy group.
However, a 2007 study into using adhesive pads to treat warts found that adding duct tape to a breathable fabric called moleskin made no difference to its effectiveness. The 80 adult participants wore either a moleskin pad with duct tape covering the pad or just a moleskin pad.
After 2 months, warts had resolved in 21% of the participants who used the duct tape and in 22% of those who used only the pad.
The authors of a 2014 meta-analysis concluded that the current evidence suggests that duct tape is no better than placebo for wart removal. They examined previous studies that investigated duct tape removal, salicylic acid application, and cryotherapy treatments.
Some researchers point out that a limitation of this research is the difficulty of continually applying the duct tape and keeping it on for 2–3 months. Without proper and continued application, the therapy is unlikely to work.
A person can follow the steps below to use duct tape to remove warts:
- Cut a small piece of duct tape that is large enough to cover the wart and stay on the affected area.
- Clean the wart area and allow it to dry thoroughly. Apply the duct tape to the wart. Some people may first wish to apply a 17% salicylic acid solution to increase the chance that the wart will come off. Salicylic acid solution is available to buy at most drugstores.
- If the duct tape falls off, replace it with another piece.
- Remove the tape once every week. Wash the wart and gently use an emery board, pumice stone, or piece of sandpaper to remove the dead skin cells.
- Allow the wart to dry overnight.
- Reapply the duct tape to the wart for another week.
For the duct tape method to work, a person will usually need to wear the duct tape for a total of 8 weeks. The tape must be occlusive, which means that it does not allow air to escape. Adhesives such as cloth bandages will not have the same effect.
Scientists warn that people who try duct tape wart removal can experience side effects, which may include:
- other skin reactions
Anyone who notices these side effects should stop using the duct tape method straight away. Once the area has healed, they can try using other home remedies or medical treatments instead.
A healthcare professional will be able to offer advice on which options may be best for them.
Skin warts are not medically harmful, but some people may find them unsightly. They can also cause skin picking, especially in children, which can result in skin infections. For these reasons, doctors may sometimes recommend treating bothersome warts.
Examples of medical treatments for warts include:
- Cryotherapy: Doctors spray a short burst of liquid nitrogen onto the wart or apply it with a cotton-tipped applicator. The liquid nitrogen freezes the wart’s skin cells, and they fall off over time. Learn more about freezing warts here.
- Salicylic acid: This natural peeling agent can help slough wart skin cells. However, a person must apply the acid consistently to see the results. Salicylic acid is usually the first-line treatment for warts, according to an article in the journal Paediatrics & Child Health. Learn how this technique works here.
- Laser therapy: Doctors can use lasers, such as a carbon dioxide laser or a pulsed dye laser, to burn off the wart. However, some people may experience skin scarring as a result of undergoing laser therapy.
- Intralesional injections: Doctors can inject medications that have different clinical effects into treatment-resistant warts. For example, they can inject bleomycin to stop the cells dividing, or they may use interferon to stimulate the body to mount an immune response to the virus causing the wart.
The location and size of the wart will often determine the best treatment option.
Salicylic acid applications are a common home remedy for warts. A person can buy these at most drugstores and paint them on, much like nail polish. Salicylic acid patches are also available.
To enhance the effectiveness of this treatment, a person should soak the wart in warm water for about 10 minutes and use an emery board or pumice stone to file away the wart’s skin before applying the salicylic acid.
A person can also purchase freezing solutions for wart treatment at a drugstore. These are not liquid nitrogen, but they work in a similar way.
People should not attempt to apply ice to freeze a wart. Doing this will not be effective, and it is likely to damage the surrounding skin.
Most warts are not medically harmful, but some people dislike their appearance. Without treatment, warts will usually go away within 2–3 years but often sooner.
Duct tape wart removal may help accelerate the process, but a person needs to perform diligent applications over several months for this method to work.
If duct tape removal does not work, many other home remedies and medical treatments are available to try.
If a person has warts that are particularly bothersome or persistent, they can speak to a doctor for advice.