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Warts are a noncancerous lesion that can grow on the skin of both children and adults. Warts spread through skin to skin contact. Plantar warts are a type of wart that grows on the bottom of the feet.
Plantar warts may disappear without treatment, but some safe and effective home remedies may speed up healing.
In this article, we review different home remedies for plantar warts.
Plantar warts are benign growths that appear on the top layer of the skin at the bottom of the feet.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), they are typically skin-colored and feel rough, but some may have brown or gray-black, flat, and smooth lesions.
People may mistake plantar warts for callouses, but warts might be painful when a person presses on them.
Although warts may disappear on their own, treatments are available to help speed up the healing of plantar warts.
Many over-the-counter (OTC) products for treating warts contain salicylic acid as the main ingredient. People can find salicylic acid for wart treatment in gel, liquid, or pad format.
According to the AAD, people should soak the wart in warm water before applying salicylic acid once a day. Sometimes, the healthy skin surrounding the wart can become painful or sore.
If this occurs, the AAD recommend stopping treatment temporarily and restarting after a few days. Warts take weeks to disappear, even with effective therapy, so briefly stopping treatment will not significantly affect the time it takes for the wart to disappear.
Applying duct tape to warts is a convenient and inexpensive treatment.
The AAD suggest changing the tape every few days, which may encourage the top layer of the skin of the wart to come off. After repeated application, the wart may eventually peel off.
However, studies have not confirmed the effectiveness of this home remedy. A 2020 study published in Dermatologic Therapy showed that traditional cryotherapy, or freezing, in a dermatologist’s office is more effective than duct tape therapy. However, the study suggested that duct tape therapy seems safe and may be effective in some circumstances.
Another product available over-the-counter (OTC) is freeze spray for warts.
Manufacturers suggest that freeze spray freezes the wart in a similar way to cryotherapy. However, cryotherapy employs much colder temperatures to destroy the wart.
According to older 2006 research, doctors use liquid nitrogen with a temperature of -196°C.
Pharmacy freeze sprays may only freeze the skin to -70°C and do not work as quickly as liquid nitrogen.
People may require longer treatment times with home freeze sprays. Even after having cryotherapy, people can expect to wait several months before seeing any improvement.
According to a 2012 study in American Family Physician, cryotherapy works better on common warts than plantar warts.
Some people use tea tree oil on warts and other skin infections.
An older 2008 study published in the journal, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, reported one case of successful treatment of warts on a child’s finger using tea tree oil.
In this study, the lesions were treated with tea tree oil once a day for 12 days. The wart disappeared, and the researchers reported that the affected area had completely healed after 12 days.
It is uncertain whether this treatment is effective for plantar warts. There is not enough research to prove the efficacy of tea tree oil for plantar wart removal.
Be aware that tea tree oil is available in a variety of strengths. People can apply some of these directly on the skin, but they must dilute others in a carrier oil. Follow the instructions from the manufacturer.
A 2015 study published in the journal Dermatology and Therapy reported the effectiveness of a topical 2% povidone-iodine solution for treating common warts.
Doctors and other healthcare professionals may use iodine preparations to clean a person’s skin before surgery or other interventions that break the skin barrier.
The preparation the researchers used in this study contained iodine, but they added other ingredients that are not available in pharmacies.
Although the results were promising, there is not enough research to confirm the efficacy of OTC iodine for treating plantar warts.
Zijinding is a Chinese herbal remedy for plantar warts. One study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology identified three case reports of successful treatment of plantar warts with Zijinding paste prepared with white vinegar.
The three participants applied the Zijinding preparation over their plantar warts for 1.5–5 months. The researchers reported significant clinical response and no relapse for at least 10 months after stopping treatment.
There is not enough research to confirm the results of these three case reports.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) virus causes plantar warts.
Warts are contagious. To develop a wart, a person needs to be in direct contact with a source of the virus. This typically through skin-to-skin contact with a person that has warts.
People can get plantar warts from walking barefoot on surfaces where other people walk barefoot, such as at swimming pools and locker rooms.
Depending on the subtype of HPV, one plantar wart may look different from another one. Researchers have identified over 100 different subtypes of HPV.
Doctors have identified certain risk factors for developing plantar warts.
These risks include:
- immunocompromised state
- trauma to the skin
- contact with people who have warts
- certain activities, such as sports, manual labor, walking barefoot
Plantar warts are preventable. The AAD strongly recommend that people wear flip flops or pool shoes in public showers, locker rooms, and pool areas.
Plantar warts are contagious, and people should not touch another person’s warts.
Dermatologists recommend covering the wart and handwashing immediately after touching the wart. Dermatologists do not recommend shaving over a wart, as this can expose the virus to other parts of the body.
Other tips that dermatologists recommend for preventing warts include:
- avoid sharing towels, washcloths, razors, nail clippers, socks and other personal items of a person who has warts
- clean and cover cuts and scrapes
- prevent dry and cracked skin
People should see a doctor if they are not sure if the lesion on their foot is a wart.
According to the AAD, people with many warts on their feet require medical attention and treatment from a dermatologist.
Plantar warts typically do not cause symptoms, but if they hurt, itch, bleed, or burn, medical attention is necessary.
People with weakened immune systems should not try to self-treat plantar warts. It is dangerous to try removing a wart at home, especially for people living with diabetes.
People living with diabetes are at risk of permanent damage to the nerves of the feet, so they should see a doctor for plantar warts.
Plantar warts are a common medical condition. A person can contract the HPV infection via skin to skin contact. To prevent plantar warts, people should avoid walking barefoot in public, especially in pools, gyms, and locker rooms.
Although some plantar warts may disappear without treatment, some home remedies can help heal warts, such as salicylic acid. Other at-home remedies may be effective, but there is not enough research to confirm the efficacy of the other remedies.
Products for plantar wart removal
A person can buy products for plantar wart removal in a drugstore or online.