Warts are skin lesions that develop due to human papillomavirus (HPV). There is currently no cure for HPV, but certain treatments and home remedies for warts can speed up healing.

In children and adolescents, most warts will clear up on their own within around 1–2 years.

This article will look at home remedies for warts and how to use them. It will also look at some things that people should not do for warts, some options for medical treatment, and when to speak with a doctor.

A woman bending down while using freezing spray as a remedy for warts on the leg.Share on Pinterest
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Warts are skin bumps and lesions that develop due to HPV. They are common in children and teenagers, but anyone can get them.

There are several types of wart, including:

  • common warts, which often occur on the hands
  • plantar warts, which often grow on the soles of the feet
  • flat warts, which can appear anywhere and often occur in large numbers
  • filiform warts, which resemble thin threads

Warts are contagious. Anyone with warts should try to avoid touching them unnecessarily and wash their hands immediately after doing so.

Some home remedies that people may find helpful for warts include:

1. Duct tape

Duct tape is a popular home remedy for warts. However, according to an article in the journal Canadian Family Physician, there is limited evidence to suggest that it helps.

Still, if a person wants to try it, there are no known side effects associated with it.

To try using the duct tape method:

  1. Apply a piece of duct tape to the wart.
  2. After 4–7 days, remove the tape and clean the wart.
  3. Remove any dead skin by gently exfoliating the area, and reapply another piece of duct tape 12 hours later.
  4. Repeat these steps for 4–6 weeks.

2. Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a peeling agent that people use for general skin care, acne treatment, and other dermatological conditions. However, it can also help with treating warts.

People can use salicylic acid patches or gels to speed up wart healing and destroy cells that HPV is affecting. For salicylic acid to be effective, a person needs to continue using it for 2–3 months.

Salicylic acid is also in aspirin. Aspirin is a salicylate that a person can crush and mix with a few drops of water. This will make a paste that a person can apply directly to the wart.

It is important to note that salicylic acid can increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV light. While a person is using salicylic acid, they should always apply SPF before going outside.

3. Freezing

Cryotherapy is a standard medical treatment for warts. However, people can also purchase over-the-counter (OTC) kits and products to freeze warts off at home.

Many pharmacies stock sprays that can freeze warts. A pharmacist can help someone choose the best option and tell them how to use it.

Some people should not use these products. This includes people with warts on the hands or feet who also have health conditions that affect those areas, such as diabetes.

In these cases, freezing the skin could cause harm or potentially lead to nerve damage. If someone has an underlying condition, they should speak with a doctor before attempting to treat warts at home.

4. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a popular home remedy for a number of conditions, including warts.

Some people claim that the acid in the vinegar works in a similar way to salicylic acid. However, there is no firm evidence to suggest that ACV works for this purpose.

To try the ACV method:

  1. Mix two parts ACV with one part water.
  2. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and apply it to the wart to soak for 20 minutes before rinsing off.
  3. Repeat these steps on a daily basis. Stop using ACV if it causes burning or irritation.

When treating warts, it is important to avoid the following:

Physical removal

People should never try to remove warts by cutting them off. This approach carries a significant risk of worsened infections and scarring.

Additionally, doing this does not prevent the warts from coming back.

Shaving and scratching

Shaving areas of skin where warts are present causes tiny tears that allow HPV to infiltrate. This can cause more warts to develop. For example, if a person shaves an area with warts and then shaves the area around their genitals, they may develop warts there as well.

The same is true for other habits that cause small injuries in the skin, including:

  • nail or cuticle biting
  • skin picking
  • picking hangnails

Any of these can cause HPV to spread to other areas of the body. As a result, it is best to avoid unnecessarily touching warts. People can cover them with patches to help prevent HPV transmission.

Unproven home remedies

People should also be wary of home remedies for warts that they find online. Many home remedies are unproven, and not all of them will be safe.

Some examples of unproven home remedies for warts include:

  • aloe vera
  • banana peels
  • orange peels
  • pineapple
  • potatoes

There is a possibility that some of these substances could help, but there is no scientific evidence to suggest that they work for this purpose.

In general, it is best to stick with proven remedies and treatments, as these will have the highest chance of success.

There are a number of effective treatments for warts that a doctor can prescribe, including:

  • Cantharidin: This substance causes a blister to develop underneath the wart, killing the cells. After a week, a doctor can remove the wart.
  • Cryotherapy: This approach involves using a special solution to freeze the wart and kill the affected cells. It is the most common treatment for common warts, though it can cause dark spots in people with dark skin tones.
  • Electrosurgery and curettage: Curettage involves cutting or scraping the wart away, while electrosurgery involves burning it off. Doctors may use a combination of these methods for some types of wart.
  • Excision: This involves a doctor cutting the wart off.
  • Chemical peels: If someone has flat warts, which often occur in clusters, doctors may use chemical peels to treat a larger area of skin. The peeling solution will contain exfoliants, including salicylic acid, at a stronger concentration than a person can buy over the counter.
  • Laser treatment: Lasers can burn the wart tissue off. However, dermatologists usually reserve this approach for warts that do not respond to other treatments.
  • Immunotherapy: People with severe warts or a compromised immune system may benefit from immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s immune response to HPV.

The treatments a person benefits from can depend on the severity and location of their warts, their age, and their individual response.

A person should seek medical advice if they have:

  • a wart on the face or genitals
  • a large number of warts
  • warts that hurt, burn, itch, or bleed
  • a wart that changes color
  • warts and a compromised immune system

A person should also speak with a doctor if they have not received an official diagnosis for their lesions. Many other skin conditions can resemble warts, so a doctor can rule other explanations out.

In children, warts will usually go away on their own within 1–2 years. During that time, warts are usually a cosmetic concern rather than a risk to their health. A person can speak with a doctor if they would like to discuss ways of speeding up healing for this reason.

Warts are not usually harmful, but a person may wish to speed up their healing due to pain or cosmetic concerns.

Home remedies for warts — such as salicylic acid, duct tape, or ACV — may help. People can also purchase OTC wart remedies or visit a doctor for advice and treatment.