Some warts disappear over time, but others may need treatment. With wart medications, such as salicylic acid, the wart should peel away in stages until it is as flat as the skin. If this does not happen, the treatment may not be working.

Warts are harmless growths that often appear on the hands and feet. People looking to remove warts can self-treat them at home or seek medical advice.

If a person has a weakened immune system or an underlying health condition, such as diabetes, they should check with a doctor before removing any warts.

This article looks at the different types of warts and the treatment options. It also explains how to know when wart treatment has been effective.

A healthcare professional wearing a green glove and holding a device to remove warts.Share on Pinterest
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Warts are harmless skin growths that vary in appearance depending on their type. They can occur anywhere on the body but commonly affect the hands.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes warts, which can readily pass between people in close contact.

Wart treatments work by removing the wart rather than curing HPV. Due to this, warts may reoccur after treatment because the virus remains.

About two⁠–thirds of warts resolve by themselves over 12⁠–24 months, leaving no scarring or side effects.

However, if this is not the case or a person wishes to remove warts quickly, various treatment options are available.

Salicylic acid

Several over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid are available for people to apply topically to a common wart.

Many of these products require wart filing. This is where a person uses a nail file to file down the dead skin of the wart before applying the salicylic acid.

The wart virus is transmissible through contact with used nail files, so a person should dispose of the nail files after every use.

Daily treatment with salicylic acid removes warts within 12 weeks in 70% of cases.

Duct tape

There is no clear evidence that duct tape wart removal is effective and no guidance on how long it might take. The idea behind this approach is that applying new duct tape to a wart every few days may gradually remove layers of the wart.

A person can try this method easily at home, but it is important to note that it may not work and some people may experience side effects, such as skin reactions and bleeding.


Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart, which causes the surface layers to peel off.

People need regular treatments every 1⁠–2 weeks to prevent the wart from growing back. After 3⁠–4 months of treatment, cryotherapy effectively removes warts in about 70% of cases.

However, cryotherapy can cause blistering, lasting several days or weeks. It can also cause permanent white marks on the skin and may lead to temporary numbness in the treatment area.

Electrosurgery and curettage

Electrosurgery and curettage use heat to burn away the base of the wart. This type of treatment can treat large warts that have not responded to other treatments, but there are some downsides:

  • The wound can take 2 weeks or more to heal.
  • In 20% of cases, warts can reoccur.
  • Electrosurgery and curettage can cause permanent scarring, which can be painful.

Other treatments

Other treatments for warts include:

  • laser treatment, if other methods are not effective
  • injection of bleomycin (Blenoxane)
  • immunotherapy, such as imiquimod (Aldara), to encourage the immune system to fight the virus

Wart medications, such as salicylic acid, gradually peel away layers of a wart until it reaches the same level as the skin. People may notice the wart becoming flatter over time.

When a doctor performs a procedure to treat a wart, its removal may be much quicker.

For instance, the doctor may apply cantharidin (Cantharone) to the wart, which causes a blister to form underneath it. About 1 week after treatment, the doctor can cut away the dead wart.

After receiving wart medications, such as salicylic acid or cryotherapy, the wart should peel away in stages until it is as flat as the skin.

Generally, when a wart is beginning to fall off, a person may experience:

  • after cryotherapy, some soreness or blisters forming in the wart area
  • the skin of the wart drying and peeling off
  • the wart becoming lighter in color
  • the wart shrinking or flattening
  • the skin of the wart continuing to peel and fall off until it is at the same level as the skin

After salicylic acid and filing, the base of the wart begins to look like typical skin but with small black dots or a grainy appearance. A person should continue filing until these have disappeared.

According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), people need to keep using wart medication until the wart is no longer visible and looks the same as the surrounding skin. People should not be able to see any black dots or areas of grainy texture.

The AOCD also recommends pausing treatment if the wart or surrounding area becomes sore or bleeds. People may need to miss a day of treatment and continue the following day or once the irritation stops.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends taking the following steps to heal a wart heal more quickly:

  • Using treatment rather than waiting for the wart to go away by itself, which takes longer and gives the virus more chance to transmit.
  • Covering the wart to help prevent HPV from passing on to others or spreading to other areas.
  • Washing the hands straight away after touching or applying treatment to a wart to help stop the virus from transmitting.
  • Avoiding shaving over an area of skin with a wart, as it can create small tears in the wart and spread HPV to the surrounding area.

People can reduce their risk of getting warts by:

  • Avoiding touching another person’s wart.
  • Avoiding sharing towels, razors, or other personal items with anyone who has a wart.
  • Covering any cuts or broken skin, as cuts make it easier for HPV to enter the body.
  • Washing the hands frequently to help reduce the chances of getting HPV on the skin.
  • Refraining from biting the nail or cuticles, as any skin openings can allow HPV to enter.
  • Wearing flip-flops on wet floors, such as swimming pools or public showers, as moist environments increase HPV risk.

People should consult a doctor before self-treating warts if they have:

  • any suspicion that growths on the skin are something other than warts
  • a wart on the face or genitals
  • multiple warts
  • a wart that is painful or itchy or that burns or bleeds
  • a weakened immune system
  • diabetes, particularly if warts are on the feet

People can also consult a doctor if they are not sure about the best treatment method for removing warts or if self-treatment does not work.

HPV causes warts, which are harmless growths on the skin. The virus can pass easily to others.

A range of treatments, including home remedies and medical procedures, can remove warts.

People with a weakened immune system or diabetes should consult a doctor before using any wart removal treatment. People should also seek medical advice if they have warts on the face or genitals.