Can You Treat Plantar Warts With Duct Tape?

Duct Tape
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Warts are noncancerous skin growths that are typically harmless, but plantar warts, located on the bottom of the foot where you bear weight, can be particularly painful. Over-the-counter solutions and time are a common cure—they often go away on their own in one to two years—but some people have taken to using more creative treatments, like duct tape.

What Are Plantar Warts?

Also known as verruca plantaris, these warts typically form on the sole of your feet, especially near the base of the toes and on the heel—"plantar" refers to the plantar, or thick tissue, area on the bottom of your foot. The result is a hard callus with enlarged, hardened capillaries characterized by black dots.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common cause of these benign lesions that can occur on adults and children alike. But because they thrive in hot, moist conditions, if you have a weakened immune system, sweaty feet, or often walk barefoot through steamy places like a locker room, you could be more susceptible.

Duct Tape Treatment for Plantar Warts

"Duct tape occlusion therapy" dates back to 1978 when physician Jerome Litt claimed wrapping his wart in adhesive tape for four weeks and changing the tape weekly was an effective cure. He had little explanation for why it works, but today, even the American Academy of Dermatology lists duct tape as a home remedy for warts.

Some people believe taping the wart deprives it of oxygen and sunlight, others think the chemicals in the tape's adhesive treat the wart, while some credit the glue's heavy-duty strength in removing a layer of the wart to kick-start healing.

Precautions

It's strongly recommended you don't remove a plantar wart yourself by burning, cutting, tearing, picking, or any method that carries a risk of infection. Remember that warts are a viral, contagious condition, so it's best to keep your wart covered and avoid touching it. If your child has a wart, be extra careful, as they have a tendency to explore with their hands (and mouths).

You should see a doctor to have your warts treated if you have diabetes, decreased foot sensation, a weakened immune system, or multiple warts.

Method

Most people use silver duct tape—the kind you'd find in a hardware store—to treat plantar warts. Here is the general technique:

  1. Clean your wart and the area around it with warm water and soap and let it completely dry.
  2. Cover the wart with a clean piece of duct tape.
  3. Change the duct tape daily for several days. Alternatively, some sources say to leave the duct tape on until it begins to peel off before replacing it.
  4. When you change the tape, soak the wart. Use a pumice stone or emery board to gently buff away dead skin. Let the foot air dry for at least an hour before you cover it with tape. Make sure to wash the tool you used to prevent the virus from spreading.

Some claim healing can take about a week, while others report a couple of months.

Possible Side Effects

You may be wary of placing an industrial glue on your skin rather than using a corn pad that's been tested for use on the skin, but any potential effect depends on your sensitivity. A 2019 article in Canadian Family Physician states that using duct tape on warts has "minimal" side effects, mainly skin irritation from the adhesive.

What the Research Says

While older studies have found some success wrapping duct tape on feet, more recent studies show less promising results. A 2012 study, for example, showed no significant difference in wart reduction for those who used duct tape versus those who used a placebo. Similarly, a 2014 systematic review found insufficient evidence that duct tape is an effective treatment.

Other Treatments for Plantar Warts

Duct tape might be handy, but it hasn't been tested for use on skin. Instead you may want to try salicylic acid, which studies have found consistently effective and is available over-the-counter (OTC) at your local drug store. A review in 2014 recommends it as the first choice of treatment, with or without duct tape over it, but not to use duct tape alone.

Cryotherapy—a treatment that uses sub-zero cold air to treat various afflictions—is also commonly recommended for warts, as the liquid nitrogen is said to freeze warts. Studies, however, show it usually isn't any more potent than salicylic acid and can have more adverse effects, including blistering, scarring, skin irritation, and skin pigmentation. To that end, cryotherapy could be considered a second line of treatment. And while it may sound easy to visit one of the many cryotherapy spas that have popped up across the country, for a targeted treatment, it's best to see a medical professional.

A Word From Verywell

Warts are generally benign, noncancerous growths, but if you have any doubts, make an appointment to see a dermatologist. And to prevent future warts—which occur most frequently in children and young adults—take simple precautions like wearing sandals in locker rooms or communal showers, cleaning and sealing cuts or scrapes to prevent infection, and keeping hands moisturized since HPV can enter through cracked, dry skin.

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