wart on a finger

Warts are one of the great mysteries of medicine. They appear almost magically for no apparent reason. They often disappear just as mysteriously.
When these ugly growths appear on fingers or hands dermatologists refer to them by the Latin words Verruca vulgaris or “common” warts. When they show up on the soles of the feet they are called plantar warts.
Warts are growths caused by a virus (human papillomavirus) that burrows into the skin and frequently resists standard medical treatment. People often report that after applying salicylic acid from the pharmacy the warts go away but then come back within a few weeks or months.
Even medical treatment is sometimes ineffective. Burning, freezing and cutting may work temporarily, but the warts frequently recur.
That’s why home remedies are so popular, especially with children. No one understands why the power of suggestion seems so effective in eradicating a growth caused by a virus, but most physicians know that it can be surprisingly successful.
One reader reports this experience from decades ago:

“When I was about nine years old I had warts on the thumbs and fingers of both hands. A little girl who lived down the street told me one day her mom was a witch who could get rid of my warts.
“She ran home and soon came back with a potato peeling. Her mom told her to rub the peeling on my warts while she recited, ‘As this peeling rots away so your warts shall go away.’ Then she told me to bury the peeling in my front yard and not to bother it. After several weeks I found to my surprise the warts were all gone and they never did come back.
“Susie had also told me to make sure the peeling has no eye on it, or it wouldn’t work, as the peeling would then grow and not rot away.”

Many readers have reported success with variants of the potato peel treatment. Some readers swear by more unusual treatments, such as this one: “I had a dozen warts on my hands when I was 14. I heard that the black garden slug (without a shell) worked against warts. So I sat behind the house with the slugs and kept making them slide across my warts. After a short time the warts all disappeared. I think it’s something in the slug’s silver trail that has the wart-killing effect.

“Now my son is four and has a couple of warts. There are no slugs where we live now, north of Ibiza, Spain. So we’ll try something else. Maybe garlic taped on the wart will work.”
Another person has quite a different suggestion: “I have had plantar warts several times. The easiest and most effective solution to get rid of them is securing a slice of eggplant on the wart with a bandage overnight every night until the wart peels off. It works without pain.”

Several people have tried the heartburn medicine Tagamet (cimetidine):

“I had over 30 warts on the bottom of one foot. I was too embarrassed to see the doctor until my mom noticed them and took me. There were too many for him to remove by burning or cutting so he told me to take Tagamet. He said it was a long shot and probably wouldn’t work. On the contrary! Within a month, ALL 30-plus warts were gone.”

Patience and persistence are important for most of these remedies. With so many different possibilities, however, it seems that if one approach fails, another might do the trick.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. HP

    My older son has a wart on his hand. Please advise re: treatments such as lemon juice, turmeric, potato peel which I have heard about. How often should the treatment be applied and do you cover the wart w/ a regular bandaid after applying the product? Thank you.

  2. t cook

    Years ago I began getting ‘spots’ on my torso and back. My mother, a nurse, said she had them too and told me they were a result of Human papillomavirus. Now, decades later, the ‘spots’ are raised and itch. Some of them resemble elongated warts. I’ve recently begun washing with a soap for acne and athlete’s foot that has double strength tea tree oil, among other things. The itching subsides for many hours but the ‘spots’ are still there and if I don’t wash every 12 hours or so the itching returns with a vengeance.
    Is there anything to be done about eliminating the virus? Is this a virus? I have no insurance nor do I have a primary physician. A friend suggested I have one of the larger ones biopsied – who do I see about that?

  3. ASM

    I’ve tried treating a plantar wart with salicylic acid patches and a liquid. Each time, I stopped using the product when a thick layer of the skin immediately surrounding it turned white and peeled, revealing tender pink skin underneath. The first time, the core pulled free with the loose skin and bled nicely, bit the wart returned a short time later. The second time, the core of the wart remained, but I was concerned that continued application of the product would eat through the new skin around it.
    – Are my experiences part of the normal healing process?
    – Should I have continued applying the product, perhaps avoiding the new skin around around it?
    – Would this also be true if I try one of the natural remedies listed above?

  4. DWD

    I was in the drugstore in the last week and saw a Dr Scholl’s display that has a product called Freeze Away for wart removal. I did not have time to read the label, but I assume it is some exothermic liquid that gives you a localized case of frost bite to kill the wart virus. I have not had warts in many a year, but I will keep it in mind. It must be fairly new. Has anyone out here in Peoples Pharmacy land had any direct or second hand experience with it?
    But I think I would go with on hand (like duct tape other things mentioned) first. I did not note the price, but suspect it is not cheap, but certainly less than the copay to a doctor.

  5. JR

    I tried all the home remedies and even had a wart removed by the doctor only to have it come back. What finally made the warts on my hand and on my feet was rubbing them with the salt block deodorant I use. I simply wet the block and rubbed them every morning for a few weeks. They disappeared and haven’t come back. You can buy the salt block deodorant sticks in most health food stores.

  6. Joan W.

    Question, rather than comment. Have read with interest many comments re wart removal. Can’t remember if they apply (pardon the pun) to plantar warts. I have some on both feet but are not visible yet; my husband’s are visible. I like the banana peel idea but can’t see him walking around at work with a peel strapped to the bottom of his foot. Any comments or suggestions re plantar warts, particularly those I might have missed in the past?

  7. Susan

    After having 3 plantars warts on both feet removed some years ago and spending a week on crutches, I wanted something different when one showed up again. When I was in the shower, I would use a foot file or pumice stone and give it a few swipes before I got out of the shower. Took a few weeks, but it went away and hasn’t come back 2 yrs later. Lots less expensive.
    I have what seems to be a very small wart on one calf (hard to see it so I’m not sure) I started applying coconut oil to it at night and after a shower. It’s rapidly going away. I plan to try it on the very tiny one cropping up on my hand also.

  8. Jenny

    My daughter had several warts on her hands. She sliced the end off a lemon and dabbed the warts about three times a day.
    The warts fell off within four days.

  9. jason r. c.

    I read your column in the press telegram long beach and it made me cry. I had warts on both hands and didn’t know why. The dermatologist froze them so many times and it hurt so bad. But they wouldn’t go away. Warts on the palm and tops of my hands sucked. They mysteriously went away and now shaking someones hand is very welcome.

  10. vm

    I had warts on my hands when I was younger. Tried the burning/freezing remedies and nothing worked as well as my mother’s remedy of applying castor oil to the wart and covering with a band aid. This got rid of the warts completely. I forget how long it took or how often I had to reapply, but they never came back.

  11. dp

    Maybe wart viruses are susceptible to many foreign compounds. I knew as a young adult that aspirin can effect viruses. So I pulled off my knee wart, followed by the copious bleeding, and pressed an aspirin over the spot until the bleeding stopped. Probably fifteen minutes since aspirin is a blood thinner. The wart spot healed and never returned.
    When one of my sons was 5, he had a large lump under his big toe. I saw a small, dark spot and assumed it was a sliver. Using a sterilized needle I poked the spot and opened a blood supply to a wart not a sliver! We went to the beach the following day. 7 days in the ocean and it healed up. The lump was gone. Was it the iodine and other minerals in the ocean water, or disrupting it’s blood supply? Vicks works on those “plantar” flattened-because-we-stand-on-them-warts for one of my sons.

  12. TWC

    My latest encounter with plantar warts was cleared by putting Duck Tape on the wart. I think it was gone in about a week.

  13. 2 old farts in florida

    Derm Doc burned off wart on finger 2x with no success. Went for the Gold! Bought Compound W for $2.59 and applied it 2-3x a day. In 10 days I could peel off 90% of the wart – continuing with :”W” and can probably peel off entire root within next 5-7 days.

  14. nm

    The great mystery to people in Alabama when we lived there, was an old African American in a small farming community who “had a gift”. He could remove warts with a few sweeps of his hands. It actually worked but no one knew how. He didn’t charge for his services.

  15. Dianne T.

    My grandmother’s sister took warts off me and sister by tying knots in string and burying string. She told us they would disappear, and they did. That is all the specifics I remember. I’m now 65. Never tried it, though. I was probably preteen.

  16. MJW

    I had success making a poultice out of grated ginger and grated raw potato, applying to a plantar wart under a bandage overnight. Several weeks are required for complete success, but it works.

  17. dwd

    As a kid I remember talk of people who could “talk” warts off or to use stump water collected from a hollow stump at midnight. I never had any so I never found out if it worked or not.
    Later in college and after, I had success with Compound W.
    The stupidest thing I ever did was pull one off. NEVER DO THIS. Especially without medical supervision like I did. It was on my arm and dragged on shirt sleeves. I soused it with alcohol and did an pair of finger nail clippers the same way. I cut around the base with the clippers, grabbed the darn thing and twisted and pulled. The darn thing came off. It make a crater that looked deep but was probably only 1/8 inch but it bled a copious amount of blood for what seemed like forever but was probably was only 15 minutes. I applied a large piece of gauze and taped it down. It was tender for a day or so, but the wart never came back, but I NEVER tried that remedy again. I guess about that time we found The People’s Pharmacy in the N&O (way before the internet) and used the duct tape remedy after that.
    Later I had one plantar’s wart removed by a podiatrist that never came back. Gimping around on one foot was uncomfortable for a week or so.
    My wife uses the duct tape on a recurring plantar’s wart, but the wart generally stays away for a year or better after each treatment. I think she quits using it a bit too soon.

  18. cpmt

    also tree tea oil, garlic, etc. The natural-vitamin store sells something -liquid- that is called garlic oil and contains lobelia and mullein for viral skin problems and fungus.

  19. cpmt

    ha ha, I too heard about some of these remedies from people. I some parts of Europe they use slugs and snails also for beauty tx.(on their skin) for wrinkles.

  20. alxzba

    when i was a kid, there was an old woman in the neighborhood who dipped snuff, just a stick (not an uncommon thing in those days). For warts, she would use the stick and rub a bit of dipped snuff on the wart. Probably makes as much sense as potato peels and some of the other home remedies. It worked.

  21. MM

    I thought I’d gotten the idea from you folks. I used the original Listerine (yellow) on a sudden small wart on my face. It took about 6 months… but it’s just a flat little raising now. I’ll continue to see if it disappears totally.

    • Zvika
      Ramat Gan, Israel

      Try witch hazel. I dabbed some witch hazel on a wart on my finger, and let it dry and did NOT rinse it, about 10 times a day for a week and it went away like magic.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.