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Can You Cure Your Plantar Warts with Hot Water?

Can you cure your plantar warts by soaking your feet in hot water? Some readers have. Others use duct tape, Listerine or nail polish.

Plantar warts are those that appear on the soles of the feet. You might catch the human papillomavirus that causes plantar warts if you go barefoot in a shared locker room or swimming pool area. Likewise, if you have such a wart, you can shed virus that would transmit it to someone else if you traverse a common area without shoes. These warts may eventually make it painful to run or walk. As a result, you might want to learn if an over-the-counter treatment could cure your plantar warts.

OTC Products Use Cold to Cure Your Plantar Warts:

For many people, consulting the dermatologist about warts is a last resort. If possible, they’d prefer to find another way to banish them. Here is what we heard from one reader:

Q. When I was a kid the dermatologist burned warts off my fingers with some sort of electric needle device. It hurt like heck!

Later, as an adult, a different dermatologist used liquid nitrogen to freeze off a wart. It was also somewhat painful.

Now my grandson has a wart. I have seen OTC products that use some sort of gas to create cold temperatures on an applicator. How well do they work to eliminate warts?

Comparing OTC Products:

A. There are at least two different options that use cold for home treatment of warts. One type of device uses dimethylether and propane, as for example, in the Compound W Freeze Off device. In the other type, cold is generated from nitrous oxide in the device. Compound W NitroFreeze utilizes this approach.

European dermatologists investigated how well these ingredients work on common and plantar wars in a small study (Dermatology and Therapy, June 2018).  After three applications, 70 percent of the warts treated with nitrous oxide had disappeared, compared to 46 percent of those treated with dimethylether/propane. That difference is significant, and the investigators concluded “that the nitrous oxide device is a safe, user-friendly and effective wart treatment for home use.” They did not offer information on whether the treatment hurt.

Even armed with OTC possibilities, you may want to consider a simple, old-fashioned way to cure your plantar warts.

Hot Water Soaks to Cure Your Plantar Warts:

Q. You have sometimes had questions about plantar warts. I want to share my family’s experience.

In the 1960s my teen-aged daughter got a severe case of plantar warts from the showers at school. She has a high pain tolerance and didn’t show them to us until she could hardly walk. The doctor she saw advised her to soak her feet in water as hot as she could stand 20 minutes a day for two weeks.

In less than two weeks, most of the warts fell off or disappeared. She soaked her feet while watching TV or doing homework.

Dermatologist-Approved Treatment Becomes Home Remedy:

A. This was a hot new treatment for plantar warts at that time. (Pardon the pun.) Dermatologists published their success with a small case series in the Cleveland Clinic Quarterly in October, 1962. More than half of the patients they treated with water between 113 and 118 degrees F (45 to 48 C) had the warts on the soles of their feet disappear. Notably, these patients soaked their feet just once or twice a week instead of 20 minutes a day like your daughter did.

Nail Polish Against Stubborn Warts:

Q. I have had plantar warts for more than 10 years and have tried many treatments. They included painful chemicals applied at a podiatrist’s office along with freezing sprays. I even tried some of the suggestions you have offered: duct tape, tea tree oil, castor oil, iodine, and vinegar soaks. Nothing worked until I tried using clear nail polish daily. My warts disappeared in less than a month!

A. Plantar warts can be stubborn and hard to eliminate. What works for one person may be a complete bust for someone else. We have no explanation for why you were able to cure your plantar warts with clear nail polish. However, others report similar success with such an approach. One reader reports that applying instant glue to the plantar wart can help get rid of them.

Preventing Plantar Warts from Recurring:

After you cure your plantar warts, you may want advice on how to keep them from coming back. Here’s what another reader asked:

Q. I’ve been plagued with plantar warts most of my adult life. I got rid of the most recent one by treating it persistently with salicylic acid.

Now I want to prevent re-infection. This is a virus, isn’t it? How long will it live in my slippers and shoes and cause recurrence? Should I buy a box of bandages and apply them on the soles of my feet for a month to protect myself?

Home Remedies to Cure Your Plantar Warts and Keep Them from Recurring:

A. Instead of bandages, try clean socks every day. That’s the advice the Mayo Clinic offers, and it makes sense to us.

No one seems to know exactly why some people are more susceptible than others to the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes plantar warts. (By the way, these are different strains of HPV from those that cause genital warts.) Probably, genetics and immune function play key roles in determining resistance.

Recommendations for preventing recurrences include not going barefoot in locker rooms and around swimming pools. No one has suggested wearing flip flops in your own home after a successful treatment, but you might consider that for a few weeks. Wash your hands after you touch a wart.

We have collected many home remedies for plantar warts. They include applications of tincture of iodine, castor oil, lemon juice, tea tree oil or turmeric in olive oil to the wart. Some people report success taping a banana peel (fleshy side on the skin) to the wart overnight. Others have had success soaking the foot in hot salty water for 30 to 90 minutes a week, similar to the remedy we discussed just above. You can read more details about these and other simple approaches in our book, Quick and Handy Home Remedies.

Listerine for Warts:

Another home remedy that may help cure your plantar warts is Listerine. (The old-fashioned amber kind probably works best and won’t stain skin.) Here is one reader’s story:

Q. My daughter had several plantar warts on her sole. We treated them with duct tape for several months with limited success.

Listerine has been used for eliminating fungus, so I thought it might also kill wart viruses. I put undiluted Listerine in a zipper-top plastic bag and had her soak her feet for 10 minutes.

She only repeated the treatment a couple of times. The warts disappeared in about three weeks and haven’t returned. It might be a coincidence, but she is happy to be wart free!

A. Warts are susceptible to a surprising range of home remedies. Thanks for sharing the Listerine idea.

Using Duct Tape to Cure Your Plantar Warts:

Patty in Texas gave a very thorough report on using duct tape to cure your plantar warts:

“I have found the original style of very sticky gray duct tape to be the best cure for me. Years ago, I bought used shoes at a thrift store. It took me a while to realize where the plantar’s warts had come from. I was plagued with them for over a year, and tried a paste of salicylic acid compounded by a pharmacy per my doctor’s instructions. I peeled and peeled the skin that was killed by the acid, and finally solved the problem, but it was very time consuming and painful. Years later, I got another wart. I tried the duct tape method, and the wart came out of my skin whole, into the tape within two weeks. My best guess is that the duct tape somehow causes the body to reject the wart, and when you are changing the tape at some point, it just comes out, roots and all. I did not have a recurrence.

What Duct Tape to Use:

“To use duct tape, you must buy the right tape. I use the gray, not shiny, not colorful, old style, still sold in home improvement stores. The adhesive has a particular odor that you can come to recognize, not terribly unpleasant, just distinct.

“Wash the foot bottom thoroughly with soap, rinse, and dry well. Let it air dry further for a few minutes. Make a patch of tape that you have not stuck your fingers all over repeatedly (fingers leave oil that will cause the tape to not stick as well). Put over the spot and gently rub a few seconds to make sure it adheres well. I usually use at least a half inch square of tape, so has enough surface area in contact with skin and it sticks well. If you need a larger piece to keep it in place, use it. The idea is to keep the tape stuck well on the spot 24/7. Check it a few times daily to make sure it is still in place. Keep more squares ready to use if needed when away from home. Replace every night before bed, or after showering, or immediately whenever the tape comes off. The wart will come off into the tape when you pull it off during changing within two weeks. You must follow the directions exactly.

Don’t Buy Used Shoes:

“Don’t wear other people’s shoes. If you try on shoes, new or used, use at least a nylon footlet or sock to protect yourself and others.”

Terry in New York reported this experience:

“I got warts on my foot for the first time. But there were several and two were very big. I put duct tape on them. Fresh tape every day. The smaller warts went away quickly. The larger warts took about 6 months. Also, I duct taped the inside of my slipper on the foot with the warts, assuming that was where I got them from. It’s been over 6 months clear now and all is fine.”

Vee from North Carolina used electrical tape instead:

“I had my first plantar wart a few months ago. My pharmacist suggested tape over it continuously. My doctor said she would freeze it if it came back. I used electrical tape and it worked! She said the wart is deprived of oxygen and it dies.”

We’re not sure about that explanation, but nobody really knows how and why duct tape may work.

A reader from Indiana went to a different, very old-fashioned wart remedy:

“My husband had some plantar warts on both feet. My grandma said:

“Grate a small potato and add 1 teaspoon of glycerine, mix both together, put this on a cottage cheese lid. Place the wart on the potato mixture and leave 1/2 hour. Wash it off and dry the foot. Do this every night, watch as the wart turns black, and shrinks down to the size of a pinhole, and then disappears! I think it’s the raw potato, which contains belladonna, which kills the virus permanently!”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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