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How Can You Make Plantar Warts Disappear?

Remedies to make plantar warts disappear range from simple–soaking the foot in hot water or Listerine–to complex, such as silver duct tape.

Most warts don’t hurt. However, a person with plantar warts, those that develop on the soles of the feet, may find walking painful. A dermatologist could perform surgery or cryotherapy (freezing), but recovery time from such procedures is a big disadvantage. Is there a simpler way to make plantar warts disappear?

What Can You Do to Make Plantar Warts Disappear?

Q. For about a year now, I’ve been getting plantar warts. It started with just one but now there are more.

The dermatologist has been freezing them off, but they’ve come back. I’d like to get rid of them quicker.

Apple cider vinegar worked for a few but not all. Is there any method that might work better?

Remedies to Make Plantar Warts Disappear:

A. An online resource for doctors suggests using the least expensive and least painful treatment first (Al Aboud & Nigam, StatPearls, March 29, 2017). We interpret that as home remedies for starters.

Since you have already tried soaking the soles of your feet in dilute vinegar (equal parts vinegar and water), you might try other home remedies. Most of these use kitchen products such as bacon fat, banana peel, minced garlic or turmeric powder. They are applied overnight under a bandage.

Hot Water vs. Plantar Warts:

We first heard about this remedy from an old friend, Dr. Dean Edell. Dr. Edell was a skeptic about home remedies, but because this one was published in a medical journal (Cleveland Clinic Quarterly, volume 29: 156-161, 1962) he was more enthusiastic. Here is one reader’s report about its effectiveness:

Q. Hot water worked to get rid of my plantar warts after three years of trying every other medical approach and old wives’ tale known to man. Even my dermatologist was close to giving up on me.

Soaking my feet in hot water for an hour every night is what turned the trick for me. I found this recommendation on the University of Washington website.

A. We have been writing about hot water soaks for treating warts for almost three decades. Dr. Samuel Moschella of Harvard Medical School suggested this treatment for his patients who did not want surgical removal. He recommended soaking the affected foot in hot water (110 to 113 degrees F) for 30 to 90 minutes every week. It could take six weeks or more to see improvement. Please do not burn your feet with very hot water!

Will Castor Oil Make a Difference?

Q. My husband had plantar warts on his feet that resisted all the dermatologist’s treatments. He finally tried this home remedy which worked after several weeks.

He daubed the warts with castor oil and then covered them with duct tape. After a few days he would reapply the castor oil and tape. This did the trick.

A. We have heard from many readers that castor oil or duct tape can be helpful against warts. This is the first time someone recommended combining these two approaches in one remedy. Perhaps the dual action is better than either alone. Thanks for sharing this hybrid remedy.

Duct Tape for Plantar Warts:

Duct tape has stirred a lot of controversy among dermatologists. One small randomized controlled trial showed that it worked significantly better for children than freezing the warts (Focht et al, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Oct. 2002). That study used the usual silver duct tape.

Another study using clear duct tape in adults found it was no better than placebo (Wenner et al, Archives of Dermatology, March 2007).  We could conclude that duct tape doesn’t work against warts, or that it doesn’t work for adults or that clear duct tape doesn’t resemble silver duct tape. Without further research, we won’t know which hypothesis is most plausible.

Soaks to Make Plantar Warts Disappear:

Some readers have had success soaking the area in old-fashioned Listerine.

Q. I had a plantar wart for years, and the OTC wart products did not help. I would scrape it with a razor blade because it felt like a pea in my shoe. A doctor burned it off, but it came right back.

Then I developed toenail fungus, so I tried soaking my foot in Listerine and vinegar. After several weeks, I remembered the wart. When I checked the bottom of my foot, it was completely gone. That was over 20 years ago, and it never came back.

A. We have no idea why soaking your foot in Listerine and vinegar would make a plantar wart go away. Perhaps the ingredients in Listerine, menthol, eucalyptol, thymol and methyl salicylate, have antiviral activity.

You are not the first reader to report that soaking feet in Listerine, with or without vinegar, could make plantar warts go away.

When all else fails, the heartburn medicine cimetidine (Tagamet) may be the answer. Here are the details.

There are, unfortunately, no comparative studies to determine which of these wart remedies might be most effective for you. As you have discovered, warts often come back, regardless of the treatment you use. We have gathered a number of wart remedies in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. You might find it in your local library or look for it in the Books section of our online store.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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