The People's Perspective on Medicine

How to Remove Splinters with Duct Tape

Have you ever used duct tape or white glue to remove splinters? These home remedies can work surprisingly well, as can wart plasters.

How do you remove splinters? Sometimes, people go in for home surgery with sharp tweezers or even scalpels. That could be risky. Other folks use home remedies that seem to work well with a lot less pain.

Can You Remove Splinters with Duct Tape?

Q. I managed to get a piece of dry deck material lodged in a big toe that not one but two nurses failed to find, never mind pull out. A nurse friend of mine suggested wrapping the toe with duct tape and leaving it on overnight. Imagine my surprise when the next morning removing the duct tape also pulled out a large chunk of wood that was clearly deck wood. Duct tape–good for just about everything!

A. Duct tape does have a range of unexpected uses. To remove splinters, you may be able to use nearly any kind of adhesive tape. 

One reader reported:

“We have successfully used Scotch tape, duct tape or masking tape–whichever happened to be close at hand–for removing a fresh splinter. This works especially well for children. It is not nearly as scary for them as approaching them with tweezers. The first time I tried it on my five-year-old son, I whisked the piece of tape off and it worked. He excitedly said, ‘Do it again!’ So I put another little piece of tape on him and pulled it off and he was thrilled, as if it was a magic trick.”

How to Remove Splinters with White Glue:

Another possible remedy for splinters is carpenter’s glue or white glue like Elmer’s. We have heard from several readers that they have used this remedy successfully. One person offered an explanation.

iMedical Consensus Advisory

Doctors usually prefer to remove splinters with special forceps, but certain home remedies may be helpful. A physician actually published his hint on using salicylic acid wart plasters to ease splinter removal.

Q. White glue or carpenter’s glue for wood or paper is great as a way to remove splinters that are too small to see, though you sure can feel them. These glues adhere especially well to cellulose, the main substance in wood or wood products. Splinters are made of the same stuff.

Apply the glue liberally to the area and let it cure fully, about a half hour or so. Then peel off the glue and voilà! No more splinter.

A. We like your explanation for a remedy we heard about several years ago:

“I had a splinter in my heel area and used white Elmer’s glue and a bandage for a few hours and the splinter came out when I pulled it off. I thought this wouldn’t work, but I was pleasantly surprised.”

Skip the Instant Glue:

People should not use instant glue. It doesn’t work at all like white glue and is likely to simply glue the splinter in place.

Wart Plasters Can Help Remove Splinters:

Another option is to put a salicylic acid wart plaster over the splinter. Russell Copelan, M.D., wrote about this one in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (April, 1989).
He suggests adhering a tiny piece of salicylic acid plaster (the kind used to treat warts) over a small splinter for twelve hours. After a day or two, the splinter should have worked its way out or moved close enough to the surface for you to easily remove it.

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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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Citations
  • Copelan R, "Chemical removal of splinters without epidermal toxic effects." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, April, 1989. DOI: 10.1016/s0190-9622(89)80157-4
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My father used to soak splinters in a a warm Epsom salt solution.

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