The People's Perspective on Medicine

Liquid Soap Won’t Scare Off Tick

Q. My brother-in-law sent me an email about how to remove ticks. It was attributed to a school nurse who suggested applying a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball and covering the tick with the cotton ball for 20 seconds. Presumably when you remove the cotton ball the tick will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball.

Is this really a good way to remove ticks? We are having a bumper crop this year.

A. According to, this email has been circulating on the Internet for more than two years. It sounds credible, but it is not true. Putting liquid soap, petroleum jelly, Vicks VapoRub, fingernail polish or any other goo on a tick will not make it let go faster. Aggravating a tick might cause it to regurgitate saliva into the bite, increasing the risk of infection!

The CDC recommendation for proper tick removal is grasping the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Use a gentle steady motion to pull the tick straight away from the skin.

Prompt removal reduces the risk of infection. Symptoms such as rash, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches could signal either Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Both require prompt medical attention.

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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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I used the soap method on my nervous Nellie daughter when she had a tiny tick in her naval, I soaked a cotton ball with Palmolive dishwashing liquid. It worked within twenty seconds!

I am a landscaper in Vermont and since our winters are warmer ticks have moved in big time in Southern Vermont the last few years. I am sometimes pulling 4 or 5 off a night. Anyway today after working 11 hours I came home and thought I had some dirt in my eye and it turned out to be a tick attached to my lower eye lid!! Basically on the ridge that meets the upper lid. This freaked me out of course. I don’t have health insurance and can’t afford a casual trip to the ER. I tried to pull it but the soft tissue stretched too far and it seemed impossible to get off after several attempts.
I took to the net and saw articles about soap. Though they seemed to be questionable and not advised I saw no other option. I took a cotton swap and used some Dr Bronners Lavender and peppermint soap and touched the tick with it for 30 seconds. I did this twice and tried again to pull off and it came off with much less effort. Eye is sore and irritated from the soap but the entire tick came out.

How do the ticks get to you? Is there any prevention? I have not experienced any tick bite, but it seems scary if you get bitten.
Thank you.

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