Plantar Warts and Duct Tape?

Can You Get Rid of a Plantar Wart Just By Covering It With Duct Tape?

Duct Tape
Duct Tape. Blackwaterimages/E+/Getty Images

Can plain old duct tape get rid of your plantar wart? When you have a plantar wart on the bottom of your foot, it can cause pain with each step. They are bothersome, but you may not want to take the effort of making a trip to the doctor to have them treated. If you browse the internet, you'll find references to simply covering them with duct tape. Does this work?

  • Plantar warts are also known as verruca plantaris. Often misspelled as planter's warts.
  • Warts: A plantar wart is just like any other wart, it's just where it is - on the sole of your foot. Our Dermatology expert has the scoop on warts.

Duct Tape Treatment for Plantar Warts

The ADAM medical encyclopedia has an interesting suggestion for plantar wart self-treatment - duct tape! Not only do they describe using duct tape for plantar warts, so does the American Academy of Dermatology. The AAD admits that doctors don't know why it should work. You cover the wart with a clean piece of duct tape and change it daily for several days. It may work by removing a small amount of skin each time with the sticky surface.

The medical encyclopedia strongly recommends not to try to remove the plantar wart yourself by "burning, cutting, tearing, picking, or any other method." But you can try the duct tape or see a doctor to have it frozen or burnt off professionally.

  • Wart Basics: Dr. Vince tells about the duct tape method for wart removal, from our Pediatrics expert.

    Duct Tape or a Corn Pad on a Plantar Wart?

    A study in 2002 found duct tape to be effective. However, a study in 2006 found that duct tape had little more effect than putting a corn pad over the wart (considered to be the sham or placebo treatment). Some of the children in the study reported itches and rashes from the duct tape, but not the corn pads.

    If all things are equal, trying a corn pad is probably a wiser choice - it is something meant to be used on the foot, rather than something that hasn't been tested for provoking skin reactions. Of course, neither of these may have any effect at all.

    A systematic review in 2012 of topical treatments for plantar wart found no proof of effectiveness for clear duct tape. There was some discussion as to whether clear duct tape was the same thing as the duct tape you grab at the local hardware store. A review of studies in 2014 places duct tape occlusion in the "unknown effectiveness" category.

    Other Treatments for Plantar Warts

    Duct tape might be handy, but you are using a product on your skin that has not been tested for being allergenic or safe for that use. You may instead want to use home treatments using salicylic acid, which the studies found was most consistently effective. They are available over-the-counter at your local drug store.

    Another review of the evidence in 2014 gives  recommendations for doctors to use salicylic acid as the first choice of treatment, with or without duct tape over it, but not to use duct tape alone.

    Cryotherapy isn't usually any more effective than salicylic acid and can have more side effects, but may be used as a secondary line of therapy.

    Sources:

    Focht DR III, et al. "The efficacy of duct tape vs cryotherapy in the treatment of verruca vulgaris (the common wart)." Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med October 2002;156:971-4.

    Marloes de Haen, MD, et. al. "Efficacy of Duct Tape vs Placebo in the Treatment of Verruca Vulgaris (Warts) in Primary School Children." Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. November, 2006;160:1121-1125.

    Kwok CS, Gibbs S, Bennett C, Holland R, Abbott R. "Topical treatments for cutaneous warts." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;9:CD001781. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001781.pub3.

    "How to get rid of warts," American Academy of Dermatology, accesssed 4/16/16.

    Loo SK, Tang WY. Warts (non-genital). Systematic review 1710. BMJ Clinical Evidence. 2014 June.

    Lindsey Craw, MD FRCPC FAAP, Aireen Wingert, BA MPH, and Irene Lara-Corrales, MD MSc. "Are salicylic formulations, liquid nitrogen or duct tape more effective than placebo for the treatment of warts in paediatric patients who present to ambulatory clinics?" Paediatr Child Health. 2014 Mar; 19(3): 126–127. PMCID: PMC3959970

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