Can You Really Remove Warts with Duct Tape?

Can You Really Remove Warts with Duct Tape?
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Duct tape beat out ten other wart treatments for not only cost but effectiveness, so why isn’t it standard practice?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

One of the “unusual, innovative, and long-forgotten remedies” noted in this dermatology journal  was “the use of duct tape” to cure warts—finally put to the test. There’s all sorts of conventional therapies, from acid to cryosurgery to lasers, but most of these are expensive, or painful, or both. Whereas the simple application of duct tape is neither—and may even be “more effective” than trying to freeze the warts off.

Some doctors lauded the study, noting they had been using duct tape for decades as a painless yet effective treatment, as opposed to surgery and other destructive therapies. The only downside being your patients may think you’re off your rocker, but hey, when it works, they appreciate your wise choice to minimize discomfort.

Other doctors were not so amused. Here they are spending money on all this fancy equipment and then along comes duct tape? Studies like that “could damage the reputation of cryosurgery,” complaining that the 10-second application of liquid nitrogen they used in the study was too short, so it was an unfair comparison. And evidently you really have to get in there and freeze until you get a blistering reaction. And yes, it hurts but too bad, even making light of the poor child who vomited out of fear of the pain prior to each freezing by making some joke about it.

Did they have a point, though, about the 10 seconds? Well, in the duct tape versus cryotherapy trial, those 10-second cryotherapy treatments worked 60 percent of the time, which is actually better than the results of most cryotherapy studies that only seemed to cure about 50 percent. In fact, the typical cryotherapy for warts works so poorly that statistically it didn’t even beat out placebo. So, all that pain may be for nothing, though aggressive cryotherapy does seem to work better.

See, what they should have done, wrote another doctor in response to the duct tape trial, is take a scalpel to it, and then really blister it up, and then you go back a week later and try to cut and crater it out, and then maybe go back a third time, bragging that they can get closer to a 90 percent cure rate. Yeah, but at what cost?

In the duct tape trial, one patient “lost his study wart in a trampoline toe-amputation accident.” Hey, there’s a treatment that’s 100 percent effective—amputation! But, at what cost? Eighty-five percent of the duct tape patients were cured with no pain or tissue damage, whereas aggressive cryotherapy may require lidocaine injection nerve blocks to “take the cry out of cryotherapy,” and can cause permanent tissue damage. You can end up with the big necrotic frostbite lesions. I mean, in one sense, tissue damage is the whole point of freezing warts, but you can end up causing these deep burns or end up rupturing tendons, which can cause permanent disability, or cause extensive scarring in rare cases. Just the “psychological stress” of having to keep going back for this painful procedure may ironically impair our ability to fight off the wart viruses in the first place.

And so, “even if the effectiveness of duct tape…is shown to be merely equivalent to that of cryotherapy,” it would be better; and it was shown to be even more effective, in fact maybe most effective. Compared to 10 other wart treatments, duct tape beat out them all in terms of effectiveness, and also in terms of cost—cheaper than all but the DN option (which stands for “do nothing.”) Compared to the most cost-effective prescription treatments available, OTC duct tape, meaning over-the-counter duct tape, is 10 times cheaper. “It is an unusual and welcome event in health care when a common ailment is proven equally amenable to an inexpensive, tolerable, and safe alternative therapy.”

But wait. If you look at the latest Cochrane review, which is like the gold-standard of evidence-based reviews, they acknowledge that cryotherapy is less convenient, more painful, more expensive. But, while in the earlier review they did get excited about the effectiveness of duct tape, in two subsequent studies, duct tape seemed to totally flop. So, should we give up on duct tape for warts, or is there another side of the story? We’ll find out in the thrilling conclusion, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: kerttu via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

One of the “unusual, innovative, and long-forgotten remedies” noted in this dermatology journal  was “the use of duct tape” to cure warts—finally put to the test. There’s all sorts of conventional therapies, from acid to cryosurgery to lasers, but most of these are expensive, or painful, or both. Whereas the simple application of duct tape is neither—and may even be “more effective” than trying to freeze the warts off.

Some doctors lauded the study, noting they had been using duct tape for decades as a painless yet effective treatment, as opposed to surgery and other destructive therapies. The only downside being your patients may think you’re off your rocker, but hey, when it works, they appreciate your wise choice to minimize discomfort.

Other doctors were not so amused. Here they are spending money on all this fancy equipment and then along comes duct tape? Studies like that “could damage the reputation of cryosurgery,” complaining that the 10-second application of liquid nitrogen they used in the study was too short, so it was an unfair comparison. And evidently you really have to get in there and freeze until you get a blistering reaction. And yes, it hurts but too bad, even making light of the poor child who vomited out of fear of the pain prior to each freezing by making some joke about it.

Did they have a point, though, about the 10 seconds? Well, in the duct tape versus cryotherapy trial, those 10-second cryotherapy treatments worked 60 percent of the time, which is actually better than the results of most cryotherapy studies that only seemed to cure about 50 percent. In fact, the typical cryotherapy for warts works so poorly that statistically it didn’t even beat out placebo. So, all that pain may be for nothing, though aggressive cryotherapy does seem to work better.

See, what they should have done, wrote another doctor in response to the duct tape trial, is take a scalpel to it, and then really blister it up, and then you go back a week later and try to cut and crater it out, and then maybe go back a third time, bragging that they can get closer to a 90 percent cure rate. Yeah, but at what cost?

In the duct tape trial, one patient “lost his study wart in a trampoline toe-amputation accident.” Hey, there’s a treatment that’s 100 percent effective—amputation! But, at what cost? Eighty-five percent of the duct tape patients were cured with no pain or tissue damage, whereas aggressive cryotherapy may require lidocaine injection nerve blocks to “take the cry out of cryotherapy,” and can cause permanent tissue damage. You can end up with the big necrotic frostbite lesions. I mean, in one sense, tissue damage is the whole point of freezing warts, but you can end up causing these deep burns or end up rupturing tendons, which can cause permanent disability, or cause extensive scarring in rare cases. Just the “psychological stress” of having to keep going back for this painful procedure may ironically impair our ability to fight off the wart viruses in the first place.

And so, “even if the effectiveness of duct tape…is shown to be merely equivalent to that of cryotherapy,” it would be better; and it was shown to be even more effective, in fact maybe most effective. Compared to 10 other wart treatments, duct tape beat out them all in terms of effectiveness, and also in terms of cost—cheaper than all but the DN option (which stands for “do nothing.”) Compared to the most cost-effective prescription treatments available, OTC duct tape, meaning over-the-counter duct tape, is 10 times cheaper. “It is an unusual and welcome event in health care when a common ailment is proven equally amenable to an inexpensive, tolerable, and safe alternative therapy.”

But wait. If you look at the latest Cochrane review, which is like the gold-standard of evidence-based reviews, they acknowledge that cryotherapy is less convenient, more painful, more expensive. But, while in the earlier review they did get excited about the effectiveness of duct tape, in two subsequent studies, duct tape seemed to totally flop. So, should we give up on duct tape for warts, or is there another side of the story? We’ll find out in the thrilling conclusion, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: kerttu via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

Sorry to tease everyone with the cliff-hanger! I just wanted to emphasize how important the stakes are. If you missed the first video, check out Duct Tape & Wart Removal. Stay tuned for the conclusion in Which Type of Duct Tape Is Best for Wart Removal?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

38 responses to “Can You Really Remove Warts with Duct Tape?

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  1. For some purposes. like bicycle seat repair, ordinary duct tape may be too slidey; one shop recommended Duck tape, a sturdier brand name.
    We can only imagine the competitive ad frenzy if it worked on some warts.

  2. I’m curious what’s in the adhesive. Is it that stuff that gets the wart or the combination of adhesive and covering that does it… hummm
    mitch

    1. The adhesive would contain VOC’s and allergens such as carba mix. Many people are allergic to carba mix. Wart removal needs to get the immune system involved to attack the area. This is exactly what cryosurgery also does. Irritation of any kind does this. The trigger could be just tape over an area for an extended time, and we all know what kind of tape would stay stuck the best. I have heard of people even using band-aids to remove warts, the tape part cut off, without the absorbent pad in the middle.

  3. Love, love, this site! Thanks Dr. Greger and team for this great information. Can’t wait for tomorrow! My husband has huge warts that he refuses to go to treatment for – so hoping we can use this approach.

    A proud and healthy monthly supporter of Nutritionfacts.org!

    Ps. Can’t wait to buy, How Not to Diet.

    1. It isn’t gonna be tomorrow.

      Sorry.

      Monday and Wednesday are new video days.

      Tuesday and Thursday are blog days.

      Friday is Flashback Friday.

    1. Skin cancer is also thought to be caused by viruses; could this same approach work in some cases?
      —————————————————————————————————————————
      My instincts are that skin cancer is much more than this… but in the event it is a contributor, we have many natural anti-biotics that should make skin cancer a non-issue.

      One such possible treatment is blue light. I read this a few years ago and it was reported (and discovered) in South America… can’t remember if it was Argentina or Brazil. They claimed it killed anti-biotic resistant microbes… not sure if virus was killed. Outside of that one blurb on the Internet I am not aware if it was further discussed or even tested. Big Pharma would have surely try to ridicule or quash such information so that could explain the lack of follow up.

      But even without that one, there are plenty other homeopathic solutions to protect the skin. On the other hand, maybe some beneficial microbes sit on our skin that we need?

  4. I am rooting for the duct tape or any tape that would save one a trip to the doctor’s office (not to mention the expense).

    I am just surprised that Dr. Greger would not comment on the possible side effects of the duct tape chemicals being absorbed by the skin and getting into one’s blood stream. It seems that the duct tape treatment lasts a few weeks, not just one short application. Are we concerned about dangerous chemicals only when they are not vegan?

    1. Vegan or non vegan, we’re bombarded with chemicals all day as the world is so polluted. Take a look at the USDA list of allowable chemicals in meat. It reads like a chemical company catalog. Take a look at the list of pesticides sprayed on crops at ewg’s website. And try to figure out how much roundup you’re eating every day. The USDA and FDA don’t test for it but it’s ubiquitous on legumes and grains, GMO or not. I wouldn’t really be too worried about a speck of duct tape on skin. Best defense to all of it is to keep a healthy liver. https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/liver-health/

  5. Duct tape worked for me on a plantar wart. I had to keep the tape in place for six weeks, replacing it whenever it came off, usually after showering. A few years later the wart (or a new one) came back, but it, too, responded to duct tape. Easy, and as soon as the first piece of tape went on the foot, I had no more pain when walking.

    1. One method involves self surgery. Once had a wart at the side of my nose which would have interfered with wearing glasses. So I said…no way.

      Used some nail clippers to whittle it down and then tweezers to “pull” the roots of the wart. There was some slight “infection” which I controlled with iodine.

      Didn’t take too long before it gave up…ended up with a slight depression in the skin…with no sign of it at this point.

      Only try this if you are the adventurous type and can tolerate minor pain.

  6. Vinegar and duct tape work for both of my daughters when all other treatments didn’t. And yes we went to the doctors and yes they froze the warts and yes there was a lot of anxiety and pain along with it until we came along with duct tape and vinegar!

    1. My grandmother had freezing on a skin spot 3 or 4 times and she definitely complained of pain for that.

      She rarely complained of pain.

      Almost never.

      She is someone who was allergic to things like Novacaine and had root canals without any numbing or pain meds.

      She was older by the time she needed the freezing, so maybe her skin was more sensitive, but she didn’t complain about pain for almost anything right up to her death, so I know it caused her pain.

  7. Wonder how many opposite-of-placebo effects things there are: “Just the “psychological stress” of having to keep going back for this painful procedure may ironically impair our ability to fight off the wart viruses in the first place.”

    Looking forward to the explanation of what led to the “total flop” results.

    1. Yes, and, in my family, they do use duct tape to fix anything.

      But it was a woman who invented it.

      https://www.kilmerhouse.com/2012/06/the-woman-who-invented-duct-tape

      Women might do different things with it.

      https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/duct-tape-bikini-trend-coachella

      Laughing.

      When I think about duct tape, I think about the woman and man who got trapped in the snow on a closed road in California. I remember that the woman gave the man her socks for him to go search for help and then, she made socks out of duct tape and kleenex and she is the one who made it out alive. It made me think duct tape would be useful for keeping dry in some situations. I might even have bought my first roll of duct tape at that moment, but I am not going out in snowstorms where I am going to get stuck for days, so I just ended up having no real use for it, except for activities with 8-year-olds. Nope, I won’t ever show her the bikinis.

    2. “We used to joke that guys used duct tape to fix anything”

      Yup, my father would say “duct tape to make it stop and WD-40 to make it go”…
      mitch

  8. When I was in the military during a long force march in Panama, in the rain, because it always rains in Panama, twice a day if not more, I used Duck tape to cover blisters I had on both feet. Walking for 15-17 miles with wet socks causes serious blister, especially when going up and down mountainous terrain. Never had blisters before in the years leading up to this. The duct tape was such a relief and allowed me to finish the March. After, I just left it on until the blisters healed, about 1 week-10days. Held up in the shower for some time. Me and duct tape have a long history.

    1. That is such a great duct tape story!

      Twice a day, if not more, is a lot of rain!

      Forest Gump rain scenes are going through my brain.

      It has to be miserable when you can’t come in out of the rain.

      It has to be ridiculously miserable to have a blister when you are in the military.

      Foot care is certainly an important part of military history.

      I used to get blisters on my feet often. I haven’t in years, but whenever I have to wear new “dress” shoes, I put a small bandaid on preventatively.

  9. Tape, a surgical kind, that heavyish white one,
    was what I used as a young child to get rid of the wart on my index finger. It worked. I remember the wart returning several times and
    disappearing. I doubt I was very cooperative about keeping the tape on. But, in the end, I was wart free.

  10. Duct tape worked for me, but with a caveat. I had a wart on my thigh. Tried freezing it at dermatologist 1x and it did nothing. Used duct tape for weeks and weeks. While I got the wart smaller, I could not entirely get rid of it with my duct tape. At some point, I also bought a home freezing kit and used that a few times. In between freezing treatments, I would pick at the wart to try and whittle it down with an emery board. This seemed to help. Eventually, it was gone. It took a lot of patience.

    1. Yes, some of us hear emery board and freezing it and I was in the “did nothing” category.

      It went away, a few decades later.

      Maybe when I started actually eating vegetables.

  11. My son had some pretty bad warts as a child. The MD froze them off a couple of times always cutting them off after they grew back. The next MD suggested that duct tape along with the cream used for treating genital warts worked even better than any other method. We tried it and it totally worked!

  12. I had a few warts on the bottom of both feet, and tried all the typical methods, even duct tape, and none totally removed the warts. However, after returning home from a family vacation, I noticed they were gone; barely visible. I didn’t use any treatment for my warts on the trip, and the only two things I could reason that were responsible for their removal is that we went to Disneyland for four days and walked constantly (I wore typical running shoes and white socks), and we also played and walked barefoot on the beach at Newport Beach. I think it was the long walks in the sand, barefooted that simply ground them off.

  13. I have been watching speakers like Zach Bush.

    I talked recently about making the decision about whether including one or two conventional foods would wreck my mostly organic salad and halfway through this talk, I decided that I am not going to eat conventional foods anymore. There are some foods, where it is challenging to find in organic, but I have decided that I am not going to eat them. Issues are larger than my personal gut microbiome.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL6OPzQe9Is

  14. My mom discovered that you can remove warts by just putting on a wet bandaid and never taking it off (or replacing when it inevitably falls off). Just let the bandaid get all wet and gross until the wart comes off. She said it suffocated the wart.

  15. I remember having warts pulled out from my feet when I was a child. I have never experienced so much pain in my life. Good to know about this. Thanks.

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