Expert Advice

Can duct tape cure a wart?

Research has tested the efficacy of duct tape with mixed results.

Can duct tape cure a wart?
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Warts—caused by the human papillomavirus—have inspired countless folk remedies. One suggests you rub a shiny penny across a wart's surface; another involves wrapping it in duct tape. Strangely, some of these tactics seem to work.

While you should consult a doctor regarding any warts that appear in the genital region, common warts elsewhere on the body do not necessarily require a physician's attention. They often disappear on their own, although the process can take months or even years. Over-the- counter gels and pads made to treat warts contain salicylic acid (an ingredient found in willow bark and most fruits), which can help remove a wart. A doctor or dermatologist might recommend freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen or burning it using a light electrical current or laser.

Research has tested the efficacy of duct tape with mixed results. A 2002 study at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington compared the effect of freezing warts against the effect of covering them with duct tape for six days. Of the 26 participants who wore duct tape, 80 percent saw their warts disappear; only 60 percent of the freezing group had the same luck. However, a newer study, published in the March 2007 issue of Archives of Dermatology, followed the same procedure and discovered that duct tape helped only 21 percent of the time. Mechanism A prevailing theory about how duct tape works suggests there's something about the adhesive contact with the wart that causes an irritation, which then prompts your immune system to wage a defense against the virus that caused the wart. So the adhesiveness of the tape may make all the difference.

To try it for yourself, cover the wart for six days. If the tape falls off, replace it. After six days, soak the wart until it's soft and file it with an emery board or pumice stone. Leave the duct tape off overnight, and reapply for another six days. Repeat for up to two months or until the wart disappears.

—Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, founders of and authors of Best Choices from the People's Pharmacy (Penguin, 2007)