There are various ways to treat warts yourself and to prevent them from spreading, although it can take weeks or even months of treatment before a wart fully disappears. It’s important that you do not pick at a wart because it can irritate the skin and cause the wart to spread.
How to get rid of warts
Liquid or gel
A common method of treating warts involves applying a liquid or gel to the wart containing salicylic acid or lactic acid. These treatments are available to buy over-the-counter without prescription from pharmacies and some supermarkets. They can sometimes clear the wart within 12 weeks.
Salicylic acid should never be used on the face. It works by breaking down skin cells, so it’s important to protect the skin around the wart and to use caution when applying the treatment. Remember to closely follow any instructions that came with the medicine. Each week you should rub off the dead skin from the wart using a pumice stone or an emery board.
Freezing a wart (known as cryotherapy) needs to be carried out by a healthcare professional. It works by exposing the wart to a very cold liquid, such as nitrogen or ether-based home treatments. This freezes the wart and destroys its skin cells. This treatment is commonly used for warts that appear on the face.
In rare cases, your doctor may advise you to have laser surgery or other medical treatments to strengthen your immune system.
Preventing warts from spreading
There are steps you can take to prevent spreading warts and verrucas to others if you have them:
- if you have a plantar (on the bottom of the feet) wart, you need to change your socks daily
- don't share towels with another person. If you have a plantar wart you should avoid sharing any footwear including socks
- if you have a plantar wart make sure you clean out the bottom of your shower or bath after use
- wash your hands if they come into direct contact with your wart, such as when you apply any treatments
- never pick, scratch or bite a wart
- don't share any medicines or remedies used to treat your wart. This includes emery boards and pumice stones
- if you go swimming and you have a plantar wart you should cover it up and wear thongs in communal areas. Don't go barefoot in public areas.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your warts, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
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Last reviewed: September 2017