Posted by Solv, October 15, 2018 (last updated on July 30, 2021)
Splinters are a huge bummer. At best, they’re irritating. At worst, they can get infected and turn into a much bigger issue. Luckily, there are a number of ways to quickly and painlessly remove a splinter at home. Below are some tips for how to remove a splinter yourself.
But first, here’s what not to do when removing a splinter
Don’t try to “squeeze” it out. You’ll risk splitting the splinter into parts which will make it much more difficult to remove. Also, it’s best not to try to remove certain kinds of splinters at home. If the splinter is very large, deep, infected, or located on or near your eye, it will likely require medical attention. Splinters that go straight into the skin are also notoriously tricky to remove by yourself. If any of these things are going on, make an appointment at your local urgent care center and they’ll fix you right up.
How to Remove a Splinter
A tried and true way to remove a splinter: tweezers and a needle
Most splinters can be taken care of at home with the good old tweezers and needle approach. But remember, it’s best to deal with a splinter right away. You don’t want it to burrow deeper into the skin or get infected.
The first step is to clean the area (with soap and water) and your tools (you can clean tweezers and the needle with rubbing alcohol). Then, inspect the splinter to see which direction it entered the skin and whether a portion of it is poking out or not. A magnifying glass is super helpful here (and a good thing to have in your first aid kit). If a section of the splinter is visible, use the tweezers to pull it out the same way it went in.
If the entire splinter is embedded in the skin, however, you’ll need that small needle. Gently pierce the surface of the skin at one end of the splinter. Keep lightly pushing out part of the splinter until you can see the tip. Then use your tweezers to remove it. After you’re done, clean the area again, apply petroleum jelly, and bandage it up until it heals.
Tweezer method not working? Not a problem. Here are six more creative, easy ways to remove that pesky splinter.
1. Pull it off with duct tape
Sticky tape (like duct tape) can work wonders to remove shallow splinters. Cover the tip of a splinter with a small piece of tape and leave it on for 30 minutes. Then slowly remove the tape in the opposite direction that the splinter entered the skin. The tape should stick to the end of the splinter and pull it free as you peel the tape away. Pro tip: soak the area in water first to soften the skin.
2. Cover it with baking soda paste
Make a paste using one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of water. Cover the skin around the splinter with the paste. Then, put a bandage over the area and leave it alone for at least 24 hours. The baking soda solution should work to pull the splinter up to the surface, making it easier to pull out with tweezers easily and painlessly.
3. Peel it away with glue
Elmer’s glue can also come to the rescue in splinter situations. Simply cover the area of skin around the splinter with glue and let it dry completely (it won’t work if it’s still wet). Once the glue is dry, peel it off. It should come out quickly when you peel away the glue. This method is best used if the splinter is small and near the surface.
4. Use hydrogen peroxide to pop it out
Pour a little hydrogen peroxide over the affected area. As the peroxide bubbles, it will move the splinter closer towards the surface. In just a few minutes, the peroxide can pop the splinter completely out of the skin, without any pain. This method can work on large splinters but may be less effective if the splinter is too deep. Don’t have any hydrogen peroxide laying around? Try white vinegar instead.
5. Soak it in epsom salts
Epsom salt baths are miracle workers for a number of ailments, including splinters. They can help draw those deep splinters closer to the surface. Just dissolve a cup of the salts into a warm bath and soak the affected area. You can also put some salts on a bandage pad and leave it on your skin for the day. The salts will work to bring the splinter up to a tweezable location.
6. Try banana peels or sliced potatoes
Some people swear by potatoes or banana peels for their splinter removal abilities. Tape a slice of a potato or a portion of a ripe banana peel over the splinter area. The enzymes will go to work to soften your skin, helping to move the splinter towards the surface. Leave it on for a few hours, or better yet, overnight. Hopefully by morning, the splinter will rise to the surface where you can pull it out with tweezers. If it doesn’t work after one night, replace the peel or slice and keep it on for another day.
Getting a splinter out doesn’t have to be a painful process. Depending on where the splinter is and how deep it goes, you may be able to get it out of your skin by yourself. However, if you’re feeling iffy or suspect that the wound may be infected, take out the guesswork and book an appointment at one of Solv’s urgent care centers.
What happens if you don't remove a splinter?
It’s best to take care of a splinter right away. The skin doesn’t “absorb” it. If left alone, the splinter may eventually work its way out, but it also might become infected. The skin could also heal over the splinter, making it much more difficult to remove down the line.
Can I remove a splinter without tweezers?
If a splinter is small, close to the surface, and has an end sticking out of the skin, you can try to use sticky tape (like duct tape) to remove it. Place a small piece of tape over the splinter, leave it on for 30 minutes, and then slowly peel back the tape in the opposite direction that it entered the skin.
How do I remove a deep splinter?
If you can see any part of the splinter above the surface of your skin, you can try removing it with tweezers. If you can’t see the tip, you can try several at-home methods to try to draw the splinter to the surface of the skin including an epsom salt soak, banana peels or potatoes, a baking soda paste, or vinegar. Once the deep splinter has reached the skin’s surface, it may be easier to remove with tweezers and a needle.
How do I remove a splinter under my fingernail?
See if you can cut the nail back enough so that you can remove the splinter with tweezers. If the splinter is deeper under the nail, you can use clippers to trim a v-shape in the nail to open it up further and allow tweezers better access. Once the splinter is out, wash the area with soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment, then a bandage. If you are unable to get to the splinter this way, make an urgent care appointment.
Should I go to the doctor if I can’t get my splinter out?
Yes. Most urgent care centers can take care of difficult splinters right away. You should seek medical care if the splinter won’t come out, if it’s on or near the eye, or if it’s looking infected. Signs that a splinter is infected include increased pain or redness, hardened skin, a white or yellow discharge, an associated fever or swollen lymph nodes, or red streaking from the affected area.