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What causes warts?

Skin warts are fairly common. Most people will have one at some point in their lives.

These harmless raised bumps, which form mainly on the hands and feet, are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). There is no cure for HPV, so treatment is aimed at removing the wart.

Modern treatments for warts include:

  • freezing off the warts (cryotherapy)
  • topical creams containing salicylic acid
  • laser therapy
  • surgical removal

However, treating warts can be costly and painful. Sometimes it requires multiple treatments. Even with a successful wart treatment, the warts can come back or spread to other areas of the body.

Vinegar has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of different ailments, from stomach aches to poison ivy and diabetes.

The idea that apple cider vinegar can be used to treat warts has withstood the test of time. In general, apple cider vinegar is believed to work for warts in the following ways:

  • Vinegar is an acid (acetic acid), so it can kill some types of bacteria and viruses on contact.
  • The vinegar burns and slowly destroys the infected skin, causing the wart to fall off, similar to how salicylic acid works.
  • The irritation from the acids stimulates your immune system’s ability to fight the virus that caused the wart.

The most recommended method for treating a wart with apple cider vinegar is fairly simple. You just need a cotton ball, water, apple cider vinegar, and duct tape or a bandage.

  1. Mix two parts apple cider vinegar in one-part water.
  2. Soak a cotton ball in the vinegar-water solution.
  3. Apply the cotton ball directly on the wart.
  4. Cover with tape or a bandage, keeping the cotton ball on the wart overnight (or for longer if possible).
  5. Remove the cotton ball and bandage or tape and discard.
  6. Repeat every night until the wart falls off.

Another method involves creating a solution for submerging your hands or feet:

  1. Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water in a bucket or large container.
  2. Submerge the area affected with warts for about 15 minutes each day.
  3. Rinse the skin with water when you’re done.

Unfortunately, there is little scientific proof that apple cider vinegar is reliably effective for treating warts. One study showed that vinegar can kill harmful pathogens in a laboratory.

Vinegar is also sometimes used as a household disinfectant or as a way to preserve food.

Despite some evidence showing vinegar might be an effective treatment in certain instances, scientific research doesn’t support the use of vinegar to fight infections in people, either when applied topically to the skin or ingested.

Vinegar is a weak acid, containing between 4 and 8 percent acetic acid. However, even weak acids can cause chemical burns.

There have been reports — one in a 14-year-old girl and another in an eight-year-old boy — of apple cider vinegar causing chemical burns when applied directly to the skin and covered with a bandage.

You should exercise extreme caution when applying apple cider vinegar directly to your skin. It’s likely you will feel mild irritation or a burning sensation.

If you experience a lot of pain and burning that seems to get worse over time, remove the cotton ball and rinse the area with water. When trying this remedy, make sure you are diluting the apple cider vinegar with water to help prevent burns.

You shouldn’t apply apple cider vinegar to open wounds or directly to the face and neck. Also, don’t use apple cider vinegar on a genital wart. This type of wart is different and should be treated by a doctor.

An allergic reaction is possible with any natural product. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • rash or hives
  • dizziness
  • fast heartbeat

Like many natural remedies, the evidence supporting the use of apple cider vinegar to treat warts is mostly anecdotal. Since vinegar is widely available and very affordable, you might want to give it a try before moving on to a more expensive treatment. If you experience burning or pain, dilute the vinegar more before applying.

Shop for apple cider vinegar.

Don’t apply apple cider vinegar to open wounds. If your skin is burning or very irritated, rinse thoroughly with water. If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, or any other concerning symptoms, stop use immediately and call your doctor.

When it comes to warts, you may need to try several different treatment methods before you find the right one. Your doctor or dermatologist may support trying natural remedies along with conventional treatments. Talk to your doctor to review your options.