Overview

Splinters are fragments of wood that can puncture and get stuck in your skin. They are common, but painful. In many cases, you can safely remove a splinter yourself at home. If the injury becomes infected or if you’re unable to remove the splinter on your own, you’ll need to see a doctor.

Read below for detailed instructions on how to remove a splinter and when to get professional medical help.

Steps for removing the splinter

There are a few different methods you can use to remove a splinter. You can pick the best method depending on:

  • where the splinter is located
  • the direction it’s going in
  • its size
  • how deep it is

First steps

No matter which method you choose, it’s important that you first wash your hands and the affected area with warm, soapy water. This helps prevent infection, as a splinter is technically an open wound.

Always inspect the splinter carefully before you start trying to remove it. Observe how the splinter entered your skin, what direction it’s going in, and if any part of the splinter is still protruding outside your skin.

Soaking the affected area in warm water before trying to remove the splinter may help soften your skin and make splinter removal easier.

Good lighting and a magnifying glass will help you see the splinter better.

Never try to pinch or squeeze a splinter out. This it could cause the splinter to break into smaller pieces and make it more difficult to remove.

Method 1: Tweezers

This method is best for when a part of the splinter is still outside your skin.

You’ll need the following tools:

  • tweezers
  • rubbing alcohol and cotton ball

To remove a splinter with tweezers:

  1. Disinfect the tweezers by applying rubbing alcohol with a cotton ball.
  2. Use the tweezers to grab the part of the splinter that’s sticking out.
  3. Pull the splinter out from the same direction it went in.

Method 2: Small needle and tweezers

This method is best for when the whole splinter is under your skin.

You’ll need the following tools:

  • small needle
  • tweezers
  • rubbing alcohol and cotton ball

To remove a splinter with a needle and tweezers:

  1. Disinfect the needle and tweezers by applying rubbing alcohol with a cotton ball.
  2. Gently lift or break your skin in the area of the injury so that you can gain access to the splinter.
  3. Once you’ve exposed part of the splinter, use tweezers to remove it by pulling it out from the same direction it went in

Method 3: Tape

This method is best for tiny splinters or plant stickers that protrude from your skin.

You’ll need the following tools:

  • very sticky tape, such as packing tape or duct tape

To remove a splinter with tape:

  1. Touch the affected area very gently with tape to try to catch the splinter.
  2. Move slowly to get the splinter to stick to the tape.
  3. Once the splinter sticks to the tape, gently pull the tape from your skin. The splinter should be removed along with the tape.
  4. Repeat if necessary.

Sometimes small splinters will naturally come out on their own. If a splinter isn’t causing you any discomfort, watchful waiting may be the best treatment option.

After you remove the splinter

Immediately after removing a splinter, wash the area with warm water and soap.

Gently dry the wound, and cover it with a bandage.

When you should see a doctor

Get help from a doctor if the splinter is:

  • large
  • deep
  • in or near your eye

You should also see your doctor if you suspect your wound has become infected. Signs of infection may include:

  • redness or discoloration
  • swelling
  • excessive pain
  • area warm to the touch
  • pus

You’ll also may need to see a doctor if your last tetanus booster was more than five years ago.

If you do need to go see a doctor, first cover the wound with gauze and try to slow down any bleeding. To slow bleeding, gently press gauze around the wound to keep the skin together and try to keep the affected area elevated above your heart.

The takeaway

Splinters are common for adults and children alike. They can usually be safely removed at home, but in certain cases you’ll want help and care from a nurse or doctor.

Prevent infection by thoroughly cleaning the wound before and after you remove the splinter. Seek help immediately if you have signs of infection or you’re unable to safely remove the splinter on your own.