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A splinter is a broken fragment of wood, glass, plastic, or metal that is very small, thin, and sharp.
If you accidentally touch or walk over it, the splinter can easily pierce through the skin and get embedded inside its top layer, causing pain. (1) Plus, it can introduce germs inside the skin and trigger an infection.
Fortunately, most splinters are superficial and do not require a visit to the doctor. You can easily remove them yourself by using a variety of tools and remedies.
How to Remove a Splinter
The following methods can assist in splinter removal from your skin.
1. Take it out with the help of tweezers
If the splinter is partially sticking out of the skin, use a pair of tweezers to gently remove it. Don’t try to pull or squeeze it out with your hands as this can further break the splinter into tiny pieces that are difficult to remove.
- Wash your hands and the area around the splinter with warm water and soap to remove any infection-causing germs that may otherwise gain entry into the wound.
- Use rubbing alcohol to sanitize the pair of tweezers.
- Look at the splinter through a magnifying glass to get a clearer view so that you don’t end up injuring your skin further.
- Gently yank it out with the tweezers in the same direction that it pierced your skin.
- Wash the area with soap and water, wait for it to dry, and if needed, apply an antibiotic ointment and bandage over it to facilitate proper wound healing.
2. Use a needle
If the splinter is completely embedded, use a small needle to break and lift the flap of skin covering the splinter before you extract it with a pair of tweezers. This will allow you to clearly view the splinter and remove it with precision. (2)
- Disinfect the needle with rubbing alcohol.
- Use the needle to pierce and lift the skin flap covering the splinter to expose its tip.
- Use a pair of sterilized tweezers to grab the tip and gently pull out the splinter.
- Wash the area with soap and water, let it dry, and then cover it with a dressing of antibiotic ointment and bandage.
3. Pull it out using a tape (preferably duct tape)
If the splinter gets embedded in the skin in such a way that only a very minuscule tip is visible on the surface, then a pair of tweezers may not be the best tool to remove it. This is because tweezers aren’t fine enough to grab the tiny piece of splinter sticking out and may even push it deeper or injure the nearby skin.
In such a case, adhesive tape is a better extraction tool. The sticky side will stick to the splinter and pull it out when you strip away the tape.
- Cut a small piece of tape (preferably duct tape rather than scotch tape as the former is more adhesive) and stick it over the splinter. The area should be completely dry so that the tape sticks nicely. Also, the tape should be new and clean without any dust or debris.
- Wait for a few minutes so that the tip of the splinter gets properly attached to the adhesive, and then pull off the tape in the opposite direction of the splinter. For instance, if the splinter is bending towards the left, pull the tape towards the right.
4. Employ nail clippers
Nail clippers can be used instead of tweezers to grab and pull out thick splinters that are not deeply embedded and stick out from the skin.
Plus, you can use their sharp edge to make a small superficial cut along the length of the splinter so that you can reach it easily for removal. The cut should be superficial enough to expose the embedded splinter but without causing any bleeding.
5. Try using glue
Glue is another adhesive agent that can be used to pull out a small, slightly protruding splinter, much the same way as tape. Tape is generally more effective for splinters that are small and have some protrusion from the skin’s surface.
- Apply a little white glue over the splinter.
- Once the glue dries, swiftly peel it off, which will also remove the splinter sticking to it.
Note: Don’t use super glue or wood glue for this purpose as they are too adhesive and will damage your skin when peeled off.
6. Apply hydrogen peroxide over the affected area
Hydrogen peroxide is a common disinfectant (3) that can be used to draw out and remove a deeply embedded splinter. When applied to the skin, this liquid causes inflammation or swelling, which pushes the splinter out of the skin.
- Dip a clean cotton pad in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.
- Apply it to the affected area.
- Ideally, it should take only a couple of minutes for the splinter to rise to the surface. If not, you will have to repeat the process until it comes out completely.
7. Take the help of Epsom salt or baking soda
Epsom salt and baking soda can help extract deeply embedded splinters without the use of piercing tools such as tweezers, needles, or nail clippers.
Both these ingredients exert osmotic pressure on the skin, which draws out water from the underlying skin cells and brings it to the surface through the pores. This loss of water constricts or tightens the skin so that you can see more of the splinter.
Also, the expulsion of water from the skin also pushes the splinter towards the surface.
- Mix 1 cup of Epsom salt in a bucket or tub full of water and immerse the affected area in this solution until the splinter is drawn out. You may have to do this multiple times to get the splinter out completely. If only a small part surfaces, use a pair of tweezers to pull it out.
- Apply a thick paste of baking soda mixed with water to the affected area, and leave it covered with a bandage for 24 hours.
8. Try removing it with castor oil
Castor oil is another natural remedy that is widely used for removing splinters. It helps soften the skin around the splinter so that it is easier to extract. It also makes the splinter rise to the surface of the skin for a swift and hassle-free removal.
- Apply a generous amount of pure castor oil onto the affected area.
- Put a bandage on top and leave it overnight for the splinter to the surface or be expelled.
9. Rub some potato slices on the affected area
You can also use a potato slice to draw out and remove a splinter.
- Place the fleshy side of a potato slice over the splinter for a few minutes without applying pressure. This will make the splinter rise to the surface and get stuck to the potato.
- Remove the potato slice and the splinter along with it.
Note: A splinter is not a major injury, but it is an open wound that can easily become infected if not handled with proper care and hygiene. Thus, always clean the area with soap and water before and after using any of the above-listed tools/methods. Moreover, make sure to apply an antibiotic and keep the wound covered with a clean bandage to block out germs and debris. (4)
How to Prevent Splinters
Here are a few simple tips to avoid getting splinters:
- Don’t walk barefoot over a rough wooden surface such as a boardwalk or deck.
- Always wear protective goggles when working with wood, glass, or metal to keep flying splinters from getting into your eyes. (5) Plus, wear gloves to protect your hands from getting splinters as well.
- Wear gloves while gardening to prevent your hands from catching thorns.
When to See a Doctor
In most cases, you can easily take the splinters out at home by using the methods mentioned above. But you may require medical attention in the following cases:
- If you are unable to remove it completely.
- If it gets broken into smaller pieces.
- If it is located in or near your eye.
- If it is too large or too deep.
- If there is excessive bleeding from the wound.
- If the area begins to hurt more after removing the splinter.
- If you develop any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, warmth, fluid discharge in and around the wound, or a fever.
If you don’t get the splinter out quickly, the skin will begin to heal and thicken, thus burying the splinter even deeper. So, it is recommended that you take out the splinter as soon as possible to spare yourself the undue hassle.
In most cases, splinters can be safely removed at home. This could be an excruciating experience, but the above-mentioned techniques can help get the splinter out swiftly without hurting too much. (1)