20 February 2013

How to Remove a Splinter

I was talking with a friend the other day, he works with timber, and he was saying how painful splinters are and how hard they can be to remove.

Wayne gets splinters all the time, sometime wood, most of the time from metal shards. They tend to go in deep and require digging out (and that is painful), unless he tells me and I can get a poultice on it.

That's a lovely old fashioned word isn't it? Poultice. It's not used too much these days, although my mother would make up a poultice for all sorts of things. Sometimes they'd be bread, other times they'd be herbal, and sometimes I have no idea what they'd be made of. But they worked.

Splinters would pop out, boils would come to a head and the pain would go away.

So when Simon mentioned splinters, I was glad I could offer a painless and frugal way to get them out.

Firstly, gently clean around the area the splinter is with soap and water. Don't scrub, just wash the area, then pat it dry with a soft towel.

Next take a teaspoon of bicarb soda (yes, the same stuff you use in cooking and cleaning) and make it into a stiff paste with a little water.

Smear the paste over the splinter and cover it with a bandaid.

The bicarb soda will cause the skin around the splinter to soften and plump up and push the splinter out.

Replace the poultice every couple of hours for a day and the splinter should be sticking out of the skin, ready to be gently removed with a pair of tweezers.

Don't be tempted to squeeze unless the splinter is sticking out. Squeezing often forces splinter further in, making them harder to remove.

If your splinter isn't ready to come out, make up another bicarb poultice and leave it another 24 hours.

If you have an invisible splinter (from cactus plants, fibreglass and so on),  use a strip of sticky tape to pull it out. Just press the tape (sticky side down of course) over the area the splinter is in and then pull it off, in the opposite direction to the way it went in.

Now, a word of warning. If you haven't been able to remove the splinter within 48 hours, or the area becomes red and inflamed, go to your doctor. A splinter may seem a trivial complaint, but infection isn't trivial, and left in situ splinters can move deeper and deeper into the flesh and can cause serious problems.


  1. Vicks will do the same job and usually overnight. :)

  2. I made a sugar and soap paste (only things available at the time) when a needle broke off in the bottom of my foot. Covered it with large bandaids and the next day the needle was sticking out enough to use tweezers to pull it out. Will remember to have bi-carb with us when traveling from now on.

  3. this is amazing! I never knew anything about poutices (and evidently neither did my mother!)

    Thanks so much for this information.


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