Reviewed by Michael Smith on March 20, 2017

Sources

American Academy of Dermatology: "Warts," "How to Get Rid of Warts."

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Video Transcript

SHEILA: My abuelita told me that to get rid of warts all you needed to do is to pee on it. I had also heard that rubbing a potato or a penny on it will get rid of it, too. So which one is true?

JUAN RIVERA, MD: OK ... those are all a lot of interesting options! And either your abuelita knows something about Mexican urine the rest of us don't know, or you were such a troublemaker as a kid that this was her way of getting back at you.

Let's start with the wart itself.

A wart is the result of an infection of the top layer of the skin caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV causes the rapid growth of cells in the outer layer of skin, which gives you a wart. And because it's a virus, it can spread to other areas of your body if you constantly pick or scratch it. So it's best to treat a wart as soon as you see it.

OK, let's give abuelita the benefit of the doubt and try to medically analyze her suggestions. One of the most recommended treatments for warts is salicylic acid, which does the job of irritating the area so the immune system attacks the wart. This can be as effective as freezing it. Urine actually does have a little bit of acid in it, but it doesn't have the amount of acid you need to make this an effective treatment. So I am so sorry, but urine is a no-go.

If you're treating warts with home remedies, you should know that it is impossible to directly kill the virus yourself, so please, don't try it. The idea is to irritate or inflame the affected area so your immune system gets activated and attacks the virus. Your best bet is over-the-counter creams which can have up to 40% concentration of the salicylic acid you need. Or you can try over-the-counter freezing devices.

OK, sounds to me you're better off taking advice from your abuelita on how to cook tamales. ...