How to quickly remove a splinter
Whenever I get a splinter, I have trouble getting it out. I pinch and pull at it. I bite it. I usually can't get it out for a while. When I can't get it out, it hurts to put pressure on the spot where the splinter is.
I'm looking for a quick and safe way to remove it from my finger (or toe). I want the method to only involve things I can easily find around my house. I also want it to be able to get out in no more than 30 minutes (the faster, the better). Bonus points for reducing pain, but speed is my top priority.
General measures for successfully removing splinters are:
- Take it easy - in a hectic rush the splinter may break and will then be much harder to remove.
- Do not put pressure on it as it only will push it deeper into your skin, or even it may break.
- Try to find out what material the splinter is.
- In case the splinter is not easily accessible (foot, right hand in case you're right-handed) get help from another person.
- Seek a doctor if the skin around a splinter shows inflammation.
- Always seek a doctor in case you can't remember your last tetanus shot.
Don't worry much about pain. It will only hurt when you push the splinter (which you shouldn't do) but only little if at all when you pull it. As soon as the splinter was removed the pain will stop immediately.
If pain persists or gets worse you may have a broken splinter remnant in your skin. In case it also swells or the skin gets red you will have an infection which should be treated. See a doctor then.
Case wooden splinter or metal splinter sticking out
In the usual case where you can see the splinter base still sticking our of the skin, you may grab it and remove it gently, taking care it does not break. Use any tool you find to securely hold it while pulling it along its entry angle. Consider disinfecting (e.g with alcohol or a lighter flame).
Special splinter tweezers (in my experience a "Feilchenfeld" design forceps is best)
Eyebrow hair tweezers are great too.
- Fine tweezers from your toolbox may work in case its tip is not deformed.
In case the splinter does not come out very easily: do not pull harder - it may break. Put your skin in warm soapy water.
Wooden or metal splinter not sticking out or broken
In this case, we still may be able to grab it by making the opening it entered the skin a bit wider. In this case, we must disinfect our tools. Softening the skin by holding it for 10 minutes in warm soapy water considerably helps.
- Use two tweezers, one to widen the hole in your skin, a second one to grab the splinter.
- Use a sharp needle or blade to go underneath the splinter and lift it a bit. Then grab it with a tweezer.
Cactus spine or plant thorn
These "splinters" are much harder to remove as they may break very easily, or they may have barbed spines designed by nature to not come out.
To remove these we always have to soften the skin by immersing in soap water before we start pulling with methods above.
Many small superficial spines or thorns may be removed using tape and pulling them out.
Glass splinters are tricky as glass breaks very (very!) easily on grabbing. Once it was broken it will produce many tiny glass fragments that then may be so hard to remove to require surgery.
Therefore removing a glass splinter may better be done by a professional.
In case we try by ourselves we need to be very careful to not hold it too firm and to prevent it from breaking.