How to Remove Steri-Strips

Knowing when it's safe and when to leave them alone

It is important to not only know how to remove Steri-Strips but to know when it's safe to do so.

Steri-Strips—also called butterfly stitches, butterfly closures, or wound closure strips—are adhesive bandages used by surgeons as a backup to dissolvable stitches or when regular stitches are removed. They are one of several ways to keep surgical incisions stable, alongside traditional surgical tape, a surgical glue called Dermabond, or non-adhesive dressings like Xeroform that fully cover a wound but do not stick.

As a general rule, Steri-Strips are meant to be worn until they fall off but may be removed in certain instances if your surgeon gives you the OK.

This article provides instructions on how to safely remove Steri-Strips and advises when wound closure strips should not be removed.

How to Care for a Wound After Removing Steri-Strips

Laura Porter / Verywell

What Are Steri-Strips?

Steri-Strips are narrow pieces of tape used for cuts that cling to the skin better than ordinary tape. They are commonly used to keep incisions stabilized after stitches have been removed.

Steri-Strips can also be used immediately after surgery with dissolvable stitches. In this instance, they help stabilize the wound from the outside while the dissolvable stitches secure the incision from the inside. By doing so, the edges of the incision remain aligned, and there is no "ladder rung" scarring that traditional stitches can cause.

Steri-Strips are hypoallergenic but may cause irritation and itchiness in some. You can stop Steri-Strips itching by placing a cold compress over the incision or taking an antihistamine like Benadryl.

At the same time, the itching may be due to the stitches rather than the strip. Applying a light moisturizer may help if your surgeon gives you the OK.

In some cases, the surgeon will apply a liquid adhesive, called tincture of benzoin, to keep Steri-Strips securely in place. If so, the adhesive will need to be removed with a special solvent.

Are Steri-Strips Better?

Though Steri-Strips offer definite benefits, they may or may not be any more effective than traditional surgical tape.

A 2018 study in Advanced Biomedical Research reported that surgical tape was equally effective as Steri-Strips in healing facial sutures based on the width and depth of the resulting scar. A 2015 study from the University of California, Davis reported the same.


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How to Remove Steri-Strips

As a general rule, Steri-Strips are left on until they fall off, usually within 14 days. If they are still on after 14 days, your surgeon may give you the OK to remove them yourself.

When it comes to removing Steri-Strips, the key is to take things slowly and never yank them off. Steri-Strips are far stickier than standard adhesive bandages so tugging at them forcefully can injure the wound and underlying skin.

Here is how to remove Steri-Strips when the time is right:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water, cleaning under your nails.
  2. To keep the wound stable, place your thumb and forefinger on opposite sides of the incision next to the strip you want to remove. Do not pinch the skin as it may cause the wound to open.
  3. With the opposite hand, gently lift and peel one end of the strip, a little at a time.
  4. Slowly pull the strip back horizontally to the skin until it reaches the incision. Do not pull vertically as this increases tension on the skin.
  5. Repeat the process on the opposite end of the strip.
  6. Once both ends have been pulled to the incision, pinch the ends of the strip with your fingers and gently lift.

If any adhesive residue remains on the skin, gently remove it with baby oil, lotion, or medical adhesive remover purchased at your local drugstore. Try not to pick it away with your fingernail, especially if it is close to the wound.


Removing Steri-Strips early can cause wound dehiscence, a complication in which the edges of a wound no longer meet, causing unsightly scarring and an increased risk of infection.

You should never remove Steri-Strips on your own if tincture of benzoin has been used to secure the tape. This should be done in your surgeon's office with a special adhesive remover.

Unless your surgeon tells you otherwise, leave Steri-Strips on for the recommended time even if they are itchy or irritating.

After Removing Steri-Strips

Once the Steri-Strips are removed, gently wash the area with soap and water and pat—don't rub—the skin dry. The wound may still be healing, and you don't want to irritate it.

If you see patches of dried blood or dead skin, do not remove them. Let them fall off on their own.

You will need to protect the area until the wound has fully healed. This includes avoiding textured clothes that can get snagged on burrs or scabs,

Never scrub the wound or use products like rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine that can irritate tissues and slow healing.

You will want to leave the skin open to the air as much as possible once the strips are removed. With that said, if there is any minor oozing, apply a sterile dressing and call your healthcare provider if the oozing is significant or persistent.

When Not to Remove Steri-Strips

As a general rule, it is usually best to wait until the Steri-Strips fall off on their own. You should only remove the strips when your surgeon gives you the OK. Even then, there may be times when you will still need to wait.

For example, if a strip is scabbed over and stuck to the skin, do not pull at it. Instead, take a moistened cotton ball and gently dab the strip, waiting 30 seconds to see if it comes off any easier. If it does not, leave it until the scab comes off on its own or the strip can be dislodged without resistance.

Waiting will not cause any harm or change the outcome in any way. Until the strip is ready to be removed, trim any loose ends with a pair of nail scissors to avoid snagging.

The one thing you should never do is remove a scab by soaking it. Soaking the skin can cause the wound ends to swell and separate.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

See your healthcare provider immediately if your Steri-Strips come off and wound dehiscence occurs.

Reclosing an opened incision can be challenging and, if not done correctly, can result in a "second intention." This is when an open gap in a wound fills in unevenly, causing a lumpy, unsightly scar. Revision surgery by a plastic surgeon may be the only option to repair such damage.

You would also need to seek immediate care if you have any signs of an infection.

When to Seek Immediate Care

Call your healthcare provider immediately if experience the following while recovering from surgery:

  • High fever with chills
  • Increasing pain, swelling, heat, or redness at the incision site
  • A pus-like discharge
  • A foul-smelling wound
  • Expanding redness or streaks from the incision site


Steri-Strips are bandages used to keep an incision closed after surgery. They help stabilize an incision after stitches have been removed or when dissolvable stitches have been used.

You will generally be advised to wait until the strips fall off on their own. If the incision is amply healed, your healthcare provider may give you the OK to remove them yourself.

Do not remove Steri-Strips without first speaking with your healthcare provider. Doing so early may lead to wound dehiscence.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Esmailian M, Azizkhani R, Jangjoo A, Nasr M, Nemati S. Comparison of wound tape and suture wounds on traumatic wounds' scar. Adv Biomed Res. 2018;7:49. doi:10.4103/abr.abr_148_16

  2. Custis T, Armstrong AW, King TH, Sharon VR, Eisen DB. Effect of adhesive strips and dermal sutures vs dermal sutures only on wound closure. JAMA Dermatol. 2015 Aug;151(8):862–7. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.0174

  3. Shanmugam VK, Fernandez SJ, Evans KK, et al. Postoperative wound dehiscence: predictors and associations. Wound Repair Regen. 2015;23(2):184-190. doi:10.1111/wrr.12268

Additional Reading
  • Brunicardi FC, et al. Schwartz's Principles of Surgery. McGraw-Hill Education; 2014.

Originally written by Lisa Fayed