How to Safely Remove a Splinter

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A splinter is a tiny impaled object that can be removed at home without ever seeing a doctor. However, you shouldn't ignore them. Splinters can become infected if left under the skin for too long.

Use these steps to see if it should be safe to remove the splinter yourself or whether you should see a doctor. One precaution is that splinters in or near the eye should only be removed by a healthcare provider.​

What You’ll Need to Remove a Splinter
Verywell / Gary Ferster

Check for Signs of Infection First

Look for these signs of infection before trying to remove a splinter:

  • Pus draining from the wound
  • Redness
  • Severe pain even without movement
  • Swelling

If the splinter shows any signs it has become infected, see a doctor for removal.

The chances of a splinter becoming infected depend on what the splinter is: organic material — like animal spines or plant thorns — are more likely to cause infection or toxic reactions.​

When you take a splinter out, make sure you get the whole thing. A splinter is usually a small piece of wood that broke into multiple parts, and it's very easy to have more than one under the skin. A piece of a splinter left behind can become infected.

What You Will Need

Assemble these items:

  • Disinfectant of choice (prep pad, swab, or liquid)
  • Needle
  • Pair of tweezers
  • Soap and water

Steps to Remove a Splinter

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before attempting to remove the splinter.
  2. Clean a needle and a pair of tweezers with alcohol or another disinfectant.
  3. Wash the wound and surrounding area with soap and warm water.
  4. Use the needle to open up the skin above the splinter and expose the end of the splinter. If the splinter is fully embedded under the skin, a needle can be used to pierce the skin and gently push out part of the splinter. Never try to squeeze out a splinter because it can break into smaller pieces and cause an even bigger problem.
  5. Grasp the end of the splinter with the tweezers and back it out of the skin at the same angle it went into the skin.
  6. Wash the wound with warm water and soap. Apply petroleum jelly before applying a bandage.
  7. If the wound is likely to get dirty after the splinter removal, cover it with a bandage until the skin is healed.


Usually, the pain of a splinter is more irritable than anything. However, if the area is very tender, try a bee-sting swab to dull the pain.

Splinters under a fingernail (subungal splinters) may present a bigger problem. If the tip of the splinter cannot be reached with tweezers, you have the option of going to see a doctor or not. A doctor will be able to snip away the nail and pull the splinter out.

The other option is to keep the area clean and wait until natural nail growth pushes the splinter out. Watch the area closely for signs of infection.

Make sure the person with the splinter is up to date on tetanus vaccination. If not, have the doctor remove the splinter when going in to get the vaccination.

Finally, splinters will work out of the skin naturally and may not need to be removed.

There's no need to hurry if you are away from home and don't have the necessary clean supplies. Wait until the proper cleanliness can be achieved to remove splinters.

A Word from Verywell

Splinter removal is the surgery of mom and dad. Ancient lore says you'll win the hearts of the kings of the jungle by removing thorns from their paws. The same is true for your children. Just make sure you have the whole thing.

If you have any concern that a large splinter might not have been completely removed, don't be afraid to see a doctor. A splinter doesn't need an emergency room, but it does need to come all the way out.

4 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. Cleveland Clinic. How to remove a splinter (and when to call a doctor).

  2. Chan C, Salam GA. Splinter removal. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(12):2557-2562.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to remove a splinter.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Surprising ways you can get tetanus - not just from rusty nails.

Additional Reading

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.