Salicylic acid, a caustic substance, can treat a variety of skin problems, including acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, corns, calluses and warts. Many over-the-counter wart treatments, for plantar warts on the feet and common warts on the fingers and hands, contain salicylic acid. Simple to use, this acid will generally remove a wart within several weeks if applied regularly and properly.
Select an appropriate product to treat your specific wart type. Over-the-counter salicylic acid preparations can treat plantar warts, which grow on the soles of the feet, and warts on other common areas, such as the hands and fingers. The products are geared for easy application on the specific area. For example, adhesive pads can be impregnated with salicylic acid so they can be stuck over plantar warts.
Wash and dry the wart and surrounding skin area. This prepares the wart for the salicylic acid application. The acid will be able to penetrate it and do its work.
Apply the salicylic acid as directed in the product's packaging. Generally you will either be directed to apply a liquid to the wart and cover it with a bandage or you will affix an adhesive pad soaked with salicylic acid over the wart.
Leave the salicylic acid on the wart as directed on the product's package. This will typically be for between 24 and 48 hours, according to the Mayo Clinic. The covering should stay in place for the entire time. Replace it if it falls off before the prescribed amount of time.
Remove the covering, wash off the acid and reapply it as directed. The Mayo Clinic recommends that dead skin should be filed off the wart before applying more acid. The area can be soaked in warm water for 10 minutes first to make the filing easier.
Continue the process until the wart is completely removed, which may take several weeks. The acid will destroy a little more of the wart with each application until the last of the dead skin can finally be filed away.
The Mayo Clinic warns that children are often more vulnerable to salicylic acid's effects and are at higher risk of developing skin irritation. The product should not be used on anyone under age 2 and should not be covered with an air-tight wrap after being applied to a child.
The American Academy of Dermatology states that other types of skin growths can look like warts. It recommends consulting a doctor rather than self-treating with salicylic acid unless you are absolutely sure your growth is a wart.