Soldering Iron Cauterization

Medical hacks are not for the weak of stomach, so read further at your own risk. [Todd Harrison] shows you how to remove a stubborn skin wart using a good ol’ soldering iron, and a fair endurance for pain. After all, cauterization is a well known and documented medical procedure. If you have the stomach for this, read on, or better, check out his 9 minute video after the break. If there are kids around, turn down the volume between 1:40 to 2:20.

[Todd] had a recurring wart on his right hand index finger, and couldn’t get rid of it despite many attempts. Every time he thought it was gone, it would come back. He even tried some of the expensive commercial kits that claim to get rid of warts by rapidly freezing them, but he had no joy. Finally, he figured it was time to cauterize the sucker. Like any self-respecting engineer, he starts off by cleaning the problem area with some rubbing alcohol. He starts applying the iron at around the 1:48 mark and goes on till about 4:17. At which stage he even evaluates the technique that he used, which ended up causing blistering of the sensitive skin around the wart due to radiated heat, and how it may be better to hold the soldering iron at a different angle and move it around the next time he attempts this procedure.

From then on, it’s a matter of waiting and observing for many days to see how it goes. Day two is obviously not too good, with a swollen blister which is “not the best looking thing”. Around day eight (@5:39), he cuts the skin while doing some yard work, but nothing a band-aid can’t fix. By day fourteen (@6:41), parts of the skin are dried and ready to fall off. He uses his handy and trusted diagonal cutters (naturally!) to snip off the skin with the dead wart. From then on, he’s on his way to full recovery and all back to normal a mere forty days later. He say’s it works for him every time, which means he’s obviously tried this at least a couple of times.

Bonus points to him for wearing the Hackaday shirt while doing the surgery! Thanks [Morris] for tipping us off. [Todd] is no green horn and is an old Hackaday alum. We’ve featured a lot of his exploits earlier, like this DeWalt Radio repair, 1976 Pong Clone repair, and the Scooby-Doo Alarm Clock repair.

92 thoughts on “Soldering Iron Cauterization

  1. I’m a little surprised he didn’t cut away the skin when the blister got torn initially. They really hurt when exposed to the air, but it does keep stuff from getting into the blister and under the old skin and potentially less infection risk, plus at least if it’s open you can actually apply a layer or several of superglue and create a surprisingly tough second skin that will protect the raw skin until it heals and forms a new layer and the glue peels off.
    Probably a really good idea that he did not try to use any anesthetic on it, as that might have made it too easy to get burned even worse.

  2. I have done this myself and can attest to it’s efficacy. I had a couple warts in the same place and burned them off with a red hot sewing needle. Took about a week to heal up.
    The kits and medicine also failed me a waste of money.
    The warts have never come back in over 20 years.

    1. I second this. I’ve done it numerous times with a fine bevel-tip iron and get a much better results and with less collateral damage to local healthy tissue than the Acid Sal paints or home freeze kits can acheive.
      I tend to just barely touch the wart, almost hovering over it rather than plunging the whole tip into contact with the tissue. It still burns it but the extent is more controllable. If it’s a big wart don’t try to do the whole thickness at once either – two or three attempts a fortnight apart (time for blisters to fall away and heal) should do the trick.

      I have found this to be effective on myself, but I do not attest to it’s safety or appropriatness for anyone else.
      I would also mention that you should definitely NOT do this to remove moles. Just don’t. Neither if you’re diabetic.

      1. Yeah, I spread it out over a few days too. Using a needle and doing it in small goes made for mo blistering or scarring.

        But the pain was awesome, being a masochist myself.

      2. When i was 7 I dug out a surface mole on my leg with fiskar scissors. There was a little tail on it “snip” and weirdly logarithmic in its conical shape; it healed fine. maybe i’ll have problems later but 24 years on it’s fine and a funny scar. To note my mother was a good mother and I never ran with scissors but she never said don’t dig out moles. Secondary note I still have the scissors to this day and use them exclusively for stripping wires. This is not an advert for fiskar scissors.

        Thank you for reading and have a nice day

    2. Back in yeshiva I used to do this for anyone who needed, it was easier than making a dr. appointment and they saved a few shekels. I refined my technique to touching with a little pressure and stopping when my patient felt the heat. In about 30 sec start again. Done like this until the whole surface was seared the wart would usually die and drop off or dissappear a few days later without leaving any injury behind. I had few repeats on the same place.

  3. Never had any luck with anything but cutting the #%@&ers right out of me. Tried burning with hot iron and a lighter, and freezing with a tube filled with whatever comes out of an upside down dustoff can. Razor blade or some nail clippers if the wart is small enough will be the only thing that works. Tough up and gitrdun. :/

    1. Using acid also works. Cut the top off to expose wet flesh and apply some HCl to it using a “Q-tip”. 30 minutes (If i recall correctly when i did this on my knuckle) should be all that is required then wash off the HCl. Also used mild acid issued by a doctor on a plantar wart on my foot but that took several days. There will be a rather large hole after the dead skin falls off. A bandaged foot for a two weeks is better than repeating warts. Why suffer the pain and smell of burning skin when the less sharp pain of corroding skin works.

      Also, you may not know when the acid is eating through your nerves so i don’t advise you to take the HCl route.

  4. This is as good, if not better alternative, with the Frankincense & Myrrh being antiviral and antibacterial too. You just blow on the smouldering stick until you get a good hot conical tip then go to work, blowing on it regularly to clear it and get the point back. Not speaking from theory either, I have seen it used successfully by people with medical qualifications where options such as freezing failed and or were harder to control.

        1. If I remember correctly it is that regular cyanoacrylate (vs methyl) is more exothermic when reacting with water(how these glues work) which can cauterize soft tissue if too much collects in one place. I have had great luck with regular superglue vs Dermabond/Vetabond. I had the opportunity during my internship to do rotations with a plastic surgeon(face repairs guy, not the vanity kind) so really refined my technique on faces, a useful skill if you have kids and it is expensive to hire a private plastic surgeon or make your kids suffer at the hands of some hamfisted resident who has only read about this in a book or has a line of patients waiting. I only let my wife make that mistake once.

          1. A really valid point everyone should know. I’ve put it in the cut and &*£*% don’t. this method almost certainly saved my cousins life 100’s of miles for civilisation (because he’s not civilised) Threads across! with restricted blood flow if possible

          2. I use vetbond, basically superglue that they use on animals. Easy to find on Amazon and works great for most smaller skin “openings”.
            (I used it to close up an accidental cut from an angle grinder…worked like a champ)

      1. jeezus; I used non medial super glue in a large gash and it gave me the ultimate headrush, probably killed some braincells or a future clot will happen. If you must restrict the blood flow until it’s cured

    1. For verrucas, AKA foot warts, a few kids I knew used the old faithful “can of deodorant and a pin” method. The deodorant chills / numbs it a bit, then you pick away with a pin, and maybe a little knife. Seem to remember it’s pretty painful when you hit a bit of your own tender flesh.

      Since I left school I’ve had hardly any infestations, warts, verrucas, scabies, head lice. Had the rest of them so many times they may as well have sent us to school in a giant petri dish.

    1. Blood borne virus – HPV variant actually. Side cutters work, just don’t get the blood on any other cuts. Whether or not they stay is more a matter of your immune system’s strength and the pH of the exterior environment. Burning them off with high concentration salicylic acid worked for me mostly.

        1. Your immune system prevents there from being any circulating HPV viruses. If you mash up a wart, which has lots of viral particles protected from immune attack, you get infectious material that upon getting into another cut will form a secondary wart at high rates.

      1. I think this subject deserves fleshing out so others can benefit from it. Clean and dry the area. Put on a tab of duct tape. Depending on the area of the body it may be easier or more difficult to get a good stick for a decent sized tab. I would go for a square cut off the toll e.g. about 2″ x 2″ if there are no anatomical constraints. Once attached just go about your life, no need to keep it dry or anything. It will probably drop off after 3 to 5 days and there will still be a wart there so just cut another piece off the roll and apply it. In my experience it takes about 2 weeks on average for the wart to completely . This is similar to the healing time for the soldering iron method but duct tape is pain free and technically a cinch to perform.

        Can I dwell on how it might work? One commonly touted theory is that it deprives the wart of oxygen. I find this implausible since warts are caused by a virus ( which doesn’t need oxygen) and anyway the blood supply below it is (hopefully!) chock full of oxygen.

        As second theory is that there is some chemical in duct tape that inhibits mold and algae, which also inhibits wart virus. This is perhaps plausible. I have never heard from a duct tape manufacturer whether they put such a chemical in duct tape. Furthermore viruses are very different to molds and algae. They only reproduce by hijacking your skin cells so, simplistically, to stop this the tape would have to kill off your skin cells beneath it, which I can thankfully confirm does not happen.

        Finally my favoured theory is that duct tape works by protecting your skin from the environment, especially from drying out. Your skin is composed of layers which are created by the natural progression of skin cell life i.e. cells move up through your dermis and change as they do so, from a state of creation and immaturity to a toucher live state and finally a completely fibrous dead state on the surface (which drops off creating house dust.) I think that maybe duct tape alters this by protecting cells from drying out the live interface rises up through the skin possibly right to the surface. I think the virus normally works around the layer of the live interface. Any shallower and it is among dead fibre so can’t replicate and any deeper and it is more exposed to your immune system (delivered to the area by your blood circulation and lymphatic system). So by moving the live interface upwards duct tape deprives the virus of its favoured habitat and the immune system it able to destroy it. NB I have no proof of this , it is just an idea!

  5. Freezing the wart (such as using ice or even dry ice) to reduce the pain or at least deaden the area’s response to it might be a good idea (before trying something as drastic as burning it off).

      1. No pain, no gain.
        i did use the q-tip and liquid nitrogen spray and it worked for me. But i applied it 20 or 30 days, once a day for 30 to 50seconds each… In the first days 30s was to much time because of pain, in the end 50s were “acceptable”..

  6. My doctor used liquid nitrogen and a cotton q-tip. It went away with less pain and there wasn’t a scar.

    If you burn yourself with a hot iron, you might hurt yourself or get a scar.

    I know there isn’t such a thing as common sense but use your dermatologist.
    I’m pretty sure the soldering iron procedure isn’t legal.

    1. My doctor ended up trying to cauterize a wart when the liquid nitrogen kits he tried first didn’t work. Of course he used a surgical cauterizing tool. When it comes to self treatment I don’think much is actually illegal, excpect for drugs. Although booze as a pain killer is legal.

    2. I had a doctor treat a finger wart with liquid nitrogen. It didn’t immediately kill the entire wart, but it did damage the surrounding skin. During healing, the wart grew faster than the healthy skin and so filled in the entire area of damage. At this point, the increased growth of the aberrant wart tissue seemed to activate my immune system against it. The wart then dwindled away to nothing post-haste.

    3. The definition of “practicing medicine” varies from state to state, but all US states allow self treatment with home remedies, self-medication with over-the-counter analgesics (aspirin, ibuprofen), anti-fungal medications, antibiotics and self treatment of bodily injuries and ailments including (but not limited to) giving ones self stitches, treating bone injuries, and treating warts. There is nothing illegal about it.

  7. 40 years ago I had a wart removed on my finger by dermatologist.. He had on day week when he worked on warts. He came into the room with liquid nitrogen in thermos bottle and a long Q tip. The wor never came back but there’s sill a visible scar.. I had a plantar wort that my doctor tried to get rid of using those kits twice. After failing twice he tried burning it out, that failed as well.. Abot a year ago they tried laser surgery. they though the wart was the entry port for the scin infections I would get periodically., so they brought out the big guns Not sure if that worked because I haven’t healed from the surgery yet. Was on the ball of my foot, and is slow healing. When it looks to be heal over a new spot opens up. That foot has been sore for over ten years. Gonna feel good when it stops hurting.

  8. I forgot, at the surgeon’s tent stent display during an event at old Fort Hays I noticed a bunch of soldering irons in a bucket I was wondered what surgeon use them for until I seen the bone saws. I shuddered a bit when I realize the where used to cauterize blood vessels. Some of those irons where big enough to sear the end of a large man’s thigh bone.. I guess if you gotta do it, you want to get in done in one take. Realizing how frontier era MASH units where like freaked me out more, than watching this self treatment.

    1. Hi Western Kansas neighbor! (Fort Larned here). Frontier medicine was brutal. Mostly, it wasn’t the initial injury that killed you, it’d be the infections that set in afterwards – treated or not. Also, a lot of time, they didn’t have much time to anesthetize anything. Shot of whiskey and the cutting commenced. No wonder you didn’t see many old soldiers at the time.

    1. yeah, back in the good ol’days…
      wiki says:
      Lead-free solders in commercial use may contain tin, copper, silver, bismuth, indium, zinc, antimony, and traces of other metals. Most lead-free replacements for conventional 60/40 and 63/37 Sn-Pb solder have melting points from 5 to 20 °C higher,[13] though there are also solders with much lower melting points.

    1. That stuff helped a friend very much against several ugly warts (worts?) on his hands and fingers which were resistant against the usual medical treatments (LN2 or salicylic acid etchants). Seems to be quite effective

  9. Am I the only one who said ‘wtf is this article doing on HaD?’

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for easy medicinal solutions, but this—this doesn’t belong here.

      1. It also involves hacking (off) a part of your body, so it fits twice :^)

        Seriously, a home made acusector (one of the right tools for this job) is not that hard to build as it is not that different from a fadio frequency transmitter. I’d be curious to see one described in full details here.

  10. Mmmm… Pork. I mean ouch, D@#₣ÜÇ₤. I guess I’ve done worse. At least he’s not cauterizing with plasma and high voltage or trying to use a carbon arc or some high current through some thick stainless steel wire. Let’s hope he doesn’t use lead solder.

  11. After a long study session at 4am I got pissed off at a crown wart I had on my toe for as early as I can remember and took a soldering gun to it It was a little painful but not bad I just made sure to go deep enough to remove all of it. It healed fast and 15 years latter still no wart and no scar. Some people are wondering why this is on hackaday its because many of us have a nice clean (snicker) operating table with a handy soldering gun and isopropyl alcohol ready to do fix or clean up our problems.

  12. Its better if you just plunge the soldering iron into the wart making sure you go deep enough to cook the root of the wart. Did this twenty years ago for a stubborn wart it never came back.

  13. I had one on the foot, which wouldn’t go with wart removal acid, ant-acid in my case. It always got a callus ring build up around it, that started pressing on the wart after a while. Tired of cutting away the callus one day I worked my way down with a scalpel as much as possible and got grip of the bastard with pliers and simply ripped it out. It bled quite some bit and left a good hole to start with, but healed well and never came back. Painlevel: 7/10, duration a couple of minutes.

  14. As a kid got sick of doctor trips and the freezing didn’t work so I DIY’d with a bench disc sander. Repeated applications wore them down. They never came back.
    I don’t recall it hurting anything like the concessional burn one gets as an adult (soldering, welding, touching hot stuff by stupidity, etc).

  15. Have done this and it worked.

    Have also used this to successfully remove a couple of raised, soft moles. They were in places where they frequently got irritated by clothing or torn by hairbrushes, and so I figured it was best to remove them. Were much easier to remove than hard warts, because they seem to be mostly fat inside, and literally just melted. At one point the iron stuck to the skin and ripped some away, so after that I kept the tip of the iron and skin oiled. Which also seems to enhance heat transfer. Like flux, ha.

    I also experimented with a few flat freckles. And spots where a blood vessel appears to be on the surface of the skin, like a small red dot (not sure what they proper name is). Permanently removed or at least greatly lightened with a quick tap or two of the iron, leaving no scar or other mark behind. Not planning on going completely over myself with this, but it’s nice to know I could if I really wanted to.

    1. You really shouldn’t do this with moles. The risk is that skin cancers can be mistaken for moles, and to eliminate the risk of spreading a cancer needs to be removed with ‘clean margins’ (ie, completely removed). If you go to the doctor, they may biopsy it to see if it is malignant, or if you want it gone anyway your family doctor can just excise it in the office without testing it. (Some might refer you to dermatology, depends on their training, or if it’s on your face and you are worried about scarring or something)

  16. All these years I’ve been just digging them out with my fingernail. However, I’ve just gotten a laser cutter, so I think I’ll try that next time.

  17. There are Lots ways to get rid of warts.

    For example:

    A man may drive away his wart by rubbing it thrice over a female corpse.

    A piece of bacon rubbed about a wart on the decrease of the moon will remove it, if you bury the bacon.

    To drive away a wart, a dead black cat should be buried at midnight by the grave of someone who was wicked in life.

    A woman’s monthly fluid will take off a wart.

    As a wart cure, write a wish on a piece of paper and carry it to a crossroad, where you must tear up the paper and scatter it to the four winds.

    Cut in a peach tree a notch for each wart and if you never look at the tree again your warts will be gone when the notches have grown together.

    It is possible for a man to remove a woman’s warts, but a woman is unable to cure a man’s warts.

    Kill a rooster and immediately rub its head on your wart; then bury the head and when it decays, the wart will leave.

    You must walk backward while carrying a dish rag to a stump, then dip into water in the stump, wash your wart with the dish rag and return home (backwards).

    And if you are wondering how you got the wart:

    You may take off a wart by wishing it on a friend.

  18. Long ago there was an “Electronic wart remover” project in Radio Electronics. Basically it was a squarewave oscillator with a MOSFET output transistor. The author claimed it made the warts disappear and leave a hole. When I got a nasty wart on my right palm I decided to try something similar with a 555 timer. I decapped the wart to expose live skin, clamped on a wrist ground and touched the output alligator lead to the wart. It stung like crazy at first but it did indeed disappear in a puff of smoke after about 30 seconds.

    1. Years ago, I build the exact circuit in Radio Electronics to remove a wart that freezing & wart-remover didn’t work on. It did string for a little bit but the wart died off and never came back.

  19. Some minor surgery I had meant cauterization on an even larger scale than this. The area removed from my tummy was about the size of a quarter. It was a bit strange to smell my burning flesh, although it did not hurt. It didn’t hurt because the surgeon had blocked the pain with Lidocaine.

    For those wanting to do this sort of thing on a regular basis, you can get Lidocaine as a cream without a perscription. If that fails, see if your doctor will give you a perscription for injection by needle.

    And that, in turn, brings to mind this marvelous scene from the movie, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

    That is a great movie and an impressive surgeon.

  20. Soldering iron worked for me too. Liquid nitrogen also works. Super-fancy-expensive creams work 50% of a time. What works the best? Vinegar. I have never seen it fails (tried it on myself and on my kids), and the skin heals much faster than after the hot or cold burn. Just band-aid a tiny vinegar-soaked cotton ball to the wart for a night or two.

  21. Nitric acid for warts – if you can get it. Concentrated citric, sulfuric and acetic acids also work, but slower.
    Superglue on for the deep cuts. (Not cheap) electrical tape to hold the pieces in place.
    No. 10 and no. 11 disposable scalpels to carve those pesky fat spots.
    Duct tape is pretty waterproof (but non-breathable) compared to those expensive bandages that come of at the sight of water.
    Dust spray for removing water/wax from ears.
    Plenty more hint from childhood and beyond. All of the above work as long as you pay attention to the pain threshold.

    What does not work: picking warts with pins or nail clippers – the roots might still be there and will grow a new one. Burning does a lot of unneeded damage. Freezing can get you frostbite which is even worse. CO2 freezing can leave life-long scars. Putting superglue INSIDE the wound will just irritate it. Cutting more than skin deep is unnecessary and can leave keloid scars. Isopropyl alcohol or hydrogenated water will make the wound heal slower, use a weak alcohol instead (1 part 99% isopropyl to 2-4 parts distilled water).

    If the above does not work, just go to the doctor. Make sure to make an appointment one month in advance for that wart.

    1. “Dust spray for removing water/wax from ears.” NO, not ever!

      As the experts say when it comes to cleaning, “Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.” i.e. let a qualified person treat it, or risk a destroyed ear drum or worse.

  22. Not a Hack. Here’s a hack
    It is not necessary to connect the bottle to the swab – the liquid can just be sprayed directly to the bud.
    This is now a standard method in family doctor’s offices since they don’t have to rent a liquid nitrogen service to come fill their dewer flask. Of course in the office the stuff is “medical grade” (which just means its the same stuff but it’s been re-labled and the price is jacked up about 100%

  23. I had a stubborn skin tag, and this work marvelously. It takes a month to heal fully but very happy with the result. I used Dermoplast right after I did soldering. The pain subsided right away.

  24. I took a similar approach but used a ceramic knife to first cut off the wart. The ceramic knife sticks to the skin and pulled out the entire wart, exposing a bleeding hole through the basement membrane. I soaked the area in hydrogen peroxide and cauterized the hole while still wet. Took less than a second of contact to cauterize. I reapplied hydrogen peroxide and covered with a bandaid while still wet. I keep reapplying h202 and bandaid daily for a 3-4days. The point being to delay healing becuase that is required for infection by HPV.

    Delaying it long enough with repeated h202 treatment will destroy the virus that is bound to the basement membrane. As a side, alcohol will not destroy the gentetic material wherease h202 will. Another benefit is that preventing epithelial cells from invading with consistant h202 esposure will make for a uniform recovery process (i.e. Zero scarring). Ive done this 6 times and only 1 has reappeared but i believe i failed to remove the entire wart that time (there was no “hole” after cutting it.)

    I removed a large one on my finger with this method. It was completely resistant to liquid nitrogen. The surgical removal of it wasnt very clean but after the h202 treatment as stated it healed without any scarring. Quite amazing actually.

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