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How to Make a Poultice for Removing Splinters, Boils and Abscesses

Susana is about healthy living and eating and DIY home remedies.

Make a Sugar and Soap Poultice at Home

Knowing how to make an effective poultice from basic store and cupboard ingredients is a handy piece of home remedy knowledge to possess. Here, we're going to look at a very simple poultice that I've been using successfully for many years to remove splinters or to bring a boil or abscess to a head. Be mindful that if you suspect an infection, talk to your doctor before self-administering any poultice at home. There are only a few ingredients needed to make this simple homemade poultice and, luckily, they are things that nearly everyone should have at home.

Here I'll cover:

  • What Is a Poultice?
  • How to Make a Soap and Sugar Poultice
  • Using Poultices
  • The Science and History Behind Poultices

What Is a Poultice?

A poultice is usually a natural material combined with oil, fat or water. The poultice is then applied to the skin as a paste. For this particular poultice, I use soap and sugar.

How to Make a Poultice

The following are the ingredients and instructions for how I make a soap and sugar poultice for boils and stuck splinters at home.

  • Bar soap
  • Sugar
  • Bandage or Bandaid
  1. Use equal amounts of soap and sugar and mash them together in a clean container with a small spoon or clean finger. For a splinter, you'll only need small amounts of each substance, but you may need to make more poultice to cover a large boil or abscess. Just ensure you make enough poultice to cover the affected area.
  2. With clean hands, spread your sugar and soap poultice onto the affected area and cover securely with a band-aid or bandage.
  3. Leave the poultice on for 24 hours and don't allow it to get wet.
  4. Hopefully, when you remove your band-aid or bandage, the splinter or boil will have risen to the surface enabling you to either tweezer out the offending splinter or squeeze the boil.
  5. Clean the area thoroughly using water, removing any poultice mixture that remains.
  6. Clean the wound further with an antibacterial solution or cream and leave uncovered to heal.

If after 24 hours the boil or splinter hasn't come completely to the surface, wash away the old poultice mixture, make some more sugar and soap poultice, add to the affected area, cover and leave for a further 24 hours.

This will, in most cases, do the trick. If not, you may want to try a specially prepared drawing salve.

Storing Poultices

Poultices, unfortunately, cannot be stored. Poultices should be prepared for each use and then discarded.

What About Poultice for Infections? Caution!

While this soap and sugar poultice may work well with splinters, be mindful of using sugar when working with infections. Swapping out the sugar for Epsom salt may be more effective because bacteria feeds on sugar and can inflame your infection.

This remedy is excellent for minor skin issues such as splinters, insect bites and minor inflammation. If you're experiencing inflammation and become feverish, or if you're unclear about the source of your injury, be sure to see a doctor immediately. Extensively, if you are displaying the following symptoms, it's important to contact your doctor:

  • pus
  • blisters
  • skin breakdown
  • necrosis of the skin

Any one of these could signify a bacterial, viral or fungal skin infection. While they may seem mild, infections can be very dangerous or even deadly, so it's extremely important to talk to a physician.

Have a First Aid Kit

While it's good to know a range of basic home remedies for common ailments, it's always wise to have a good first aid kit at home so that you're prepared for any accidents and home-treatable conditions that arise.

Some essential additions to your first aid kit and your home remedy knowledge include a good antiseptic ointment or cream, as well as an antibiotic cream.

These are a wonderful complement to your home remedies to ensure that yours or your families' cuts, grazes, splinters, burns or boils do not get infected and have the opportunity to heal properly after you've used your home remedy.

What do you do with a poultice?

What do you do with a poultice?

What Are Poultices Good For?

Historically, poultices have proved useful for a number of ailments including:

  • ingrown toenails
  • ingrown hairs
  • infections
  • splinters
  • boils

What Types of Poultices Are There?

There are various types of poultices that can be used to treat a wide variety of complaints, from acne and arthritis to bruises and sprains. Some people advocate the use of porridge, carrot, bread, clay, cabbage or herbal poultices, and many use poultices as a home remedy for their horse's ailments.

So, poultices can have many uses. Here, we'll be focusing on bringing something such as a splinter or boil to the surface for easy removal.

Use a poultice to remove splinters

Use a poultice to remove splinters

Essentially, a poultice will help ease out anything that's embedded under the skin such as wood or metal splinters and can also bring boils or abscesses to the surface. It's one of the best methods for the easy removal of splinters and will save you the pain of digging around with a needle trying to get the splinter out. It's an easy home remedy that everyone should know about.

The History of Poultices (and Science!)

The History of Poultices (and Science!)

The Science and History of Poultices

Poultices, or fomentations (or cataplasms), are in no way a new or revolutionary healing technique.

The History of Poultices

Topicals have been used since the dawn of time by early groups of people around the world, including the Native Americans, Indians, Chinese, Romans, Grecians and Egyptians. These first cultures were the initial users of camphor, capsaicin and menthol, common poultice ingredients.

Ancient Grecians kneaded together flour, water and wine to apply to wounds after surgery. "In the case of ‘hysterical attacks’," the author of the ancient book Wounds says, "a poultice composed of recently fermented dark wine, or one third herbs and spices and two thirds flour soaked in odorous white wine, should be placed on the stomach." (Hippocrates via Jouanna) In the Mexican War (1846), for example, treatments ranged from "amputations to milk and bread poultice" (Rostker).

These ancient poultices were used to extract "death" from the diseased. Unfortunately, nowadays they are often referenced as a passé method and used to indicate the inconsistency and lack of knowledge around wound care in a given historical period.

The Science of Poultices

Topical "medicines" like poultices are designed to pull things out and/or transfer a substance in the skin, but the function depends on the ingredients and design of the poultice. Many people have heard of Magnoplasm Paste, which is designed to attract water to itself (it's a humectant), bringing items or pus to the surface of the skin. Magnoplasm is a poultice and can be made at home! It's worth noting that limited scientific evidence for the efficacy of poultices exists, but historical and cultural knowledge suggests poultices can be an effective solution for some ailments.

Soap and Sugar Poultice: Conclusion

Making an effective poultice from everyday ingredients is an important piece of home remedy knowledge. Please leave your recommendations, questions and suggestions in the comments below!

Sources

Jouanna, Jacques. "Wine and Medicine in Ancient Greece." Greek Medicine from Hippocrates to Galen.

Rostker, Bernard. "The American System of Providing for the Wounded Evolves" . Providing for the Casualties of War.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

Rehana on January 19, 2020:

I have a very hard boil on my foot very painful.. n now reading your remedy..i just try it ..leaving it until tomorrow..if it works will update you.. fingers cross

Peter Watson on December 25, 2019:

:Huge help for dog injury .... cheers

Susana Smith (author) from UK on June 06, 2019:

I've never tried it with liquid soap. It may be too runny. If you give it a try let me know how it goes!

Von on May 25, 2019:

Can you use liquid soap

Sharon on May 02, 2019:

I believe in EGG WHITE, put the white on a bandage, cover and leave on overnight, I have used it many times, I had a very swollen finger due to a thistle that bury itself in my finger, it works !!!

Sewright on January 06, 2019:

My dog had a very large skin tag size of lime. I made this and it took a few days and the smell of the junk coming out was awful but it dried it up enough to shrink it and I could cut the string of it off

Susana Smith (author) from UK on June 28, 2018:

It's amazing isn't it! So glad the poultice got that nasty thorn out quickly.

Ian Mansfield on June 13, 2018:

I found this site after a Google search for a method of removing a long thin rose thorn that was deeply buried in the top of my hand.

Previously I had tried to remove it with a needle with no success and after reading this article I applied the poultice in the manner described and the next morning I noticed that the pain had gone from the area where the splinter was. I then removed the bandage and found the splinter sitting in the soap mixture and completely removed from my skin.

Yes it does work brilliantly and a good thing to know.

indra on April 01, 2018:

worked amazingly well...in less than 24 hrs. Thank you.

Iris on October 13, 2017:

Will any type soap work ?

My husband has a boil under his arm and we're hoping this will work.

Chris Harvey on July 18, 2017:

Would this poiltice work on a planter type of thing under my foot?

Alison on March 17, 2017:

My husband has an abscess.I'm trying this poultice for the first time...fingers crossed

Kathy on January 07, 2017:

I had painful boils one summer when I was a kid, and my mother used a soap and sugar poultice on each of them, covered with a gauze bandage. The lye in the soap generates heat which dries and pulls at the infection beneath the skin, and the sugar keeps the soap from burning the skin surface. These poultices will draw the contents of a boil to a head in a relatively short time, and as the treatment is repeated, the poultice will actually cause the boil to pop and the contents of it to be sucked out into the bandage without ANY pain, Amazing!

Susana Smith (author) from UK on July 30, 2016:

Geoff - sounds very painful. Yes just white sugar, but any sugar will work. Try putting it on before bed and see if it brings the boil to the surface by the morning.

Geoff on July 29, 2016:

I have a boil at center of my nose? Could i use that poultice? And what sugar is that? Is that the white one? Well its very swollen and i cant endure the pain cause its sensitive :( i really badly need help :( cause it really hurta a lot ;(

Susana Smith (author) from UK on June 10, 2016:

Yes overnight might do it. Let us know if the poultice helped.

ouchie on May 23, 2016:

Can you just do overnight? 24 hours would be a bit difficult. ( I have a splinter in my foot an d have to walk on it....)

kate hannah on May 08, 2016:

interesting. have always used poultices of milk on bread that has yeast in it or mustard on bread....both a tad messy but disposable gloves or a long bread bag tied over the bandaged area works. used to have a black licorice poultice product on emerg vehicles that was amazing....heard it is no longer available. going to try yours today on my finger & toe. happy gardening/yard cleanup everyone.

Robert Morgan from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Gilbert AZ on June 08, 2015:

I liked your article. I use, recommend, and teach poultices.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on March 09, 2015:

Sounds like it got infected peachpurple. Definitely painful!

Susana Smith (author) from UK on March 09, 2015:

Colleen - Sure you could do grate a bit of soap off if that's easiest. Depends how hard the soap is. If it's soft it's should be easy to dig a finger in and scoop a little out. If it's hard then grating is a good idea!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on March 07, 2015:

your pictures reminded me of the splinter that i didn't remove and cause oozing liquid, very painful indeed

Colleen Gower from Waikanae, New Zealand on February 25, 2015:

Du you grate the soap

Susana Smith (author) from UK on December 23, 2013:

Thanks so much for the feedback KEMcB. Very glad to hear that the poultice worked for your wife's splinter. It does in most cases even on those that are skeptical! Sounds too simple right?

KEMcB on December 18, 2013:

This works perfectly, and saved a visit to the medics. My wife had a suspected splinter deep in her toe, and it had become infected. We could relieve the pressure but could not remove the splinter, so I looked for a home remedy online and found this hub.

We tried the suggested poultice overnight. Removed the covering after 24 hours, and found several splinters had already worked their way out. I also used tweezers to check for any more, and removed a large glass sliver which had been causing the problem.

Many thanks for an easy and very successful solution.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 10, 2013:

It's not for burns.

Ade bash on October 10, 2013:

If sm1 is having cream burns on d face can dis mixture work 4 it

Eva on October 24, 2012:

I have a large breast abscess so I'm going to give it a go. I will post in a couple of days if it works. Thanks for the info

Cisco on October 01, 2012:

This splinter is underneath my fingernail will this method still work?

Marion on March 29, 2012:

I am living proof that the sugar and soap poultice works! I was born and raised in the Pacific Islands and my mother was a New Zealand nurse. During the "wet season" (monsoon), people developed tropical boils, especially on the legs. My mother would grate Lifebouy soap (the biggest selling toilet soap in the world) and mix it with raw sugar in a pot on the stove. This paste was cooled to be hot enough not to burn and then applied to the boil, then covered with a bandage and left overnight. In the morning, gentle pressure around the boil would release the infection and white "core". The wound would then heal. Another remedy from the islands is Hydrogen Peroxide. This was used as a topical wash for wounds as well as a gargle for throat infections. Look out for 3% strength peroxide at your pharmacist, and use it, you are unlikely to need antibotics again.

rich on February 07, 2012:

Cant see how using something containing sugar would be good on an abscess, coonsidering that it is an infection, and bacteria like sugar as they feed on it ??? Old wives tale if you ask me.

ihanvoe on February 01, 2012:

Audrey, I too have such a delicate spot, am gonna try this will post if it works, K?

kenny m. on October 04, 2011:

Great hub! This is what I was looking for!

audrey on September 22, 2011:

will this poultice be good to use for folliculitis? I have it on a very private place. Also, the soap used, is just your normal every day bath soap?

I am desperate as no one can help me. Doctors just keep lancing and draining the ****** things. Frankly I am tired of been in pain 24/7. thanks

Hailee on September 22, 2011:

I'm hopeing this works on my sons rash, he has a pimpley rash that needs to come out to get rid of it! Fingers crossed

Rosemary on August 08, 2011:

Just what I needed to know. going to try it. If it doesn't work I'll be back

Susana Smith (author) from UK on August 05, 2011:

You're welcome Chantal, I hope you get your hubby's ailment sorted out!

Chantal on August 01, 2011:

Ive never looked on a "hubs site" However I found this posting after googling "homemade poultice" and how very glad I have... the advice is perfect for treating my hubbys "ailment" thank you very much!!! (",)

AngelaKaelin from New York on March 30, 2011:

Excellent!

Chrissy on March 05, 2011:

My Mother used to use this recepies for boils & splinters. I couldn't remember how to make it so it made me very happy to find it so quickly. Wlhat a relief that it is also so simple.

Keep the good work up.

Chrissy

Jude on February 16, 2011:

I have used this many times myself over the years and recommended to several people who didn't believe me when I told them about it. They were however willing to give it a try and how soon they changed there minds. It has always worked on splinters and boils.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on January 28, 2011:

Hi Wendy - Ouch! Whenever I've made this poultice I've used the soap bar out of the bathroom, so I guess it was slightly moist, but I've never added water to the mix. It should be a putty consistency. Good luck!

Wendy on January 27, 2011:

Do you moisten the soap/sugar mixture or put it on dry?

My husband has a fish bone in his finger!!

Ross on January 13, 2011:

It works ...I did it just the other day..my old mother told me to try it on a splinter I got in my foot (no shoes tsk tsk) while gardening .Next day it was sitting up and easily removed with tweezers

Susana Smith (author) from UK on March 12, 2010:

Hi Jen - it's a great poultice and so easy to make :)

JenDobson27 on March 06, 2010:

Thanks for the great information Susana. I will have to give it a try.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on March 03, 2010:

Thanks for your comments guys and gals - I wish I'd managed to publish it at the right time for the competition though, lol. Anyhow, it's a home remedy that I do use and does work, so hopefully it will help some other people with their splinters and boils!

Debby Bruck on March 02, 2010:

Fantastic Hub Susana. What a simple way to take care of a splinter or abscess. I may try it next time, if I don't have the homeopathic silica or hepar sulph remedies handy. It would certainly be helpful to campers. Great hub.

Andrew from Italy on March 02, 2010:

I'm trying to write a hub but every five minutes a new hub appears and I must try to read it. This is very good Susana, concise, to the point, very explicative. Rated, bookmarked and stumbled. :)

a2z50 on March 02, 2010:

Good stuff. Very quick and to the point . most people just don't take the time to research this niche. Great Hub

Ron

As always also Rprcarz50 Keep on Hubbing

Hello, hello, from London, UK on March 02, 2010:

Thank you for a lovely hub with great tips.

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