How to Get Glass Out of Your Foot: Step-by-Step Guide

6 min read

To get glass out of your foot, start by disinfecting the affected skin. Then access the glass splinter. If you can’t, use a needle, vinegar, a massage or a foot bath to help yourself.

Now remove the splinter using a pair of tweezers or duct tape. For a deep splinter, use a hot water bottle. Once you’re done, sterilize the foot.

Hi! I’m Dr. Karim Maghraby. I’m a medical doctor and physician scientist (M.D., M.Sc.).

In this article, I’ll explain how to get glass out of your foot. We’ll go step-by-step with photographs. 

I’ll also explain when you should see a doctor, what happens if you don’t remove the splinter, and answer some frequently asked questions. 

Let’s get started. 

Disclaimer: This guide was created for educational purposes. It neither offers nor replaces medical advice. Learn more here.

Table of Contents

1

Step - Disinfect

If you have glass in your foot, you have a puncture wound – even if it’s only very small. Everything you touch, including your hands and the tools you use, is a possible source of infection.

Start by washing your hands with soap and warm water. If your foot is dirty, wash it too.

When you’re done, take rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Apply to a cotton ball and gently clean the affected area. Ethanol can work if it’s medical-grade or 60%+.

Afterwards, disinfect the tools you’re using. Any needle, pair of tweezers, etc needs to be sterilized the same way as your feet.

2

Step - Access the Glass Splinter

If possible, we want the glass splinter or shard to stick out of your skin. If this isn’t possible, we at least want it to be level with the skin.

The one thing we don’t want is a shard that’s deep under your skin. These are hard to remove.

Is the shard deep in your foot? Then you can…

  1. Gently massage the foot in that area. Massage in one direction and do not pinch skin around the splinter together.
  2. Scrape some skin away using a sterile needle. Again, be careful not to pinch the skin around the shard. If the glass is deep in your foot skin, you may have to puncture it.
  3. Rub vinegar on your bare foot. Vinegar will shrink the skin, making the splinter stick out more.
  4. Take a quick warm water foot bath. This can soften the skin and make it easier to get a deep splinter out.
  5. Use a drawing salve. As a physician scientist, I’ve yet to see proof that it works. But people swear by it, and they might have a point.

3

Step - Splinter Removal

There are a few ways to remove a sliver of glass. Duct tape, tweezers and hot water can all help. I prefer duct tape for smaller glass shard pieces and tweezers for bigger ones. Hot water is rarely necessary.

1. Tweezers

Once you can see the tweezer, gently grab it with a pair of tweezers. Be careful not to break a tiny piece off.

My best advice is not to reach for the very tip of the glass. Instead, grab it in a thicker area that’s below its breaking point. Pull slowly. This way, you can get the entire splinter out more easily.

2. Duct Tape

Carefully apply duct tape to the sliver. Be very careful not to push the sliver deeper into your skin. Where possible, avoid sticking the tape to your foot skin.

Once you feel the duct tape gripping the glass, pull away slowly. The shard should come out easily.

Don’t use this method to remove a wood splinter. Duct tape can break wood.

3. Hot Water

Take a glass bottle or narrow-mouthed cup. Fill it up with boiling water. Once it simmers down, attach the mouth of the bottle or cup to the affected area.

As the water cools, it’ll condense and pull the splinter out of the foot. You have to be careful through the whole process, but it works.

This is a handy, little-known method for deeper splinters.

4

Step - Dress the Wound

After you remove the splinter, you need to treat the puncture wound. Use antibiotic ointment on the affected skin. This will help avoid infection and promote healing.

Afterwards, bandage the area or apply a cotton pad and fix it with gauze. A bandaid or similar product will work too.

If the puncture is large, repeat every time you wear or take off shoes.

What Do I Need to Remove a Splinter?

Most splinters can be removed with rubbing alcohol and a pair of tweezers.

For deeper ones, you’ll need a needle. Very deep ones will require a glass bottle or cup.

You’ll also need first-aid supplies to prevent infection and accelerate healing. Antibiotic ointment and gauze or bandage are both good.

When to See a Doctor for Glass in my Foot?

Most glass splinters can be removed by yourself following the steps above. In some cases, you’ll need a healthcare professional’s help. This will be the case if:

  • The glass splinter is deep or in a hard-to-access location
  • The glass splinter is near vital structures, e.g. blood vessels or nerves
  • You’re experiencing severe pain, bleeding, or an inability to walk
  • The wound develops signs of infection, e.g. redness, swelling and/or pus
  • You have a condition that weakens immunity, or you become feverish or sick.

Just about any ER doctor will be able to remove your splinter for you. Don’t wait to schedule an appointment if you can’t get a splinter out yourself.

FAQ

What Happens to a Splinter if I Leave it In?

Glass in your foot can infect it, even if it’s only a tiny sliver. It’s not sterile and likely has microbes on it.

This can cause fungal infection, inflammation, discomfort and pain. This can be relatively benign or harmful, especially if you have immunity-supressing conditions or take medication.

If the sliver isn’t infected, it can still form a painful skin growth. This will look like a sore or blister and make walking, standing and moving uncomfortable.

In other words… You want to get a blister out of your foot as quickly as possible.

How do I Remove a Foreign Object from My Foot?

Use the instructions on this page to remove a wooden splinter, cactus spine fragment or metal splinter. With wood and cactus, I don’t recommend duct tape. Just use tweezers and work very slowly.

How Can I Prevent Glass from Getting in My Foot?

Glass can only plant itself in a bare foot, so… Wear shoes at all times! You never know where you might step over a small piece of glass.

Conclusion

To remove a splinter, disinfect your skin. Access the splinter. Now pull using your tweezers or duct tape. Afterwards, treat the wound to disinfect and prevent scar tissue from forming.

References:

1–3

  1. State Urgent Care. How to Remove a Glass Splinter or Broken Glass from Your Foot. (2019).

Available at: https://starkvilleurgentcareclinic.com/how-to-remove-a-glass-splinter-or-broken-glass-from-your-foot/.

  1. Whitworth, G. & Frothingham, S. How to Get a Glass Splinter Out of Your Foot. Healthline (2019).

Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-glass-out-of-foot.

  1. Mayo Clinic. Foreign object in the skin: First aid. (2019). Available at:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid/basics/art-20056604

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Writer:

Dr. Karim Maghraby

Last Updated:

May 19, 2022

DR. KARIM MAGHRABY

Dr. Maghraby is a medical doctor and published physician scientist. He’s an avid runner and a user of sports compression gear.