There is a story in my family about my great, great, grandfather — or maybe he was a great, great, uncle. It doesn’t matter. So this grandfather — or uncle — got married and lived with his wife in a cabin on a small farm. This cabin had a rough wooden floor and if you had stocking feet — or worse yet, bare feet — you would end up with a foot full of splinters. Every stinking time.

Now, the first few years on the farm were tough. Sometimes the two of them barely had enough to eat, but they worked through it and this grandfather — or uncle — and his wife, gave birth to their first child. Time went by and life did not become any easier, especially with another mouth to feed. Until one day, after a few additional years of struggle — as well as of a few more years of yanking splinters out of his feet — the grandfather-uncle had finally had enough. So he went to his wife and said, Maggie — I’m guessing at her name is Maggie because that sounds like the right kind of name. He said, Maggie, we’re not making a go of it here. So this is what I’m proposing. You go back to your people. I’ll go back to my people. We’ll leave this marriage and we’ll leave this farm the same way that we came into it. As separate people.   

And Maggie — being a very wise women, said; Okay, fine. We’ll leave the marriage the same way we came into it. Which means that I came into it without a child. So you’ll be taking the boy with you.

Now, as kids, when we would hear this story, the first thing we noticed was that when the story ended, every time, all the adults laughed. Every one of them.

And we, the children of the family — possibly concerned with the knowledge of starving being only slightly worse than parenthood — never laughed. Ever.

But the even more disturbing part of the story was that my grandfather-or-uncle and his wife deciding to stay together because being a parent was only slightly better than a foot full of splinters. In fact, the two made the farm work and even remained married for over forty years and — here comes the good part —- they had nine more children.

All the adults always laugh at this part, too.

Us kids? Not so much.

But the mental image of this that has stayed with me all these years is the idea of a foot full of splinters.

Can you imagine a foot full of splinters? — actually, that sounds like a great country song — because the truth of it is that even a single splinter, just one, is bad. And if I woke up each morning with a foot – or possibly two feet — full of them, I would probably loose my mind too.


The rule about removing splinters is simple. The bigger the splinter, the easier it is to remove. The smaller the splinter, the more it will want to hunker down and get cozy. So let’s focus on the small and nasty splinters here because the larger ones usually come out quickly or they get lazy and take care of themselves.

The aspect that has always made removing a splinter a largely male thing is that very often the splinter is in deep enough to need to force the splinter end through the skin — i.e. the needle method — or of clipping away parts of sensitive skin with nail clippers or small shears in order to get to it. This is the worse part, because you are often causing pain to someone who is in pain.

But if you do this right, you can do it almost painlessly.  

Now, over the years I have seen many methods of removing splinters. I’ve seen people use duct tape, use glue, I had an aunt that was pretty good at removing them with an uncooked sliced potato. I’ve seen people soak bread overnight to draw the splinter out, use egg shells, place bacon fat over the splinter and even knew a little league coach of mine, who kept a cut piece of ladies stocking in the first aid kit. He would use the stocking to snag the end of the splinters we always received from the wooden bats, enough to pull the splinter out with tweezers.

And although I’ve seen most of these methods work, they have not always worked for me. So, for me, there are only two ways to remove a splinter. The dry method and the wet method.


1. Wash your hands, wash the area with the splinter as well as a pair of tweezers and a pin. Now, this is easy if you’re in your kitchen, but many times you get a splinter in the woods, on a camping trip or off of a canoe panel and don’t have that luxury. If you have a first aid kit use some peroxide or alcohol wet naps to clean the area of the splinter and tweezers. Or run the end of the tweezers and pin over a flame for to sterilize. If none of these options are available, get the splinter out and then clean when you can to avoid infection.

2. Feel for the end of the splinter. This is the key. A splinter can be removed easily if you can get to the end of it. If you can find the end, try and get the tweezers around it and gently pull out in the path it came in on.

3. Get to the end of the splinter. If the splinter is in too deep to get a pair of tweezers around it, then you have to either get the end up with a pin, or cut away the skin around to get to it. Not always as easy as it sounds but if the area is very sensitive you can numb with some ice or if you have any bee or wasp sting spray that works well. Enough ice and this will pretty painless. But the main thing is to focus and remove the splinter.

4. Clean the area again — or as soon as you can — to avoid infection.


There are many wet methods of removing a splinter but the ones I have used on my kids involves a simple baking soda paste — I’ve used this to get bee stings out as well.

1. Mix baking soda and water together. You are looking for paste constancy.

2. Place the paste over the splinter and cover with a band aid, or with gauze and tape. Let the paste stay over the splinter for an hour or two.

3. Remove the gauze. More than half of the time, the splinter has been removed. For the other half you can try the dry method or ….

… or, you can do nothing.

Splinters will want to remove themselves naturally — through our movements and the movements of the skin they will eventually want to back out. It’s just a question of how bad the splinter is and how quickly we want them gone.



Everett De Morier has appeared on CNN, Fox News Network, NPR, ABC, as well as in The New York Times and The London Times. He is the author of Crib Notes for the First Year of Marriage: A...