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Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman June 7, 2019

No, liquid soap is not an effective way to remove ticks. Use tweezers instead, experts say

The problem with "helpful" posts online that tout tips or tricks is that most of them are bologna and can, in turn, cause more harm than good.

We’ve tackled a few of these hoaxes already, like typing in your ATM pin backward or pressing the ‘cancel’ button twice to help protect yourself.

Those claims were dangerously untrue as is another that has been stalking social media for years: That using liquid soap is a "safe, easy way" to remove ticks from your skin.

The post features a close up photo of a tick with text below that says:

"Tick Removal: A nurse discovered a safe, easy way to remove ticks where they automatically withdraw themselves when you follow her simple instructions. ‘I had a pediatrician tell me what she believes is the best way to remove a tick.’ Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20); the tick will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away. Please pass on."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

While it is possible that this method can work, it is not recommended by health officials.

Variations of the claim have advised people to apply a myriad of substances to remove the tick, like petroleum jelly or nail polish. Some have suggested lighting it on fire with a match. But none of these procedures are endorsed by experts.

The CDC cautions people on its website to "avoid folklore remedies such as ‘painting’ the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible – not waiting for it to detach."

Since ticks can transfer illness, notably Lyme disease, in just one bite, health officials agree that ticks should be removed from the skin as quickly as possible – but also correctly.

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Officials at the Mayo Clinic advise grasping the tick "as close to the skin’s surface as possible, using tweezers if available, and to pull upward with a steady continuous motion."

The University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center also suggests using tweezers, but particularly "pointy" ones: "Household tweezers just aren't the right tool for proper tick removal. TickEase and ProTickMe are two brands of pointy tweezers that work well and are inexpensive, too."

The Bay Area Lyme Foundation also suggests the use of pointy tweezers and cautions not to yank the tick out, as its mouth could remain and so could the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The CDC recommends similar steps for effective and safe tick removal. From its website:

1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

5. Follow-up: If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

Our ruling

Old viral social media posts claim that smothering a tick in liquid soap and swabbing it is a "safe" and "easy" way to remove ticks from the skin.

However, neither this procedure or others such as using nail polish or lighting the tick on fire, are recommended by health experts. Instead, it is widely suggest to remove the tick quickly with fine-tipped tweezers.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, June 3, 2019

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tick Removal, Accessed June 7, 2019

Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic Q and A: How to remove a tick quickly and correctly, June 28, 2018

TickEncounter Resource Center, How To Remove A Tick, Accessed June 7, 2019

Bay Area Lyme Foundation, How To Remove A Tick, Accessed June 7, 2019

Kids Health, Tick Removal: A Step-by-Step Guide, May 2019

AFP Fact Check, The best way to remove a tick is with fine-tipped tweezers, not soap and a cotton ball, May 8, 2019

Snopes, Swabbing ticks with liquid soap is a recommended and effective method for removing them., July 3, 2006

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No, liquid soap is not an effective way to remove ticks. Use tweezers instead, experts say

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