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How do you Remove Embedded Cactus Needles?

How do you Remove Embedded Cactus Needles?

Have you ever stepped on a cactus? It hurts! Well, have you ever fallen in a pile of cactus? I have and let me tell you that really hurts! I don’t remember much, I was only nine years old and fishing with my dad and older brother. To get to the river, we had to cross a large field that was covered with grass and cactus bushes. During the walk over to the river, I tripped and fell right into a large cactus bush. Covered head to toe in cactus thorns my dad picked me up and carried me back to the car where we began the long and painful process of removing all the embedded thorns.

Years later, I took my little boy fishing in a different spot where unfortunately there is also cactus littered throughout the field leading to the river. On our hike over, my boy started crying because he got three cactus thorns stuck in the back of his heel. Using my fishing pliers I was able to pull out the first two cactus but the third thorn was too small and broke in half during my attempt to dislodge it.

It wasn’t as painful but still bugged him. With the excitement of possibly catching some fish, he was able to quickly move on to our fishing adventure that awaited us. It wasn’t until we were driving home that his foot started hurting again. We got home and soaked his foot in warm soapy water. The next morning, the body had already started “rejecting” the broken thorn and I was able to use my better fine tweezers to pull the remainder of the thorn out of his foot.


There are Six ways to remove cactus thorns

1- Finger Tips
2- Tweezers
3- Duck Tape
6- Wax Hair Remover

Note: Whenever possible, soak the area in warm soapy water before attempting to remove the thorns to help loosen them and make it easier to remove.

Finger Tips

It is perfectly safe to remove the larger embedded cactus thorns using your finger. Simply grab the sides of the thorn and pull. I like to give it a quick pull rather than a slow painful tug. As the thorns left get smaller, it will be increasingly harder to grab onto the side with your fingers with enough grip to pull them out. Additionally, your finger could break the smaller thorns in half, making it harder to remove the whole piece.


Depending on the size and number of thorns, pulling the thorn out with tweezers is a great way to get the complete embedded thorn out without breaking them. Tweezers work well with medium to larger thorns. I wouldn’t try to remove smaller fine thorns with tweezers unless there are no other options. If a thorn brakes while it is still in your foot, it will take longer to remove or you’ll have to wait until your body starts to reject it so that there is room for the tweezers to grab ahold of and pull it out.

Duck Tape

This option is not nearly as pleasant nor as effective in removing the thorns. I would say that only 20-30% of the cactus thorns are removed when using duck tape. However, this may be all you have in your camping or hiking pack. This option works well with thorns that are just small enough to grab with your fingers but not too small that it brakes the thorn in half. If needed, repeat the process of adding new tape and pulling it off until all the thorns have been removed.

Glue and Gauze

Using Elmer’s school glue and medical gauze is one of the better ways of removing smaller embedded cactus thorns. Simply apply the glue to the inflicted area, place a strip of gauze on top of the glue while lightly patting the gauze into the glue. NOTE: The gauze will keep the glue from breaking apart in smaller pieces.  Let the glue dry for 10-15 minutes. Once the glue has dried, peel the edge of the glue/gauze off. This should get the majority of the cactus thorns out. Repeat this until all of the cactus pieces have been removed.


I honestly hesitate to even add this option. Fair warning, I have never tried this option and if at all possible, I never will. Quite simply, because I think it would be a very painful process.

If you ever find yourself out hiking and get some cactus thorns embedded into your skin with only a pantyhose as your only means of thorn removal then follow these steps.
1- Wad up a piece of the pantyhose
2- rub the pantyhose back and forth over the affected area
3- Repeat this process until all of the thorns have been removed.

Doesn’t that seem painful? I don’t want to rub anything over a patch of embedded thorns on my arm or leg!

If you have ever done this, let me know how it went and if it is as painful as I imagine it is.

Wax Hair Remover

This is, in my mind, is the best way to remove thorns, especially the smaller stubborn ones. Like the glue method, simply smear the warm melted wax over the embedded thorns. Once the wax has dried, you can peel it off. This method will remove the majority of the thorns and can be used on all sizes of thorns. Repeat this process as many times as needed.

Clean the Area

After you have removed all of the embedded thorns using one of the methods described above, be sure to wash the wound with warm water and soap to ensure no bacteria get into the open puncture holes. An infection can form even in a pin size puncture hole from a cactus thorn.

With the thorns gone and the area cleaned well, the injury should heal quickly. If any concerns arise, visit a doctor as soon as possible.

My best advice? Wear shoes with thick soles or avoid the cactus all together!