How to Remove Stitches

Three Parts:Getting PreparedRemoving the StitchesAdministering Aftercare

While it's recommended that you visit your physician or health care professional to have your stitches removed, that's not always practical. If the recommended healing time has elapsed, and the wound appears completely closed, you may want to remove the stitches on your own. All you need are some tweezers and scissors!

Part 1
Getting Prepared

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    Make sure it's safe to remove your stitches. In some cases you absolutely shouldn't remove your own stitches. If your stitches were inserted after a surgical procedure, or if the recommended healing time (usually 10-14 days) hasn't elapsed, removing them yourself can put you at greater risk for infection and may prevent your body from healing properly.[1]
    • Keep in mind that when you go to the doctor, adhesive strips are often placed on the skin after stitch removal to continue to facilitate the healing process. If you do it at home, you may not be getting the care you require.
    • If you want to double check whether it's OK to remove your stitches, give your doctor a call. He or she will let you know whether it's safe enough to do it yourself.
    • If your wound looks as if it's getting red or more sore, do not remove your stitches: go to your doctor. You may have an infection.
    • Keep in mind that in many cases, you can get your stitches removed without going through the regular doctor's appointment process. You might be able to walk right in for a quick stitch removal. Call your doctor and ask.
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    Choose a tool to cut your stitches. Use a sharp pair of surgical scissors if possible. Sharp nail scissors or nail clippers also work fine. Avoid using any type of blunt edge, and don't use a knife - it's too easy for knives to slip.
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    Sterilize your cutting tool and a pair of tweezers. Drop them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, let them thoroughly dry on a clean paper towel, then swab them thoroughly with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. This will ensure the cutting tool and tweezers don't transfer bacteria to your body.
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    Gather your other supplies. There are a few other things you should have on hand. Gather sterile bandages and antibiotic ointment in case you need to treat an area that starts to bleed. You shouldn't need to use these supplies, since if your skin has properly healed, no bandage is necessary, but it's important to have them on hand just in case.
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    Wash and sterilize the stitch site. Use soapy water, and dry yourself thoroughly with a clean towel. Use a rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton ball to further clean the area around the stitches. Be sure the area is completely clean before proceeding.

Part 2
Removing the Stitches

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    Sit in a well-lighted spot. You'll need to be able to see every stitch clearly to do the job properly. Don't attempt to remove your stitches in a place that's too dark, or you could hurt yourself.
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    Lift the first knot. Use the pair of tweezers to gently lift the knot of the first stitch slightly above the skin.
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    Cut the suture. Holding the knot above your skin, use your other hand to wield your scissors and snip the suture next to the knot.[2]
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    Pull the thread through. Use the tweezers to continue grasping the knot and gently pull the stitch through your skin and out. You might feel a bit of pressure, but it should not be painful.
    • If the skin starts to bleed when you remove the stitch, your stitches are not ready to come out. Stop what you're doing and see a doctor to remove the remaining stitches.
    • Take care not to pull the knot through your skin. It will catch on your skin and cause bleeding to occur.
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    Continue removing the stitches. Use the tweezers to lift the knots, then snip with the scissors. Pull the thread through and discard. Continue until all the stitches have been removed.
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    Cleanse the wound. Make sure there's no residue left around the area of the wound. If you'd like, you can place a sterile bandage to cover the area and allow it to continue to heal.

Part 3
Administering Aftercare

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    See a doctor if any problems arise. If the area reopens, you're going to need more stitches. It's very important to see a doctor immediately if this happens. Bandaging the wound and trying to let it heal without new stitches won't be adequate.
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    Protect the wound from re-injury. Skin regains its strength slowly — when you remove the stitches, it's only at about 10% of its normal strength. Don't overuse the body part where you had stitches.
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    Protect the wound from UV rays. Ultraviolet light is damaging even to healthy tissue. Use sunscreen if your wound will be exposed to the sun or when using tanning beds.
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    Apply Vitamin E. It can help the healing process, but should only be used when the wound is completely closed.


  • Leave stitches in for the full duration your physician suggests.
  • Keep your wound clean.
  • Use a disposable stitch cutter rather than scissors. They are sharper and flatter so pull less on the stitch during cutting.


  • Removing stitches from major surgery yourself is not recommended. This article is designed for removal of minor stitches.
  • Do not attempt to remove surgical staples at home. Doctors use a specialized tool for extraction, and at-home methods may result in greater injury and pain.
  • Don't get sutured (stitched) cuts wet if you have been advised not to and do not wash them with soap.

Things You'll Need

  • Surgical scissors, scalpel, nail clippers, or hobby knife (sterilized)
  • Forceps or tweezers (sterilized)
  • Hydrogen peroxide or alcohol
  • Magnifying glass, preferably with built-in light
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Sterile bandage

Article Info

Categories: Health Care and Medical Information