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How Can I Remove Stitches?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Feb 26, 2024
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Asking how to remove stitches is answered with difficulty. In reality, you shouldn't remove stitches on your own because there is a risk of infection. Most importantly, you should never remove stitches from surgeries on your own. An infection at a surgery site can easily lead to severe infection or a wound reopening. Despite warnings, some people may at least want to remove the stitches from small cuts, and while this should be done under a doctor's care, there is a way to do it at home.

Stitches are usually one seam only, unlike sewing on cloth. Each stitch has to be removed individually. Most resemble a small tied knot that has pulled the skin together. Before planning to remove the stitches, gather together a few items. These include a pair of tweezers, nail or small scissors, rubbing alcohol, and possibly a magnifying glass to see the stitches. The tweezers and the scissors should be sterilized or soaked in alcohol prior to beginning, and the stitched area should be cleaned with alcohol and allowed to dry before you begin.

The first step is to cut the stitch. Start at one end of the stitched area, and cut only one stitch at a time. If you note excessive bleeding when you cut a stitch, it is not ready to be removed. You may note a tiny bit of blood, which is relatively common. You want to cut the stitch as close to the knot on one side of the knot instead of through it. Gently either thread the bottom part of the scissors underneath the stitch, or use only the top of the scissors, and be careful not to cut yourself!

When the stitch is cut, you can remove stitches by grasping the longer side with tweezers and pulling it out. If you did cut straight through the knot, all is not lost. Simply grasp a former knot point and pull through on one side. Then repeat on the other side. The last thing you want to do is pull any of the knotted part through the skin as this can cause injury or reopen a cut. After each stitch is removed, dab the area with alcohol before moving onto the next stitch. Repeat this step when you've removed them all.

A few don'ts should be observed when you remove stitches:

  • Don't remove your stitches prior to the recommended time for removal, usually ten to 14 days.
  • Don't remove surgical stitches.
  • Don't continue to remove stitches if a wound reopens and starts bleeding.
  • Don't, out of fear of embarrassment, neglect seeing the doctor if you've removed a stitch and the wound reopens.

If stitches drive you crazy — they can grow increasingly itchy as wounds heal — consider asking your doctor to place stitches that don't require removal. Dissolving stitches can be used in place of the standard stitches. Surgical glue is also a fine alternative to stitches. Neither of these methods will require you to remove your stitches at home, which can be risky and is definitely not medically recommended.

When Do Patients Have To Get Stitches?

It can be difficult to know when to go to an urgent care clinic, visit the emergency room, or make an appointment with your regular provider to assess a wound for stitches. If you've never had stitches before, they are exactly what they sound like: A physician or nurse practitioner will use a medical-grade version of a needle and thread to sew up your wound. But does every wound need stitches? And how long does it take for stitches to dissolve? Learn more below about the types of wounds that need stitches, when stitches can be removed, and how to care for your stitches before their removal.

After Deep Cuts or Wounds

If you sustain any type of injury that you are worried about, it's important to visit your doctor or medical provider to determine whether it needs further treatment than self-care at home. There are a few guidelines as to whether a cut needs stitches. Cuts deeper than 0.25 inches or longer than 0.75 inches, deep cuts that appear to have a high risk of infection, a large cut where the edges do not touch or gape open, or a wound in a sensitive, visible area such as the face or hands will likely be considered for stitches.

After Surgery

Your doctor will give you stitches after most major and minor surgeries, though you may not need stitches after small biopsies (such as shave biopsies to test for areas of skin cancer). Pay special attention to the care orders given to you during the discharge process while you are still in the hospital or clinic. These instructions will contain information on how to care for the stitches, whether you should return to have them removed, or whether they will dissolve on their own after a few days.

Some surgeries involve closing an incision on the inside of the body as well as the outside. For example, if you deliver a baby by Cesarean section, you may receive both internal and external stitches. You may not need internal stitches after all surgeries. Be sure to ask questions of your medical team before and after the surgery if you don't feel confident in caring for your post-surgery stitches.

How Long Does it Take for Stitches To Dissolve?

Dissolvable stitches may be made of synthetic materials (such as polydioxanone) or natural materials (such as collagen or silk), and they can be used internally and externally. External stitches that dissolve will break down and disappear within a week at a minimum and many months at a maximum. If you need more information about your specific type of dissolvable stitches, be sure to ask your care provider what to expect. It's not necessary to try to remove dissolvable stitches on your own as they will go away with time.

How Can I Remove Stitches?

Usually, it's not a good idea to remove your own stitches as you risk reopening a wound that is not yet healed and allowing it to become infected. If you have no choice but to remove stitches from a small wound at home, you'll need to collect the following items:

  • Tweezers to pull out each stitch (you don't want to leave any of them in your skin or this can cause infection)
  • Rubbing alcohol to sterilize your scissors and any other instruments or tools that touch your wound
  • A magnifying glass, if you need one, to see extra-tiny stitches
  • Nail scissors to provide a small, sharp cutting area

Be sure to sterilize your scissors and tweezers with rubbing alcohol before you begin. Focus on keeping your hand steady and cut the stitches one by one. If you start bleeding or experience pain, do not continue: The stitch should not be taken out yet!

Does Removing Stitches Hurt?

Removing your stitches may feel uncomfortable, but it shouldn't cause severe pain. If your wound bleeds or oozes pus when you begin cutting with the nail scissors or pulling with the tweezers, please don't continue and seek out medical advice.

When Are Stitches Ready To Come Out?

Removing stitches too soon can lead to the wound reopening or becoming infected. Please do your best to leave your stitches in for the time your doctor recommended. If you notice a problem with your stitches, experience severe pain, or see red streaks or pus leaking out of the stitches, contact your medical team immediately. These signs could represent a larger problem that needs medical intervention. Do not try to remove the stitches by yourself or you could make the situation worse!

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon346898 — On Sep 02, 2013

I had a new doc. She said this was her third time stitching someone up. She tied the stitches so tight they went through the top layer of skin. The stitches are down in my finger about a 1/4 inch. What do I do now?

By anon307258 — On Dec 04, 2012

As a farmer in a rural area, I have always cleaned my own wounds and applied stitches myself, without a local, or had my wife stitch me up. Removing them is quite easy. Simply clean the area with alcohol (along with a small snips and plucker) then cut as close to the knot as possible and pull the stitch out by the knot.

If you waited long enough for the wound to heal, don't be afraid to pull a bit on your skin to expose the stitch more. If there is a lot of pain or redness, you shouldn't be taking them out, and should be worried about infection.

By anon261885 — On Apr 17, 2012

I kind of tried some self surgery after having a screw taken out of my ankle. It was only six stitches, but on the last one I accidentally cut the knot right off and the rest of the stitch went back in the hole, and my skin has already healed over the rest of the stitch and I can't find it! What do I do?

By anon252701 — On Mar 06, 2012

If you have stitches with a knot that is not going away, i.e., dissolving over time, then what you need to do is pick them out as far as they go using tweezers until you see two threads emerging out of the skin.

Cut one off and keep pulling the other and the bit you cut off will come out of the other end as you pull the whole thing out. It's actually a loop surgeons sew in initially before they stitch you up completely. Removal was painless for me as I did it slowly. Hope this helps.

By anon236720 — On Dec 25, 2011

So a week ago I busted my dome at a concert and I got eight stitches above and through my eyebrow. It has been extremely itchy and I'm ready for them to be out, and now the hospital gave me the wrong discharge information because it says I got the glue but it's obviously stitches, so I'm faced with the decision of waiting a few more days and paying someone a hundred bucks or doing it on my own today for a christmas present. What should I do?

By anon232185 — On Nov 29, 2011

I had abdominal surgery last year. I had a stitch that kept coming through the skin and the doctor's office kept pulling it out and cutting it off. Problem is, I pulled it and it was about 10 knots and I cut right behind them, which left two separate strands. Was this a mistake? I am thinking it should be OK. Surely adhesions will keep the stitches from coming all undone.

By anon220150 — On Oct 05, 2011

I've had stitches a hell of a lot of times. (don't ask)

Do not take them out yourself. Please, go to the doctor and get them taken out. Paying however much to get them taken out is nothing compared to the price of sepsis or septicemia. Trust me.

By anon217866 — On Sep 27, 2011

I have 13 stitches in my hand. It hurt like crap! Do not punch windows, even if you are really fast. You'll still get cut.

By anon205859 — On Aug 14, 2011

I had a wisdom tooth removed two days ago. My stitches are ones that dissolve, but when I was rinsing my mouth with salt water to bathe the wound, one fell out. Is there anything to be concerned about? Please help.

By anon179652 — On May 24, 2011

Last week I got 70 stitches on my leg. I'm thinking of taking them out myself once the 10 days is up as I don't feel like waiting at the hospital to get it done.

By anon174057 — On May 09, 2011

I got six stitches in my middle finger. i want to take them out in ten days so here's a few questions: A)how do you do it? B)does it hurt? and C)how do you use finger nail clippers?

By anon112754 — On Sep 21, 2010

I had a circumcision done that involved 12 stitches. I waited for two weeks to get an appointment with the doctor to have them removed. I finally pulled them out my self. These self dissolve stitches are a joke. They didn't dissolve in the two or three weeks time period, and I can't tell you how painful it was. The stitches had already started to be part of the healing of the skin. I used sharp pointy surgical scissors and tweezers. Next surgery, I'll make an appointment before the surgery to have them removed.

By anon110140 — On Sep 10, 2010

I'm 14 and i got a tooth pulled and the gum opened for the adult tooth that was growing above it, and today i got stitches where the left top canine is. i was tounging the string when it pulled out. will it be fine as long as I make sure no more get pulled out?

By anon105878 — On Aug 23, 2010

This is interesting. I had oral surgery three weeks ago and the stitches were removed a week afterward. Well now I am at work, offshore, will be here for over a month, and no way to get to a doctor. I just found a stitch hidden against a tooth that they missed. The gum is beginning to grow over the stitch, so I may have to remove it myself. Now to find suitable tools to remove it.

By anon101436 — On Aug 03, 2010

this has been very helpful. my husband got six stitches in his shin about a week ago. i am not about to wait another two hours at the ER so i am going to walgreens now and getting ready for surgery. I'm sure it'll be fine.

By anon96464 — On Jul 15, 2010

I got self dissolving stitches about two weeks ago, three on two separate areas on my scalp (six total). After a while it seems like one side of the stitches dissolved, and they itched like crazy, with the knot on the end of a string poking out.

The actual cut has sealed itself, though I have some scab on top, and I was just scratching near the area when a stitch pulled out, one thread leaving the body (weird sensation). I tested another stitch and it came out the same way. There was a small amount of cell fluid leaking from the hole, but that sealed up quickly.

So now my stitches are out, a little ahead of schedule, but the discomfort and itching are gone. The doctor said two weeks to heal up, so I suspect they would have shed without a light tug soon enough, but this doesn't seem to have harmed me.

By anon87363 — On May 30, 2010

is it bad that i took one out myself without like cleaning it or anything? i just kept on knocking it and found out how it was tied and i just couldn't stand it in much longer (it was also really loose because of the knocking), but it doesn't look infected or anything and my other stitches aren't annoying me or anything.

By anon73007 — On Mar 25, 2010

i just got 23 stitches in my arm. It hurts.

By anon68362 — On Mar 02, 2010

I've just done four or five stitches on the rear of my head. It is not painful. They prescribed ibuprofen 400 mg tablets for one week. Stitches removal after after one week only! I've bled a a lot. Sick leave till March 7. Dubai

By anon60879 — On Jan 16, 2010

my episiotomy stitches didn't dissolve for almost two months and i had to remove it with a doctor a while ago. but the problem is, when i try to touch inside, i feel some were remaining yet it is just tiny. what can i do? i am so worried.

By anon54395 — On Nov 30, 2009

I had three stitches on the outside of my lip and one on the inside. i just grabbed tweezers and nail clippers, put them in a cup of hydrogen peroxide for a few minutes. I wiped the stitches with a q-tip with hydrogen peroxide.

I very slightly pulled the stitch just to make sure the knot was inside the healing cut, then gently placed the nail clippers under the string and cut, then pulled the string out with the tweezers. Like it says above, just make sure you don't try pulling any part of the knot through the wound.

Afterwards, i wiped the cut with hydrogen peroxide then a few minutes later i put on some neosporin lip balm on. (If the cut is anywhere but your lip just put on some regular neosporin to make sure it properly heals. Good luck, it shouldn't be a problem.

By anon54049 — On Nov 26, 2009

Where I'm from, having your stitches taken out is part of whatever you've had done when they put them in. They tell you to come back after 10-12 days, or to go to your local community nurse, and you don't pay any extra at all.

You probably paid nothing but a small fixed sum to be patched up in the first place, either. That's what we pay taxes for over here, so we don't have to worry about such things.

By anon53793 — On Nov 24, 2009

This is the most retarded thing I've ever heard. Never use hydrogen peroxide on stitches. That's what causes keloid scars and the doctor tells you not to use hydrogen peroxide. I know this because my mom is an interventional radiologist and my sister is a nurse and I got six stitches two days ago and they told me.

By anon50800 — On Nov 01, 2009

i got six stitches on saturday night and removed them myself the following friday afternoon, with finger nail clippers and tweezers. every person and every wound is different. use your common sense. you can tell if you need a doctor to remove them or not.

By anon47213 — On Oct 02, 2009

If you are careful (or have someone careful help you), there is normally no reason you cannot remove a few stitches yourself at home and save $50-$100 for a doctor visit. If you have lots of stitches (>15), and it is one continuous stitch, you might be better off going to the doctor, especially if it was a large incision.

By anon46685 — On Sep 28, 2009

The stitches that dissolve take time to dissolve (a lot more than 10-14 days, more like 2-3 months), so many doctors prefer to use regular stitches on the skin surface because they can be easily removed, so that the patient doesn't have to wait such a long time for the stitches to dissolve.

By anon44157 — On Sep 05, 2009

Do not remove your stitches on your own, specially on your face. Even doctors screw it up sometimes. The thread may cut the skin itself if pulled incorrectly, creating a new scar. Have *only* a cosmetic surgeon do it, who has the most experience.

Many other mistakes could be made by you or a a doctor who is not a specialist. This article is not talking about specific dangers of doing it on your own!

By anon43439 — On Aug 28, 2009

Earlier this week I was referred to a specialist to have two harmless but unsightly cysts removed: one from my upper right arm at my bicep, and one on the top of my head. The referral was made specifically because of the scalp cyst; the concern was excess of blood loss from my scalp compared to the cyst on my arm, which is most understandable.

I suspect the specialist was either having a bad day or was impatient, because although the stitching on my head (the first one completed) was conducted with fair precision, my right bicep was somewhat butchered - although the area was numb, I felt his scalpel slip and slice my arm a bit, and the skin's been bunched together and looks somewhat bulbous. He said nothing, of course, but I wanted it done and over with and said nothing either.

I'm not at all convinced this fellow is incompetent, and I keep the necessary tools on hand for other physical issues which I shall use to remove these sutures myself. This is why I despise medical professionals who believe their training (and the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in sponsored education that seem to equal 'expertise' on the parts of these self-proclaimed gods) supersedes the safety of their patients.

Therefore, I'm choosing to remove the stitches myself, after which I'm slapping on some Polysporin and taping gauze to reduce the chance of infection and encourage the healing process (which I've already done twice). I have never experienced issues after performing such minor operations on myself.

Just want to let you guys know how foolish these professionals make actual experts seem. Thank you very much for some most informative data, too.

By anon35928 — On Jul 08, 2009

about one month ago I had part of a slipped disc removed, and was stitched up as you would expect with dissoving stitches...now you're not going to believe this but I asked my girlfriend to remove some dried blood cause it kept catching on my clothes and was uncomfortable...but she misunderstood what I said and cut the loop of the stitch (the stitch looked like fishing line) line above where I said with some scissors so now I have what lookes like 2 pieces of stitch sticking out of my skin not connected. what the hell do I do ??????

By hawkfrost43 — On May 30, 2009

I got 16 stitches on my knee 8 days ago and I have a hockey tournament all the way in Calgary in 5 days. Does anyone know if I can play by then? (I'm the goalie)

By anon31197 — On May 01, 2009

I cut out my labodomy stitches. It was nice. Everything is nice.

By bonnienmegan — On Apr 30, 2009

I had surgery 21 days ago and have a 6 inch scar on my arm with 23 stitches. The surgeon was supposed to take the stitches out after 2 weeks but he went on vacation and I couldn't get an appointment with another physician in his office and couldn't afford a visit to the ER. I am so angry at the *neglect* of his office staff (not willing to squeeze me in or cooperate in any way)and do not want to go back to this doctor but the stitches are *still in!!*

My arm is trying to heal and the stitches are starting to disappear-my skin is healing *over* them. I want to take out the stitches on my own now but am afraid of infection.

What the heck should I do now? My friend gave me special surgical scissors to take out the stitches or I could wait 2 more days and see this jerk~who is finally back from vacation on Friday.

By anon27269 — On Feb 26, 2009

i just got 10 stitches on my kneecap four days ago. how long is it before i can run again and when will my stitches be removed by the hospital?

By anon26876 — On Feb 20, 2009

Just read this article and after reading the advice I've just taken out 4 stitches on the inside of my index finger using nothing but nail clippers.

The way I did it was to cut the stitch at the furthest point from the knot and then pull the knot quickly. It was painless, I didn't feel a thing.

By misskay — On Jan 04, 2009

2 months ago I had stitches in the back of my head. The stitches were removed, but now I find a dime sized red raised bump that is very sore where the stitches were. Is it possible another stitch is still there? I am on vacation. Would heat pad help, or ice? Should I try to find another doctor?

By anon23755 — On Jan 01, 2009

I took out my own episiotomy stitches twice because they were so aggravating (talk about a challenge, too. LOL!) They were the dissolving kind, but they didn't dissolve, and after a week and a half, I took them out. Not painful at all. It does help if you have a pair of the really sharp-pointed surgical scissors, though. I can't imagine trying to do it with regular scissors or nail clippers.

By anon23007 — On Dec 14, 2008

i cut my hand open and had to have it stitched back up. they advised me that the stitching would dissolve by themselves and most of them have. i have one that still remains and there is no knot. i can see a tiny loop that comes out and re enters the skin. looks like a ingrown hair. but its not hair and looks more like a fishing line. it has been about 4-5 weeks since my hand was stitched.. can any 1 advise me accordingly, on what to do?

By anon19715 — On Oct 17, 2008

I have 14 stitches on my forearm (outside) that I want to remove. I had them put in while on vacation and don't want to pay the $100 for an office visit to remove them! How bad does it hurt and how many days should I wait before I try this? I am a sissy.

By anon18469 — On Sep 23, 2008

You can't use dissolvable sutures or the glue over a joint (such as a knee) because more strength is needed over an area that moves.

By anon13890 — On Jun 06, 2008

I bite my fingernails, and I just got cut on my finger...so I ended up chewing threw the knot on my stitches then pulling them out. Not really smart but hey :p

By anon12492 — On May 07, 2008

its fairly simple. i used baby nail clippers just now to remove two stitches in my wife's lip. they were on the corner of her mouth and very very tiny. get some tweezers and pull up and slide the knot to one side to expose the line to cut, using the baby nail clippers(make sure they are new or sharp) snip the line under the knot. then pull em out. easy peasy lemon squeezy!

By mrjones — On Apr 03, 2008

good luck getting your stitches removed. i had about four stitches on the side of my wrist as a result of an injury in a car accident. my dad took them out for me (no, he's not a trained medical professional!). i think he was being too cheap to take me back to the doctor! it didn't hurt, and had healed nicely, so it wasn't a big deal. i don't know if i'd recommend it for all injuries, and now that i'm a parent, i don't know if i'd do it to my children!

By anon10806 — On Apr 03, 2008

I recently had to get 6 stitches in my knee. I have to go back this Sunday to get them out., They are driving me insane, and am obviously on a "how to remove your own stitches" website because the thought has crossed my mind. I am just curious why they do not just use the glue, or the ones that dissolve in all cases. It said you could request them, but shouldn't Doctors just offer them? This whole ordeal is a first for me so I guess I will know next time, (eek or not!) But for now I guess I will enjoy the hot ER Doctor take stitches out of my hairy knee that can't be shaved at the moment, and just hope he has seen something more grotesque before me.. lol

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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