Rusty Nail Wound Folk Remedy

For those of you who aren’t my Facebook fans, and didn’t hear about this, I stepped on a nail a couple of weeks ago while working on putting up a fence. It wasn’t a big deal, just a pain. Literally.

I didn’t realize I’d stepped on it, until I tried to move and my shoe wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t until I jerked my foot up and felt a twinge of pain when I realized that the nail had punctured my foot. After pulling my shoe off, I quickly saw the blood soaking my sock.


I really didn’t want to have to go get a Tetanus Shot. And I was highly annoyed that my careless mishap could end up costing us a pretty penny. Like we have money to be throwing away on a doctor’s visit!

I got on Facebook and many of you offered some very good advice. This is what I ended up doing: First off I cleaned the wound with Peroxide, rubbed on some Neosporin, and slapped on a bandaid.  But after reading some suggestions, I started soaking my foot in hot water with Epsom salt 2-3 times a day for at least 30 min. each time. Then I’d dry it off and, using a Q-tip, rubbed the sore with Lavender Oil (Tea Tree Oil would have been good too). I tried to let it stay unbandaged as much as possible, so that it could get lots of air.

A BIG thanks to my friends Rachel and Pat in particular, for doctoring me via the internet!

After a few days, it did begin healing nicely. I was nervous about an infection setting in, as it was a bit red and tender for those first few days. But my friends assured me that a little soreness was normal. As long as it was not very red, hot to touch, or oozing, it was doing okay.

I am glad I didn’t run straight to the doctors office. I’m not saying that you should do what I do. I’m just telling you that this worked for me.

But the whole point of me sharing this story wasn’t really to tell you how I treated a nail wound, but rather to share with you an old folk remedy that I find very interesting.

When my husband got a look at the hole in my foot the first thing he told me was that whenever he stepped on a nail as a kid, his grandfather would always put Kerosene on it. As a matter of fact, he’d put Kerosene on any broken skin.

Honestly, I thought that sounded crazy. But after asking around, other people I’ve spoken to have also recalled using Kerosene when they were growing up. When I went to visit my friend Adelia this past Monday, I told her about how I’d stepped on a nail and what I’d done to treat it. She smiled and asked, “You didn’t use Kerosene?” I was surprised that even she would say that! She showed me the little medicine bottle with a dropper in it that she uses just for Kerosene.

Hmmm. Interesting!

So, next time I think I’ll try this Kerosene remedy for a nail wound. Along with the Epsom soaks and essential oils, of course.

Have you ever heard of using Kerosene to treat wounds? Do you know of another home remedy for treating a nail puncture wound? I’m all for staying out of the doctor’s office if I can help it!

About Kendra 1123 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.


  1. I stepped on a nail helping tear down an old barn. I was in flip flops so I kept working. Every hour it hurt worse it had almost come up thru my pinkie toe and next one. Been doctoring it, soaking and hobeling, well tonight I had to get up hurting worse then ever. Puss, blood oozed out and I kind of saw something. Began to dig and clean, up pops 2 big moon shaped pieces of my lavender flip flop. Few, now maybe it will heal. Yes I’ve had 2 shots in past 2 yrs so I feel I’m ok, or will be now.

  2. Turpentine is the proper old folk remedy. Not so much a folk remedy either; we’ve got some 60 year old 1/2 oz. bottles of turpentine for medicinal purpose. You can still buy it; it’s like tea tree oil. Kerosene is distilled from petroleum and should not be applied to the body. I suspect that ignorant people got turpentine and kerosene confused over the years; and since the body has an amazing capability to heal itself, they healed. And shared their ‘knowledge’. They likely had dermatitis if the ‘treatments’ were overdone, or done once on children who’s skin has not yet developed a horny layer. If used regularly they might have even developed cancer… and blamed it on the nuclear plant in the next county!

    • As s child in the 1940s when ever we cut ourselves or stepped on a nail Mother would wash and wrap the wound in clean cloth and pour turpentine and kerosene on it until the cloth was soked and actually dripping. Worked well every time.
      Another use of turpentine was to mix a little with melted lard and rub even a baby down with it for a really bad cold. The lard was to keep the oil from burning the skin.

    • Kerosene works. I’ve seen it too many times. Petroleum may cause cancer with overexposure but with the rare occurrence of a nail through the foot, it works. My son is an extremely good 10th grade high school tennis player. He got a large nail through his foot two days ago (on Tuesday) at about 4:15 p.m. I bought kerosene on my way home from work and soaked his foot for about 30 min. That night and the next morning I soaked his foot in warm water with Epsom Salt. The next day (less than 24 hours later) my son played (and won) a super competitive match against a 12th grade player who already has tennis scholarships. He did not limp and played excellent. Oh, by the way, call it ignorant if you want but I have two bachelor’s degrees, a masters degree and a Ph.D. I promise the Kerosene works!

  3. I don’t know when and how a nail punctured into my palm. But Now it turns to a wound as if a bunch of nails remain in the wound and normally grow as a bush. For which i have to trim it by a razor blade, but no recovery, it swells as like an outgrowth as usual….

  4. I stepped on a rusty screw about 6 months ago. It didn’t bleed and I just kept working. It healed over but it is sore and has a small knot and hurts to walk on. The skin grows more on the sore and I trim it every week. What can I do to make it heal?

    • Your wound is infected. It needs to be treated by a doctor. This will probably involve getting it cut open and the infection drained out. This is very serious. Please do not ignore this.

  5. I am almost 72 but when I was about 7 I stepped on the tail of a copperhead and he bit me on my heel. My Mother used a razor blade and made an X across the bite and soaked my foot in kerosene. I could see currents of something other than kerosene coming from my heel. My Mother said it was the poison being drawn out by the kerosene. The next day the slight swelling I had was gone. My foot was still a little sore but that went away quickly.

  6. So mid afternoon today I dropped a really old piece of barn wood on the top of my foot. I (of course) had flip flops on and a rusty nail (or two) poked two holes in the top of my foot. I have fairly skinny feet that are very “veiny”. (As in my veins stick out) Anyway, as the day and evening have gone on, I can barely walk and am in excrutiating pain! I came in right away and washed it with peroxide and put neosporin and a bandaid on it. A couple hours ago I did try icing it down. Seemed to just make me be in more pain! Could have the nails hit a nerve in my foot?! I feel like it is ridiculous that I am in this much pain!!!! I don’t want to have to go to the doctor! It is now red and a little swollen (about the size of a 50 cent piece) right around the punctures. (The punctures look very small!) Help!!!!!!!

  7. When growing up (like 65-75 years ago) the common treatment at our house for stepping on a rusty nail was to cover the bottom of a bucket with salt and fill it with about two inches of kerosene. Then soak the foot for about 30 minutes.

  8. I am born, raised, and live in the country. I find most useful knowledge comes from the old folk in the community. And yes, I have always heard kerosene for wounds would take out soreness.

  9. As a child I stepped on several nails and my Grandmother would soak my foot in kerosene. I did not go to a doctor for anything until I was almost 15 years old. My Grandmother treated us. She did a real good job, as I am fixing to turn 79 in July and in good health. I remember one time my brother got his hands stuck in barbed wire and Grandmother soaked his hands in kerosene.

  10. Clean the surface of the nail injury thoroughly with hot water… And then apply palm oil on it leave 4 a while b4 applying ointment…. This has worked 4 me tremendously..

  11. The first thing I ever do with any wound that isn’t producing bleeding is to force bleed it, and punctures from nails and thumb tacks are notable for not bleeding.

    Had a nail go most of the way to the top of my big toe that I’d stepped on and after getting as much as I could to come out, continued working while doing my best to prevent any dirt getting in or actually using the toe walking.

    Been soaking it for the last couple of days in the Epsom salts and the only swelling that has occurred has quickly abated upon soaking.

    I’m going to do my best to remember the sugar and turpentine solutions as well – thanks for those tips and all the stories.

  12. Back in the 50s when I was a young child, I would often go with my father to work when not in school. He was a self-employed carpentry contractor. Needlessly to say, there were always a lot of nails, both clean and rusty, scattered all over the job sites. I can safely say I stepped on at least a dozen nails back then. When we got home, my foot went immediately into a hot (as hot as I could tolerate) epsom salt bath for about 30 minutes. Then my mother would then head for the turpentine can (we didn’t have kerosene around). She would soak a small piece of cloth with the turpentine, put a small piece of raw bacon on it, cover the wound and then wrap it. I asked why the bacon? She said the bacon kept the wound open and moist and the turpentine would “draw out the infection”. I have to say, all those wounds never got infected and healed quickly. And she never took me to see a doctor to get a tetanus shot any of those times.

    She said when she was young and living on a farm in “the country” and had any kind of wound, she headed for the kerosene lantern. Being far from a doctor and not much money (depression era), they resorted to folk remedies.

    They worked for us.

  13. Please don’t use kerosene. Will it help? Most likely. Will it harm? Possibly. Is it the best choice? not by far.

    I know it’s the “in” thing to poo poo doctors and praise yesteryear’s better ways, but the truth is science has been beneficial in so many ways. One of those has been in actually using the scientific method to determine what methods of treatments are the most effective while being the most safe. It is an ongoing process and they are always learning and despite very very strict regulations occasionally greed has had its in influence, but trust me when I say that the medical community has the absolute best available for wound care. A lot of it has been developed and perfected in times of war where survival rates of soldiers has skyrocketed because of it.

    AS far as “staying out of the doctor’s office” I can understand that but studies show that people who are quick to go to the doctor and people who go to the doctors office more often live longer and healthier lives.

  14. My parents and grandparents always used turpentine. It will also take all the soreness out of a hang nail. My grand father used to put drops of it on sugar and feed it to us for a cough. It didn’t work, is toxic if ingested, and is major nasty tasting.

    The reason behind using coal dust is because most coal contains sulphur, which has an antibiotic effect. Cobwebs will stop bleeding, the silk of the spider webs gives the platelets in the blood something to “catch” on, and form a clot.

    My vet told me that unless a nail came from an old barn, or had been around horses, not to worry. Horses carry tetnus, and in those cases, yes, you need a shot.

  15. With regards to pat-sss please don,t burn any wool rags especially in an enclosed space, burning wool produces cyanide gas the same gas used in the gas chambers

  16. Second Teresa’s comment about the health department. Also, Cate’s comment on sugar – if your mouth is bleeding, eat a spoonful of sugar. The sugar helps it clot faster.

  17. Plain white sugar……an older woman I knew years ago swore by this; grate a small amount of Ivory bar soap into a bowl, add white sugar, and enough water to make a thick paste (doesn’t take much). The soap is mostly to just help make a paste that sticks together – can use just sugar. I was skeptical for a while, but I used it on a neighbor who had stepped on a nail, refused to go to doctor, but had red streaks going up his leg. Packed a bunch of this sticky mess over the wound, covered it with gauze and tape to keep it on. Next morning – took off the covering, nearly gagged at the black smelly stuff on the bandage – the hole was closing over and the red streaks were gone! I’ve sworn by it since….. I actually had a doctor tell me that sugar was used in WWII in the field for wounds, it pulls the infection out if nothing else was available.

  18. Tetanus shots are available at your local health department (by appointment) for a very low price. It is nothing like accepting a government hand-out because you do pay for it, but you only see a nurse so there is no huge doctor fee. That’s where my husband and I get ours done. 🙂

    • You now have to have a prescription from your dr. Or the health dept. Can’t give it to you and they now bill your insurance. No cheapie anymore. I know cause I just went. Been sick ever since.

  19. Yep. Growing up my daddy would put “coal oil” on virtually any injury, but especially punctures. It did keep out infection and prevent soreness. I’ve never used it as an adult because I believe all petroleum products are carcinogenic, but it may be less toxic than the tetanus vaccine. Certainly less painful!

  20. We found a garden remedy that works like a charm, though messy. Grated fresh raw red-beet! Tie it on the puncture, bruise, or anything else similar with a cloth, cover with plastic and another cloth. This will begin to ache as it draws the hurt out! Even works to heal broken bones faster after they’ve been set!
    Glad you found something that worked!
    Love your blog!

  21. How ironic I came across your site tonight. My foot is propped up next to me on a chair as I type! Ripping down the old barn today, a 3.5in nail went up thru my work boot and clean thru my foot. Worse thing was I was stuck down to the concrete as the nail was coming up thru it. To the doc we went–$200 for the tetnus shot!!!! (Yes 200$$) We are very remote and only have a small clinic/hospital 45 miles north. Three foot xrays later–they told me I cleaned it out well myself, so they didn’t….gave me an antibiotic and sent me home. UGH-$87 for the doc and who knows what for the xrays. I have kerosene in the basement. If there is ever a next time—I hope not, hurts horrid–I will just head downstairs. Thanks for the info!

  22. I’ve never stepped on a nail but I stepped on a pin once and my mom rushed me in for a tetanus shop….so silly. Happy Healing.

    I have used Apple Cider Vinegar to heal a fungus toenail-does that count?


  23. After researching a bit more, I found some info that kerosene is a known carcinogin that can cause myelofibrosis. Also, tetanus just seems too scary to me to risk not getting the shot.

  24. When we first moved out here last Summer I got into something in the backyard that gave me a big rash on my legs. My neighbor who is 74 & very tough (my son compares him to Chuck Norris) Told me to put turpentine on it. I thought that can’t be good for you but, now you have me wondering if I should have given it a try. :o)

    • turpentine is very good for rashes, my parents, grandparents and great grandparents used it whenever we had rashs, ring worm, chiggers or anything of the sort. they said it suffocates the sickness or critter in the skin.

  25. An older friend of mine told me about using Kerosene for a major wound on her hip. She said she has some nasty scars but never had any infection or problem with the hip. We are too quick to discount “yesterday’s medicine” because others tell us that today’s is better.

  26. my grandmother used to put kerosene on any scrapes I would get when I was little. it didnt burn, but it did feel funny, like your skin was “breathing”.

  27. My husband mentioned using Kerosene to me at one point. It’s been so long I’d almost forgotten. His grandmother taught him, I believe. I’ve never tried it personally.

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