Monochloroacetic acid crystals and 60% salicylic acid ointment was found to be more effective than placebo as a treatment for simple plantar warts in a double blind study on 57 patients. Nineteen (66%) patients in the active treatment group compared with five (18%) patients in the placebo group were cured after 6 weeks (P = 0.002). The active treatment was associated with a significantly higher cure rate 6 months after entry (P = 0.04). Treatments were well tolerated. IgG or IgM antibodies or both to human papilloma virus (HPV) types 1 or 2 or both were detected significantly more frequently in the actively treated group 6 weeks after entry (P = 0.0005). Twelve (50%) patients considered to be cured had no detectable secondary immune response. Our results suggest that cure does not depend primarily on the humoral system but rather on mechanical destruction of wart tissue, or occurs as a result of cell mediated immunity.