Skip to main content

Earwax Removal the Safe Way

I joyfully strive to create ripples of inspiration to empower people to be winners of life through writing, life coaching, and healing.

Diagram of the ear canal.

Diagram of the ear canal.

How Do You Remove Earwax Safely?

Ear wax removal seems to be such a trivial topic, and is often dismissed as something ordinary. For some people that may be the case, but for others, it would be surprising to note that they may be unaware of the unsafe practices they have been employing for the longest time. As for ear wax itself, what do we really know about it? Instead of lecturing about ear wax and how to remove our ear wax safely, why don’t we have a test instead? You love tests, right?

Before you put anything in your ear, make sure you read through the entire article first. Try to see how many of these ear-boggling questions you can answer correctly.

You know you are having excessive ear wax problems when you experience the following symptoms:

  1. There are noises in your ear which are downright uncomfortable
  2. You have an earache that is persistent
  3. Your eyesight is blurred
  4. Uh-oh, dreaded hearing loss which seems to be getting worse
  5. Feels like something is stuck or plugged up inside your ear

If you pick all of the numbers above except number three, your symptoms most likely indicate an ear wax problem. The only time we need to remove ear wax is when there is an excessive amount of it found in our ears. Too much ear wax can contribute to the slow, progressive loss of hearing.

Ear Wax True or False

All of the statements below are true except for one. Which statement is false?

  1. Ear wax is also known as cerumen.
  2. In healthy amounts, ear wax acts as a temporary water repellent.
  3. Most of the time, ear canals are self-cleaning where old ear wax is transported from the ear canal to the ear opening where it dries, flakes, and falls out.
  4. Ear wax is formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum.
  5. Ear wax helps maintain a certain pH balance in your ear, thus preventing the growth of bacteria and fungi.

All statements are true except for number four. Earwax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum, but in the outer part of the canal. The skin of the outer part of the canal has glands that produce our ear wax! What an amazing thing! The function of this wax is to trap dust and dirt so it won’t reach our highly sensitive eardrums.

Ear Cleaning True or False

Ear canals are normally self-cleaning as we mentioned earlier. In some cases, we do get bothered by an excessive amount of ear wax. So, what is the best way to remove our ear wax safely?

  1. Clean the ear canal with the use of cotton swabs.
  2. Soften the wax by placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial drops in the ear. Repeat this for about a week.
  3. The use of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide and flushing it out with water.
  4. Wash the external ear with a cloth but do not insert anything into the ear canal.

All answers are correct except for number one. Cotton swabs (or any other pointed objects like pencils, cotton-tipped applicators, bobby pins, or toothpicks) should never be used to clean ear wax in the ear canal. Doing this will merely push the wax deeper into the ear canal and may block the eardrum.

I normally would use number two, which is to soften the wax by placing a few drops of baby oil; this normally works magically. Thankfully, the only time I needed to do this was when I was still a child.

If you use hydrogen peroxide or H202, you will notice the oxygen bubbling off and that there will be some water left behind in the ear. This wet and warm condition of your ear canal is not ideal since it can breed bacteria. Make sure to flush the ear canal with rubbing alcohol to displace the water and dry the canal skin.

Warning: If alcohol causes severe pain, this is an indication that there might be an eardrum perforation.


Never Hesitate to Consult a Doctor

Listen to your body when it speaks to you. If you feel that these home remedies will not help your ear wax problem, go visit your doctor right away! The otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) may prescribe eardrops designed to soften the wax or remove the wax using microscopic visualization.

If you feel that you might have a hole in your eardrum, be sure to consult your physician before trying these home treatments. Putting any solution like ear drops or other products including water in your ear with the possibility of an eardrum perforation may cause a serious infection.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2009 Michelle Simtoco


enoch jemitala on October 17, 2018:

I would like to thank you for your

advice.May the good lord bless you.

krystal on April 02, 2012:

Just tried this, oil in the ear and a squirt of warm water with a bulb and I can hear again! Thank you!

Ann on February 18, 2012:

WOW. I didn't know that about cleaning excess ear wax. I've been using q-tips since I was small and still use them. I'm going to stop after reading this page.

I'm gonna do some more research and update my site

Thanks ripplemaker

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on January 30, 2012:

I would suggest you visit an ENT doctor. Thanks!

fatinuyu on January 30, 2012:

hey , can i use the steel q tip to slowly workout my blockage , i accidently push my earwax more into the ear . i scared tht i might loss my hearing D:

Shayne8173 on January 10, 2012:

Salamat!!! Ripplemaker.. Gb :)

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on November 14, 2011:

Thank you cb, your sharing is extremely helpful! I appreciate it very much!

cb61998a on November 13, 2011:

I do not know or remember how I came across this article but I wanted to comment on it & hopefully leave some information that will be helpful to others...

It is OK to put Alcohol in the Ear. JUST DO NOT PUT ALCOHOL INTO THE EAR IF YOU HAVE OR SUSPECT THAT YOU HAVE A PERFORATION(TEAR OR HOLE)IN YOUR EAR...ALCOHOL WILL THEN BE VERY PAINFUL... Alcohol is actually the primary ingredient in (OTC) many Over The Counter Swimmer's Ear Drops, which are sold to aid, in the prevention of Swimmer's Ear. Alcohol dries excess water that remains in the ear or that has become trapped or left behind (which is the cause of Swimmer's Ear). From the time I was a young Child into my early Teens, I suffered from Swimmer's Ear...(Very Painful..I have suffered with a ruptured Eardrum as an adult & it was not as painful as Swimmer's Ear)..Since that incident, I no longer put Q-tips into my ears..Which I also had to "fish" for the lost cotton tips (from Q-tips) out of my ears. Since the ruptured eardrum, that was the Final Straw for me, no more Q-tips, etc. in my Ear(s).

Hope this helps to answer questions (or clear up any confusion) regarding alcohol in the ears..

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on October 26, 2011:

Shayne: Sorry for the late reply-- went out of town on a team building workshop.

Regarding your question to the flushing....there is an indication when you need to use it. I will place it here. "But if you use hydrogen peroxide or H202 you would notice oxygen bubbling off and water left behind in the ear. This wet and warm condition of your ear canal is not ideal since it would breed bacteria. Make sure to flush the ear canal with rubbing alcohol to displace the water and dry the canal skin."

So if your problem is removing earwax, using alcohol is not the answer. It is also stated here: "Soften the wax by placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin or commercial drops in the ear."

After softening it, don't use a cotton bud as you might push it in instead. If you are scared to remove the earwax by yourself, do visit an ENT. This is the best way to deal with your problem as the doctor can remove it and you won't have to fear causing damage to the eardrum.

I hope this works for you. :) Blessings.

Shayne8173 on October 26, 2011:

If it's not safe then why it says "Make sure to flush the ear canal with rubbing alcohol to displace the water and dry the canal skin."? How bout oil is it safe to put inside in the ear canal? Pls. I need some answer..

Shayne8173 on October 21, 2011:

Then why it say's "Make sure to flush the ear canal with rubbing alcohol to displace the water and dry the canal skin."? I really want to clean my daughters ear coz i can see big ear wax stuck inside her ear canal but i'm scared.. Btw, where you in cebu? I'm from cebu too.. :)

Fierce Manson from Atlanta on October 20, 2011:

My mom who has trouble with ear wax build up for the past few years always has to visit the ENT doc for a cleaning. My mom told me about the peroxide and water for flushing out my ears.

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on October 20, 2011:

No it is not safe to put alcohol inside the ear canal.

water damage humble tx on October 19, 2011:

I was also wondering about the alcohol- has anyone answered that yet?

Shayne8173 on October 16, 2011:

Is it safe to use alcohol inside the ear canal?

Savitree on October 05, 2011:

Vital info. i used cotton swabs to clean my daughter's ear for wax built up.

thank you

Camille Olivia Strate from Planet Earth on July 08, 2011:

What a tremendously helpful article. You have no idea how timely this was (is) for me. My thanks!

myi4u from United Kingdom on June 01, 2011:

OMG, I actually use cotton swabs! I have the thought that I might pushed the ear wax deeper. Normally, I would just ask my wife to use a small steel spoon for ear eax removal but sometimes, I use cotton swabs for quick fix of itchiness. After reading this hub, I think I will refrain from using cotton swabs from now on. Thanks!

LittleFairy on May 20, 2011:

I just cleaned my ear with a cotton swab some days ago, and you are right, it pushed the wax further down. I will try your tips now. Thanks a lot for sharing!

capncrunch from New Orleans on April 27, 2011:

Hello ripplemaker,

I quit trying to put my elbow in my ear years ago. Very useful Hub!!! I injured my ear at the beginning of the year while swimming. I got water inside and tried placing my hand against my ear to use as suction. Bad mistake! Thankfully, I am ok now but injuries like those can be permanent! Thank you for writing!!

chamilj from Sri Lanka on April 12, 2011:

Very useful tips and advices for Earwax removal. Actually I never knew that we can use baby oil for this. Thanks ripplemaker! Voted up!

Alfreta Sailor from Southern California on April 12, 2011:

I just happened upon this hub, and thought, "how interesting." However, now I say how useful, especially methods for removing earwax that I've never heard of, i.e. using mineral oil, or peroxide. Very useful hub, ergo I voted it up/useful, also I liked it to my Facebook friends.

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on January 18, 2011:

Oh gee, glad your ears are okay now. Thanks for sharing as this reinforces the concept of being careful in using Q-tips. Thanks :)

BioMedGirl from Corpus Christi, Tx on January 17, 2011:

It's funny that I stumbled across this hub as I recently had to go to the doctor to get the end of a Q-tip removed from my ear that came off during a routine (or so I thought) cleaning. I still have a problem with irritating wax but I learned my lesson on Q-tips. I'll have to give some of these tips a try! Thanks!

Ironracer from St. Louis, MO on October 24, 2010:

Nice info. I actually clean my ears everyday with a q-tip. Kind of a habit, and, apparently, a bad one! Cheers.

jennyjenny from Somewhere in Michigan on October 12, 2010:

Great Hub! Very Informative! Just had a visit with the ENT myself, crazy stuff! Thanks for sharing. :)

Mentalist acer from A Voice in your Mind! on August 15, 2010:

Thanks for the survival tips Ripplemaker;)

kims3003 on July 09, 2010:

Well done hub with great accurate information. A+!

writer83 from Cyber Space on December 12, 2009:

excellent hub. I always seem, to grab at the cotton buds. The kids hate me for it !

Healthyminds on November 22, 2009:

mmmm...valuable info and advice

thanks for the great hub

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on November 21, 2009:

Hi Ben, thank you for dropping by and for your inspiring comment! :) Backmassager huh? Interesting...

Ben Zoltak from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA on November 20, 2009:

"Listen to your body for it speaks to you." That is good advice and I listen as hard as I can! Sometimes I use a backmassager on my ear (yes I wrote an article on it!) I asked the doctor and he said it's ok to do that. Thanks for the article, I enjoy your matter of fact writing style ripplemaker!


Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on August 10, 2009:

Hi mrgonzalesleo: Thanks for dropping by. :-)

mrgonzalesleo on August 08, 2009:

This is very informative, thanks for the hub.

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on August 05, 2009:

Hi Kim, glad you found this helpful. :-) Love and light..

Kim Garcia on August 04, 2009:

ripplemaker; Thank you for posting this Hub. Very informative. I sleep with earplugs ever night, and have done so for the past 12 years, as insomnia is something I'm overcoming. This procedure seems to push the earwax way back in the ear canal, so these tips are very helpful! Thank you! Peace n' Blessings~ Kim

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on August 04, 2009:

Hi BP, I know what you mean by itchy. That would be time I would be wanting to use any sharp object to pull whatever is making the ears itch. LOL Oh boy, but I know that would be extremely harmful..

HI JP, u-oh hope the meds are working for him. :-)

Hi wjames, hahahaha yes that should work!

wjames773 from Salt Lake City, UT on August 03, 2009:

Excellent and informative hub, thank you! Now when my girlfriend says that I should be able to skick the Q-tip in one ear and pull it out the other, I can tell her that it's not safe or sanitary. Heh.

JPSO138 from Cebu, Philippines, International on August 02, 2009:

Great tips. My son actually has some problems with his earwax. It's usually hard and he is taking some medications to make it soft. I really appreciate this article. Up for this one!

blondepoet from australia on August 01, 2009:

Hi boy sometimes I wish I could rip my ears off. They get unbearably itchy and I go insane on them. Great topic anyway RM you rock (hugs)

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 26, 2009:

Dolores: Yes that is dangerous! LOL

skgrao: Thanks for dropping by. :-)

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on July 22, 2009:

I remember, years ago, some of the old folks cleaned their ears out with bobby pins. How's that for dangerous.

S K G Rao. from Bangalore City - INDIA. on July 20, 2009:

Can I copy the Hub ( Ear Wax Removal )to my blog,this is Awesome.

My Blog url:

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 17, 2009:

You are welcome nyfamily. :-) Thanks for dropping by.

Hi Blondepoet, ouchy ouch! Not one of those days again huh? lol

blondepoet from australia on July 17, 2009:

I needed to read this I push those buds way too deep and a few times the end has come off in my ear lol, and a friend had to tweezer it out ouch x0

nyfamily5 on July 17, 2009:

Great hub, Thanks for the info

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 13, 2009:

Yikes, that must have been scary! Good it didn't hurt your eardrum. :-)

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on July 12, 2009:

I almost never use cotton swams anymore because the end broke off one and I had to go to the ER over it. That scared me so much and I hate qtips now lol. Good hub!

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 12, 2009:

Hi Eaglekiwi, thanks for dropping by. :-)

Eaglekiwi from New Zealand on July 12, 2009:

Oh this info helped me a lot , of course I knew a lot of it already ,but you wouldn't think I did ,because in desperation Ive been known to reach for the q-tips ,and yep just as you say make things worse.....dohh...but I did not know about the baby oil , so thanks so much ,thumbs up!

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 12, 2009:

Hi Charia/Sol, as long as you don't push the earwax thingy inward, it's okay. I see Sam will have an ear clean up time tomorrow with Mommy, enjoy! LOL

Charia Samher on July 12, 2009:

uh oh this is pretty alarming. I can't stand a day without cleaning my ear, I feel very uncomfortable; and worst I am using a cotton swab. Tomorrow I'll try putting baby oil on Sam's ear, hope she's ok with it, hehe!

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 11, 2009:

Hi sis Dottie, you get a star from me for getting a 100% mark!  LOL As for breaking old habits, I know what you mean!!

Dottie1 from MA, USA on July 11, 2009:

I passed the questions by flying colors.  I know the rules but don't always follow them which is most of the time.  hmmm, I guess from your advice Sis, I'll have to try something else but like RGraf said in her comment above it's hard to break old habits. 

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 11, 2009:

Hi Enelle, you experience that too? LOL same! My mom complained once to have my ears check..she swears she could hear funny sounds from it. But then I suppose it's my allergic rhinitis acting up. Hahahah

Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on July 10, 2009:

Excellent hub - I'm fortunate to not have wax problems, but when my allergies flare up, my ears itch something awful lol...

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 10, 2009:

Your granny is a wise woman London Girl :D Thanks for dropping by! :-)

LondonGirl from London on July 10, 2009:

My Granny had a similar saying, "never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear"

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 10, 2009:

Mayhmong, to ear wax! Hahaha

Bala, so your ears are working fine! Great to hear! :D

Bala Subrahmanyam Vishnubhotla from Hyderabad, Telangana, India. on July 10, 2009:

Good Hub! Loud and Clear.

mayhmong from North Carolina on July 10, 2009:

yeah, I know right!

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 10, 2009:

Hi mayhmong, I remember when I was a little girl my auntie Florence would call us one by one and she'd check our ears to see if it had ear wax. She would use baby oil if there were hardened ear wax. As for your step uncle with a toothpick, that is very dangerous to put in one's ears. :-)

Hi dayzeebee, you can use the cotton buds for cleaning the outer ear don't just go poking within to keep those ears of yours safe! :-) Many thanks!

Hi JP, using the medicine prescribed by the doctor is one of the safest way to go. Thanks for dropping by!

JPSO138 from Cebu, Philippines, International on July 10, 2009:

My son has a problem with ear wax. I am using a medicine prescribed by the doctor to make it soft. Great hub.

dayzeebee from Cebu, Philippines on July 09, 2009:

You chose a good angle to take on the subject. Very practical and helpful. Now it's time i use those cotton buds in other ways.LOL. Good job Ripplemaker:)

mayhmong from North Carolina on July 09, 2009:

I never knew you can use baby oil to clean out ear wax?! Interesting. I did had an step-uncle who used a toothpick and broke the tip of it in his ears?! My parents had to help assist them to dig it out!

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 09, 2009:

Hahahah ok shamel, if I ever meet her I will. :-)

Hi Rgraf, thanks for coming over to read and comment :-)

Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on July 09, 2009:

Very good. I was raised using the swab and old habits are hard to break. I'm trying though.

shamelabboush on July 09, 2009:

Will follow your advise ate, but please tell my GF that bcz she insists on pushing that stick inside my brain :)

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 09, 2009:

Hi rb, your sharing is very helpful. Thanks so much. Now be careful with those ears of yours okay? :-)

Hi advisor, glad to know your son is okay now. Thanks for dropping by. :-)

Hi jill, you are so right. Sometimes when one is unsure what to do, it would be best to go to an ENT doctor. They would know better that's for sure! :-)

HI shamel, you can use cotton buds to clean your outer ears, just don't stick it in too deep esp. if there is an ear wax there...that would push it in. LOL :) Glad to see you again! :-)

Hi Jewel, I learned about ear candling from emohealer...I guess you know what to do. Keep taking care of those ears of yours... :-) Thanks for dropping by.

Hi marco, I should check your snot hub and rockinjoe's vomit too. LOL Thanks for coming over! :-)

marcofratelli from Australia on July 09, 2009:

Great hub!

It complements my Snot hub and rockinjoe's Vomit one :) Except yours is probably more sensible approach!

Jewels from Australia on July 09, 2009:

Very informative hub. I've had ear candling and syringing. Obviously prevention is better than cure.

shamelabboush on July 09, 2009:

I always use the cotton swabs like almost everyone and never knew this information until I read this hub! So, I was not helping myself? I was just pushing the wax inside??? Thanks Ate.

jill of alltrades from Philippines on July 08, 2009:

Very informative hub!

Some people do produce excessive wax that can block their ear canal. It would then be good to see an ear doctor when this happens.

All the best!

advisor4qb from On New Footing on July 08, 2009:

My oldest son had a real problem with ear wax. I don

t even really know which thing made the problem stop! I remember my husband even trying ear candles. I think it was a medicine called DeBrox that finally worked.

rb11 from Las Vegas on July 08, 2009:

I've had this several times and made the mistake of using a cue tip. The ear doctor tried using a solution to soften the wax, then he had a very low pressure water flush to remove the wax. The second time the wax was solidified and compacted to where I could hardly hear. In this case he had a spiral shaped pick device in which he slowly worked out the wax. Please do the preventative measure described above so you do not have to experience the PICK..


Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 08, 2009:

Hi mamacoots, glad to know your daughter has now "sparkling" ears! (Can I just make up that term for fun?) Thinking of squirting waters on my ear makes me feel ticklish with the thought. Thanks for dropping by! Regards... :-)

Hi Beth, thanks for adding that info. It suddenly dawned on me how most kids would have ear wax problems. Many thanks! :-)

Michelle Simtoco (author) from Cebu, Philippines on July 08, 2009:

Gypsy willow, hahahahah I found myself trying to put my elbow on my ear LOL But I know this would just be impossible to do. Thanks for making me smile. :-)

Emohealer, I enjoyed reading and learning about your ear candling hub! Thanks for coming by and reading this ear wax removal hub! LOL :-)

Beth100 from Canada on July 08, 2009:

Most children have narrow ear canals which do not allow the body to remove the earwax naturally. As the child grows, so does the ear canal. The wax buildup problem will resolve itself as the child grows older.

mamacoots from Louisiana on July 08, 2009:

I just got back from taking my daughter to the doctor. They had to do an ear wash on one ear to remove some wax. It was a neat looking gadget I've never seen before. Wish I had one at home. :-) It really worked.

Sioux Ramos from South Carolina on July 08, 2009:

Thanks for an informative hub on the ear, this article is an enhancement to the one I wrote and vice versa. Such a deep subject eh? More than meets the eye.

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on July 08, 2009:

My physics master ar school always told us to clean our ears with our elbow, I have never forgotten it!