How to clean your ears properly: Guide


Cleaning your ears can be tricky, especially when we’ve all received different advice when it comes to ear hygiene.


Unfortunately, much of that advice isn’t safe.


Many of us learned to clean our ears with Q-tips, but doctors strongly advise against it. In fact, doctors say that most people don’t need to clean their ears at all. If some earwax does come out of your ear, simply wipe it away with a damp washcloth.


But, is it really that simple?


If you think you have too much earwax, or you simply can’t live life without cleaning your ears, this post will explain the best ways to properly clean your ears.


Cleaning your ears without Q-tips


Again, all you need for routine ear cleaning is a damp washcloth. That’s right: No Q-tips required.


Doctors say there’s no need to insert a cotton swab into your ear to get it clean, and inserting objects like Q-tips in your ears can actually push earwax further into your ear and cause bigger problems down the road.


To clean your ears, simply get a washcloth damp with warm water and wipe the outside of each ear to remove any dirt and earwax that has collected. Don’t try to poke the washcloth into your ear canal.


If you think your ears do need a deep clean, try irrigating your ears with a syringe.


Here’s how to irrigate your ears at home


A doctor is the best person to irrigate your ears, but many people have safely irrigated their ears at home. If you’d like to try it yourself, here’s how to irrigate your ears safely:


  1. Start softening your earwax


A few days before irrigating, The Mayo Clinic recommends using an eyedropper to apply a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin, or diluted hydrogen peroxide in your ear canal. There are also over-the-counter eardrops you can purchase that usually contain a mixture of these ingredients.


Apply the drops every two or three times each day for a few days. You can also put in drops 15 to 30 minutes before irrigating your ears. The drops will help soften up the earwax in your ear canal so it’s easier to flush out.


  1. Rinse your ear with warm water or saline solution


Fill a rubber-bulb syringe with warm water or a warm saline solution into your ear canal. The liquid should be warmed to about body temperature.


Tilt your head so your ear is pointing up and pull your outer ear up and back to move your ear canal. Keep your head still for about two minutes before tipping your head to the opposite side to let the fluid drain out.


  1. Dry your ear


Once the fluid is done draining from your ear, use a clean, dry cloth to dry the outside of your ear. Again, don’t try to insert anything into your ear.


It may take several rounds of ear irrigation to remove all of the earwax in your ear canal. If you notice that your symptoms aren’t getting better, or get worse, go see your doctor.


There are some risks to ear irrigation including ear infections, perforated eardrums, vertigo, or deafness. Don’t irrigate your ears if you have diabetes, a compromised immune system, a possible hole in your eardrum, or tubes in your ear.


How to get rid of earwax


A certain amount of earwax is actually good for your ears, according to researchers at Harvard University. Earwax naturally helps keep your ear canal clean. As earwax moves outward, it collects dirt and dead skin cells from your ear canal and keeps it away from your eardrum.


However, some people experience excessive amounts of earwax. If too much earwax builds up, impaction may occur. This can cause pain, ringing in the ear, infections, and hearing loss. People who use hearing aids or earplugs tend to have a higher risk of impaction.


For serious earwax buildup, a trip to the doctor may be in order. If you’d rather try removing it at home, don’t reach for the Q-tips.


Irrigation is one way to remove excess earwax.


You can also soak a clean cotton ball with clean water, simple saline solution, or hydrogen peroxide.


Tilt your head so the opening of your ear is pointing up and drip a few drops of the fluid into your ear. Hold your head still and tilted up for about a minute so the fluid works its way down.


Then, tilt your head the opposite way to let the fluid and loose earwax come out.


What to use to remove earwax buildup  


There are several over-the-counter eardrops designed to make earwax removal a little easier.


Eardrops are usually either water-based or oil-based. Researchers haven’t found that one type of eardrop is better to use than another.


Some people prefer using natural, nonirritating oils or saltwater instead of over-the-counter products. Tilt your head and put a few drops of olive oil, baby oil, mineral oil, or saltwater in your ear to soften the wax. Sit still for a few minutes before tilting your head to the other side to let the wax drain out.


Other people use hydrogen peroxide or a mixture of vinegar and rubbing alcohol to flush out their ears.


Never try to use items to dig earwax out of your ear. Instead of removing earwax, you’re more likely to push it deeper into your ear or injure your ear canal.


When to see your doctor


Go to your doctor if you have an earwax blockage that you can’t remove at home. Also, go to the doctor if you have signs of an ear infection, including ear pain, fluid draining from the ear, or difficulty hearing.