9 Tips to Clean Ears Safely and Quickly

24 July, 2020
Although they aren't the best option, if you decide to use cotton swabs to clean your ears, remember that they are only for external use, and not for reaching further into the ear. 

What are the best ways to clean ears safely? The subject of ear hygiene is extremely important, and not knowing how to clean ears safely can lead to irreversible damage.

Bad ear cleaning habits

Many people clean their ears by introducing objects such as cotton swabs, toothpicks, crochet hooks, and even pencils and keys into their ear canals. They believe that by doing this, they can eliminate ear wax and other elements that can cause the sensation of blocked up ears.

However, using these tools achieves the opposite effect because it will not clean ears safely. The foreign objects alter the pH and fatty acid content, remove all wax, and undermine the ear’s capacity to defend itself against germs.

Ears have an efficient natural cleaning mechanism that should not be tampered with. Because of this, any unsuitable action can interrupt this mechanism and cause problems that can even lead to deafness.

The ear has three parts: an external part (outer ear), a canal (middle ear) and the tympanic membrane at the back (internal ear). Ear wax, which is the ear’s natural means of protection, is found in the canal.

What are the functions of earwax?

Cotton wool buds with wax on them

  • Firstly, trapping germs and other elements that pass the boundaries of the external ear
  • Secondly, preventing infections
  • And, thirdly, preventing water from entering the ear

Continually removing the earwax eliminates the ear’s natural defense mechanism. Furthermore, introducing pointy objects into the ear can damage the eardrum and cause deafness.

See also: How to Reduce Ringing in Your Ears with 7 Natural Remedies

How to clean ears safely

1. Use a saline solution


  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp fine salt


  • 1 cotton ball or dropper

What to do:

  • Firstly, mix 1 Tbsp of salt in half a cup of warm water. Then combine until the salt dissolves completely and the solution is uniform.
  • After that, soak a cotton ball in the solution and squeeze a few drops into the ear. You can also use the dropper.
  • Then keep your head slightly tilted to the side, with the treated ear up. 
  • Finally, after a few minutes, tilt your head to the opposite side, so that the solution drains out.

2. Hydrogen Peroxide

A lady holding hydrogen peroxide

  • Mix equal parts boiled water and hydrogen peroxide.
  • Follow the same steps as with the saline solution, and apply the mixture with a soaked cotton ball or dropper.

3. Baby oil, olive oil, or mineral oil

For use in cases of earwax blockage.

  • Firstly, place a few drops in the ear to soften the wax and allow the oil to work overnight.
  • Then place a cotton ball in your ear so that the oil does not leak out before reaching the wax.
  • In the morning, take out the cotton ball and clean the excess oil.

4. Vinegar and alcohol

A jar of vinegar.

  • Firstly, mix equal parts white vinegar and alcohol. 
  • Then, while tilting your head to one side, place a few drops of the solution in the ear, and allow to set for a few minutes.
  • After a few minutes, tilt your head to the other side to allow the solution to drain.

See also: 6 Benefits of Soaking Your Feet in Vinegar

5. Syringing

Injecting sterilized water with a syringe is another acceptable method for cleaning your ears. The water should be slightly warm, reaching body temperature. After syringing your ear, dry it well.

6. Daily activities

A woman eating chewing gum.

If you feel you may have earwax blockage in your ears, you can do certain activities to help drain the blockage in a natural way. Some of the most effective ways to do this are chewing gum and moving your jaw.

7. If you use cotton swabs

If you use cotton swabs to clean ears safely, it is necessary to take into account the following measures in order to prevent harming your ears.

  • They should be used to clean only the external area
  • They must be inserted at a straight angle
  • And finally (and this is very important): they should not be used to eliminate earwax, therefore, it is not safe to insert them up to the middle ear.

Inadequate use of cotton swabs can be harmful. You run the risk of pushing earwax (and other contaminating elements that may be present) from the exterior part of the ear to the inner part, which can cause obstructions and infections.

8. Ear cleaning should not be overdone

A woman holding cotton wool buds

Excessive ear cleaning is not a good thing, since, as mentioned previously, earwax is a natural defense mechanism. We suggest cleaning your ears only once a week, regardless of what procedure you choose.

9. What to do in case of infection

If you experience intense pain, redness, and fever, we recommend that you do not use any home treatment method. Instead, consult your doctor immediately. A periodic visit to your ear, nose, and throat specialist is always advisable. 

A doctor can observe the inside of the ear with special instruments, and will then suggest the most adequate ear cleaning method for your situation.

Lee, L. M., Govindaraju, R., & Hon, S. K. (2005). Cotton bud and ear cleaning – A loose tip cotton bud? Medical Journal of Malaysia.