Don’t Use Q-Tips To Clean Your Ears, How Else?!

qtips pigtails

I’m sure we’ve all been told not to use Q-Tips or at least not to put them far into our ears but how else are we supposed to clean them?!

Ears are naturally developed to be protective and self-cleaning. The wax (cerumen) coats the ear canal and serves to repel water and help protect it against infection or injury. It also aids in keeping the skin inside the ears from drying out or getting itchy in addition to trapping dust, germs and other unwanted things from reaching into the depths of our ears.

In truth we should probably just leave our ears alone and let nature take it’s course. Maybe this would be okay for me if I wasn’t introduced to q-tips and what seemed like their ONLY function was. I mean when someone asks you what you’re supposed to do with a q-tip what do you think of? Maybe it’s cleaning your computer keyboard or using them as makeup brushes because that’s exactly what’s on the back of some of the boxes. Or maybe you’re like me and thought it’s sole purpose is for ear digging!

Now I’ve been scolded and told all the same by my mother while growing up and my girlfriend too, but let’s be honest: How can something that works and feels so good be so wrong?! Well it’s about the potential damage to your eardrum in addition to accidentally pushing wax further into your ear. If wax went too far down you’d have to get it removed by a professional and it might not be the most comfortable thing to do.

Regardless of it feeling good using cotton swabs, it is in fact dangerous and even Q-Tips themselves say not to use them in your ear canal. It’s all about being careful because the last thing you want to do is damage the lining or eardrum by accident. Even washing the outside of your ears is supposed to be avoided. If you must clean them, either use a soft washcloth with a tiny bit of soap or simply a wet q-tip. Make sure to dry the ears well as not to get them infected and attract the well known “swimmers ear” especially if you are in the water a lot.

qtips box

Personally I can’t help but carefully use the standard q-tips for my ears, but for those more adventurous and wanting a “safer” way to clean your ears, read on. I did some research on some alternatives and although it seems a bit silly, it would in fact do the trick.

Create A Wax Softening Solution

You can buy a carbamide peroxide cleaning solution from the local pharmacy or you can always make your own.

Combine warm water with one of the following:

  • A teaspoon or two of 3-4% hydrogen peroxide solution
  • A teaspoon or two of mineral oil
  • A teaspoon or two of glycerin

Lie on your side if possible so the ear is completely vertical and put in the solution with an applicator if possible or a small bowl. (Peroxide may cause popping or bubbling sounds so don’t be alarmed, this is normal)

Wait 5-10 minutes or if using peroxide, until the bubbling stops.

Take out the solution and use a rubber bulb syringe with lukewarm water to flush out the wax.

Pull on the ear lobe up and down to open the canal to release the last bit of wax.

You can repeat this process for a few days if necessary but shouldn’t do it more often than this.

ear doctor

See A Specialist

If you’re serious about cleaning your ears safely and are not interested whatsoever in using the home remedy route, then you should consult your doctor or get a professional to take care of it for you. In addition if you suffer from repeat problems, hearing loss or blockage you should seek help from a doctor.

When it’s all said and done, the point is to be careful and avoid causing any harm to your ear canal. The last thing you want to do is permanently damage your ears or have a hard time listening to words, sounds and music!

Do you use Q-Tips in your ears?

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Comments

  1. I always suffered from ear infections as a child, swimmers ear especially. So I took up to cleaning my ears with Q-Tips after every shower for fear of getting another infection. I had no idea it was bad for you! I’m too scared to use a wash cloth but I guess I’m going to have to start. Thanks for the info!

  2. Stumbled on this and found it very informative! Thank you

  3. Have you explored baby Q-tips… they have a “safety” design so you don’t push them in too far. I too enjoy cleaning my ears… and I can’t remember the last time I had any trouble with or ear infections, but I am careful while cleaning.

  4. I use about 12 Q-tips a day for my ears–on average!!

  5. I refuse to give up my Q-Tips! However, I do wet them and squeeze out the excess water. It feels much better and seems to snag more wax than putting it in dry.

  6. Well I must admit I’m guilty of using Q-tips and when I can’t find a Q-tip I use ladies you’ll be much more familiar with this one; I use a HAIR PIN!(the rounded end) :-) Wonderful article,thanks for sharing. Habaka

  7. Good tips. We need a right angle in our ear canal to stop us damaging our ear drums yet enable us to scratch that itch.

  8. Very creative… but I think I’ll stick with the Q-tips. ;)

  9. In NZ we call them ‘cotton buds’—and you only ever stick one too far into your ear once. The reflex can be almost as painful as the trigger; fairly makes the eyes water, I tell you!

    (Great blog, nice, tidy, easy to read, clean lines, well laid out and good writing.)

  10. They sell this strange thing you can use to clean your ears (Wax-Vac or something) as an alternative to Q-tips. This post just made me think of that. It’s like a little vacuum cleaner but for ears…

  11. HAHAHA.

    It does NOT work for me. Half the time I try to soften the wax, it all falls into the canal. And then I have to go to the doctor for a cleaning …..

  12. Lol!…where can i find Q-Tips with Pig tails! …very cute!
    Yes, Cotton tips are annoying and poorly thought and made.
    The normal ones needs hips more cotton and the larger baby ones are too big for safety but near useless for a good clean…
    Will consider new solution.

  13. I enjoyed reading this post. I no longer us Q-tips. I use peroxide and water to clean my ears.

  14. sudebaker says:

    After reading all these comments, I wonder if q-tips shouldn’t consider a redesign? I use them too. As a runner, I seem to get more drainage after I run, and the itching drives me crazy! Perhaps a Q-tips Anonymous group would help?

  15. My doctor sent me to an ear/nose/throat specialist because I had an ear infection. The nurse asked if I’d been using Q-Tips. Of course I had. She shook her head and said, “Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.” Cute, but I needed more advice than that; instead I got my ear siphoned out and was prescribed antibiotic pills and ear drops.

  16. I hate the feeling of water in my ears after a shower, which is why I use the q-tip! To dry them out, not necessarily to clean out wax. I know people say not to use Q-tips for this, but I’m just gonna keep takin’ my chances! I also know that as people age their ear wax can become more problematic, so having other solutions is great!

  17. I don’t use Q-tips at all, but for some reason in Japan my ears clog up reliably every 2 years and I need to get them cleaned out by a specialist. Most Japanese have a different type of ear-wax to the rest of the world, so it’s always fun to see the physically-jumping-back shock of the doctors at all the sticky goop in my ears…

  18. Our ENT says never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear….

  19. I keep telling myself no, don’t do it, you’ll regret it when you have ear horn when you’re old and doddery. But excessive earwax on that cotton bud is such a relief.

  20. ow why??? huhuhuhu! i’m gonna die without q-tips… :p

  21. My grandfather used to use an unfolded paper clip – makes q-tips seem harmless :)

  22. sarahgeorge says:

    Hi.. Thank you for your kind visit. I too enjoyed this post of yours. I’m also used to “cleaning my my ears with swabs”. But after reading, I think I should leave them as they are!. Thanks for the information.

  23. “To swab or not to swab?” That is the question. Personally, I make sure that my ears are dry if I do swab, otherwise I just use my pinky nail. One does need to be cautious, at least if they like to hear.

  24. Funny I should stumble across this … I am currently recovering from an ear infection and im constantly grabbing the q tips. I don’t know how to stop thogh cause it feels so good and also, I want people to see my lovely clean ears!

    • Recovering from an ear infection?! That should be sign enough. Interesting desire though, never thought a girl would want the inside of her ears to be the focus to people! What an unexpected pick up line, “Hey… You have the BEST ear canals I’ve ever seen.”

  25. People like me, with allergies, think that the euphoria of q-tipping our ears is a sincere pleasure, and will risk a rupture for the sake of that pleasure. Thanks for the follow, too!

  26. Ahahahah. I always seem to hit something tickly that makes me cough when I use Q tips in my ears :)

  27. Geez…you mean my dad was right?!? He lectured me all the time about not using Q-tips! lol

  28. Oh how I love my Q-tips! My mother cleaned out my ears with them (and the hydrogen peroxide solution) when I was a child. Now, I’m addicted. It drives me absolutely batty to have that feeling of something being IN there. If you’re an avid ear-cleaner, you’ll know what I mean. When the buildup begins, I swear it feels like something slimy is crawling around in there. I once had a doctor give me a lecture about it. He looked in my ears and told me he could tell I was a Q-tip lover, then told me that it was bad for my ears because earwax is good for you. I tried to stop, really I did. But I looked like a loony walking around rubbing my ears, the feeling made me crazy, and eventually I made a bee-line for the Q-tips. I suppose I’ll be an addict forever, but that is okay with me!

    • Haha just try and be safe and not go overboard with them! It’s pretty hard for me to leave them alone too because it’s so convenient and no one wants to be the person that has visibly waxy ears :o

  29. I am guilty of Q-tip abuse as well. Maybe I will try one of your ideas.

  30. Pushed wax too far in with a Q-tip about a month ago. I felt like I was walking around with earmuffs on for the next week. I’ll stick to the wash cloth method from now on when it comes to ear maintenance.

    • Yikes, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid that but I do remember one time pushing it too far and instantly getting a shocking pain!

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