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What is the Best Way to Clean Ears?

By Nychole Price
Updated May 17, 2024
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Everyday personal hygiene consists of having clean teeth, a clean face and freshly washed hair. For many people, though, it doesn't consist of clean ears. Ears are often forgotten, making them a safe haven for dirt. Ears also harbor wax buildup that accumulates over time. There are several ways to clean ears and reduce the wax buildup.

Earwax removal is the most important step to having clean ears. To remove excessive earwax, use an earwax removal kit. Insert the earwax drops into the ear and lie down on one side to allow the drops to make their way through the ear canal. After several minutes, rinse the ear out over the sink with warm water. Dry both ears thoroughly with a soft cloth.

Hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean ears in lieu of an earwax removal kit. It isn't as effective for thick earwax buildup, but is efficient for average wax accumulation. Lay on one side and drip hydrogen peroxide in the ear canal with a bulb syringe. Allow it to sit for several minutes, then rinse with warm water. Don't use hydrogen peroxide more than once a week as it can overdry the ear canal.

Wax develops behind the ears, as well as inside. Clean behind the ears with soap and warm water, scrubbing gently with a washcloth. It is easiest to do this while in the shower, but it isn't necessary. Dry the area thoroughly with a soft towel. Wipe behind the ears with rubbing alcohol and cotton balls to remove any remaining wax or soap scum.

Clean the ear canal using a washcloth. Cotton swabs should never be used in the ear canal as they can damage the eardrum. Wrap the washcloth around the small finger and scrub as far as can be reached, then towel dry. Wipe the inner area of the ear, as well as all folds, with cotton balls and rubbing alcohol.

It can be nearly impossible to clean ears with an excessive amount of wax accumulation. This is especially true if the wax goes deep into the ear canal. Situations such as this are best left to an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist, or ENT. Specialized equipment is used to clean ears in this situations, before it affects a person's hearing. Do not attempt to remove deeply embedded wax with cotton swabs, as they can perforate an eardrum and cause permanent hearing loss.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By PelesTears — On Jul 09, 2010

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends that you clean your ears only if there is an excess buildup of earwax. The NIH's recommended technique for cleaning ears is to use mineral oil or baby oil to soften the earwax. This will allow the earwax to work itself out on its own.

If this doesn't remove the plug, the NIH recommends using body temperature water and an ear syringe to gently push out wax that has been softened with oil. Angle the syringe towards the ear canal wall so as not to damage the eardrum.

Once you drain the water, the agency advocates using a few drops of rubbing alcohol to dry the remaining water in the ear canal. The NIH also says the methods represented in the article will work as well (Using hydrogen peroxide).

By ValleyFiah — On Jul 09, 2010

Keeping your ears clean is important for both ear and sinus health. The sinuses are connected to the middle ear by the Eustachian tubes, and an infection in the ear can lead to an infection in the sinuses. The opposite is also true.

A feeling of heaviness in the ears, constant ringing, dizziness, and itchiness are all signs of middle ear infection.

If left unchecked, the ear infection can result in Eustachian tube dysfunction. The end result is pain and discomfort, a trip to the doctor, and treatment. If it is really sever, a doctor may have to make cuts to the ear to drain the infected fluid.

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