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How To Safely Remove Ear Wax At Home

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When too much wax builds up in your ear, it can be quite tempting to reach for a cotton swab and give your ear a quick clean up. While cotton swabs are being sold as the wonder mop to wipe your ears clean, the fact is that they can do more damage than good. Instead, there are several home remedies that you can use to remove earwax safely without damaging your ear.

What Is Earwax

Before going about clearing your ear of wax, it might be prudent to understand what earwax is and why you have it. The ear canal is a very sensitive part of your body. It has its own cleaning mechanism where ear wax plays an important role. The medical name for earwax is cerumen. It’s a sticky substance produced by the glands in our ear canal and consists of dead skin cells, alcohols, cholesterol, fatty acids, squalene, lysozyme, and antibacterial enzymes.

Earwax Is Your Ear’s Natural Cleanser

Earwax Is Your Ear Natural Cleanser

It’s perfectly normal to have wax in your ear as long as it’s produced in the required amount and does not cause any problems. Earwax is your ear’s natural defense mechanism against dirt and dust, bacterial growth, and irritation caused by water. It is also a natural lubricant. In other words, without earwax, your ear is vulnerable to blockage, infections, waterlogging, and dryness.

What Causes Earwax Blockage

What Causes Earwax Blockage

Usually, your ear has a mechanism to naturally push out the old wax out through the ear opening. However, a blockage can occur if your ear produces excess wax or if the wax is not successfully removed from the ear by the natural process. Here are some of the common causes of earwax buildup:

  • Manually Removing Earwax: Using cotton swabs or other similar cleaning aids to remove earwax can have a counter effect on earwax. While you may be able to clear some wax, manual cleaning could result in you pushing the wax deeper into your ear making it even more difficult to remove. The wax may build up over time and cause a blockage.
  • Fatty Acid Deficiency: This could be another reason for earwax to buildup. Once diagnosed, the problem can be solved by supplementing your diet with the adequate amount of omega 3 fatty acids to prevent future buildup.1
  • Listening Technology: If you spend a lot of time with your earphones on or use hear aids or earplugs, chances are that your ear will not be able to push out wax naturally. Blocking you ear with technology could lead to an interference in the natural flow of wax causing wax buildup.

Symptoms Of Earwax Blockage

  • Decreased hearing the affected ear
  • Discharge or odor coming from the ear
  • Ear pain
  • Itchiness
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing, buzzing, or other weird sounds in the ear
  • A sensation of fullness in the affected ear
  • In some cases, coughing which is caused by the stimulation of a nerve in the ear

6 Remedies To Remove Earwax At Home

1. Vinegar And Alcohol Solution

Vinegar And Alcohol Solution To Safely Remove Ear Wax At Home

A simple solution made of vinegar and alcohol can be used to clear out accumulated wax. This solution has a dissolving effect on earwax and the wax just flows out when drained from the ear. Using this remedy has an added benefit of being an antifungal and anti-bacterial treatment.

How to:

  • Mix equal parts vinegar and rubbing alcohol.
  • Tilt your head with the affected ear facing upwards and pour a few drops of the solution.
  • Hold this position for about 5 minutes.
  • Tilt your head to the other side to drain the solution.
  • Wipe your ear clean with soft, dry cloth.

Caution: Never use vinegar alone. In the absence of alcohol, dilute it with water before using.

2. Baking Soda

Baking Soda To Remove Ear Wax At Home

This home remedy also uses an ingredient that’s already present in most kitchens. A solution made with baking soda and water can soften earwax and help in removing it safely.

How to:

  • In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons of water with a quarter teaspoon of baking soda.
  • Once the mixture is smooth, use a dropper or cotton ball to squeeze a few drops into the ear.
  • Keep your head tilted for 10 minutes to soften the wax.
  • Pour warm water into the ear and drain the solution from the ear by tilting your head in the opposite direction.
  • Clean the ear using a soft, dry cloth.

Caution: Make sure the water is just lukewarm and not too hot.

3. Salt Water

Salt Water is a simple way to remove excess earwax

This is an easy and simple way to remove excess earwax because you have everything you need at home. Salt water has the ability to soften wax without causing any damage to your inner ear or pushing the wax in deeper.

How to:

  • Mix together one quarter teaspoon salt with a quarter cup of warm water.
  • Stir till the salt dissolves completely.
  • Tilt your head and use a dropper to pour a few drops into the ear.
  • Keep your head tilted for 3-5 minutes to allow the wax to soften.
  • Tilt your head in the opposite direction to drain the salt water from your ear.
  • Use a clean, dry cloth or cotton swab to clean the wax that’s come out.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide Cleans Earwax

Though you may not have hydrogen peroxide at home, you can easily buy a bottle from the drug store. It is a weak acid that can be used as an effective home remedy for earwax. Hydrogen peroxide can liquefy the wax thus making it easier to clear. Just make sure the hydrogen peroxide that you buy is not more that 3.5% in concentration. Most pharmaceutical grade peroxide bottles do not go beyond 3% concentration.

How to:

  • Mix two teaspoons to hydrogen peroxide with two teaspoons of water.
  • Tilt your head and use a cotton ball or dropper to pour a few drops into the affected ear.
  • Stay in this position for about 5-8 minutes.
  • Tilt your head to the other side to drain the solution from your ear.
  • Wipe your ear clean with soft, dry cloth.

Caution: Do not use this remedy if you have had ear surgery in the past or have a hole in the eardrum.

5. Natural Oils

Natural Oils Safely Remove Ear Wax

Oil also can be used as a safe remedy to clean earwax. You could use virgin coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil. If you don’t have natural oils, baby oil can be used as a substitute. These oils can be used directly and do not need to be diluted or combined with other liquids to create a solution.

How to:

  • Tilt your head so that the affected ear is facing upwards.
  • Pour a few drops of the oil of your choice into your ear.
  • Allow the oil to settle for 5-10 minutes.
  • Tilt your head to the other side to drain the oil.
  • Once the oil had drained, wash the residue with soap and dry your ear with a clean cloth.

Tip: Glycerin can also be used as an alternative to oil because it works in a similarly.

6. Warm Water Flush

Medical ear wash with water in syringe

This remedy can be used directly or as a follow up after using an earwax softener. Since this remedy used only water, it can also be used if you have recurring wax buildup. It involves using warm water as a gently flush to let the wax flow out. This treatment can be used a couple of days after using a wax softener to clean the ear and dislodge any remaining wax.

How to:

  • Fill a rubber-bulb syringe with warm, filtered water.
  • Keep your head tilted and gently squirt some of this water into your ear.
  • Wait for a few seconds and tilt your head to drain all the water.
  • Wipe with a clean, dry cloth.

Caution: The water should be mildly warm and has to squirt into the ear without too much force.

Your ear canal is a both sensitive and delicate. This means you need to exercise utmost caution when using any remedy to remove earwax. The remedies mentioned above are quite safe as they do not involve inserting hard objects into your ear or using harsh chemicals. However, if you feel your blockage is persistent or is recurring, talk to your doctor immediately for an accurate diagnosis and standard medical treatment.

References   [ + ]

1. Phelps, Kerryn, and Craig Hassed. General Practice: The Integrative Approach. Elsevier Australia, 2011.