Although earwax is a natural substance that helps protect the ear and ear canal, sometimes it builds up, causing hearing difficulties or discomfort. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, like ringing in your ears, difficulty hearing, or dizziness, see a doctor since you may have an ear infection or other more serious condition. However, for simple maintenance, you can remove excess earwax with ear-safe substances like saline solution, hydrogen peroxide, or mineral oil. No matter what, however, always make sure to be gentle with your ears, so you don’t cause more harm than good.
Rinse your ears with saline solution. A saline rinse is a gentle and effective solution for getting wax out of your ears. Soak a cotton ball with the solution, then tilt the affected ear toward the ceiling and squeeze a few drops into your ear. Keep your head tilted to the side for 1 minute to allow the saline to soak in, then tilt it the other way to let it flow out.
- Gently dry your outer ear with a towel when you’re done.
- You can buy pre-made sterile saline solution at the drug store, or make your own by mixing 4 cups (950 mL) of distilled water with 2 teaspoons (11.4 g) of noniodized salt. You can use tap water instead of distilled water, but you should boil it for at least 20 minutes and allow it to cool before use.
- If your earwax is hard and impacted, you may need to soften it first with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide, baby oil, or commercial earwax remover.
Soften stubborn earwax with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide has the added advantage of being able to dissolve hardened earwax. To clean your ears, dip a clean cotton ball in a solution of 1 part water and 1 part hydrogen peroxide or pull a few drops into a medicine dropper or syringe bulb. Tilt your ear up and let 3-5 drops flow in, wait 5 minutes, then tilt your ear down to let the fluid flow out again.
- You may wish to follow up with a plain water or saline rinse.
- You can use this solution 2 to 3 times a day for up to a week. Stop and consult your doctor if you experience pain or irritation in your ears.
Try baby or mineral oil as an alternative to hydrogen peroxide. Much like hydrogen peroxide, baby or mineral oil can help soften stubborn earwax, making it easier to remove. Use a medicine dropper to put 2 to 3 drops of oil in your ear, then hold your ear facing up for 2-3 minutes so the oil has a chance to soak in. When you’re done, tilt your head to the side to let the oil and wax run out.
- You can also use glycerin for this purpose.
- Try using oil to pre-soften your earwax before rinsing your ears with saline solution.
Use alcohol and white vinegar to dry out moist ears. A mixture of alcohol and white vinegar can help cleanse your ears and also dry out extra moisture that might lead to irritation and infection. Mix 1 teaspoon (4.9 mL) of white vinegar with 1 teaspoon (4.9 mL) of rubbing alcohol in a clean cup. Draw some of the mixture into an eyedropper and let 6-8 drops run into your upturned ear. Let the mixture run all the way down your ear canal, then tilt your head to let it run out again.
- If your ears are chronically moist, you can use this solution twice a week for a few months if your doctor recommends it. However, stop and consult your doctor if you experience irritation or bleeding.
See your doctor if you have symptoms of an earwax blockage. If you think you might have excessive earwax in your ear, make an appointment with your doctor. They can not only safely remove any excess earwax, but can also make sure your symptoms are not a sign of a more serious underlying issue. See your doctor if you experience symptoms such as:
- An earache
- A feeling of blockage or fullness in your ear
- Difficulty hearing
- Ringing in your ear
- A cough that isn’t explained by a cold or other condition
Ask your doctor to rule out an infection or other underlying condition. If you have an ear infection or an ear injury that is contributing to your symptoms, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment to prevent further damage. Additionally, an infection or other problem with your ear (such as an injured eardrum) could make cleaning your ears dangerous.
- If you have an ear infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help clear it up. You should not put liquids or objects (such as cotton swabs) into an infected ear unless your doctor instructs you to do so.
- Don’t try to clean wax out of your ears on your own if you have an injured eardrum or an object stuck in your ear.
Discuss having excess wax removed in the doctor’s office. If you have excess earwax and don’t want to attempt to remove it on your own, your doctor may be able to perform a simple in-office procedure to clean your ears. Ask them if they can remove your earwax with a curette (a curved instrument designed to scrape the wax out of your ear canal) or a warm water rinse.
- Your doctor may also prescribe medicated eardrops to help remove excess wax from your ear. Follow the instructions on these products carefully, since they can irritate your eardrums and ear canals if you use them incorrectly.