How to Clean Your Ears

Two Methods:Cleaning at HomeMedical Remedies

Your ears can become clogged when too much earwax (cerumen) accumulates inside them. While it's an important part of your body's natural defense system for keeping dirt, bacteria and other things out of your ears, too much earwax can decrease your hearing ability.

Method 1
Cleaning at Home

  1. Image titled Clean Your Ears Step 1
    Be sure you don't have an ear infection or a perforated eardrum. Cleaning your ears under these circumstances can be extremely dangerous, so do not use this method if you even suspect a problem. Instead, schedule a medical appointment immediately. Symptoms of an ear infection include:[1]
    • Fever.
    • Vomiting or diarrhea.
    • Green or yellow drainage from the ears.
    • Persistent and severe ear pain.
  2. Image titled Clean Your Ears Step 2
    Make your own wax-softening solution. You can purchase a carbamide peroxide cleaning solution at your local pharmacy, or you can 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
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    Prepare an applicator (optional). You can simply pour the solution into your ear from the bowl if you don't have an applicator on-hand. However, if you do have one around, it can make the process a little tidier and easier.
    • Use a large plastic syringe with a plastic tip, a rubber bulb syringe, or even an eyedropper[2].
    • Fill the applicator with the solution. Draw up enough so that the applicator is more than halfway full.
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    Tilt your head to the side. The cleaning process will work better if your ear canal is as close to vertical as possible. Allow the ear you're cleaning to face upward.
    • Lie down on your side, if you can. Just be sure to put some towels under your head to catch any excess solution.
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    Slowly put the solution into your ear. Pour the solution from the bowl into your ear, or position the end of the applicator a few inches above (not in) the ear canal and squeeze.
    • If you used hydrogen peroxide, you may hear a fizzing or popping sound. Don't worry, this is totally normal!
    • If you can, you might want to ask another person to do this step for you. It'll be easier for him or her to make sure the solution is actually getting into your ear.
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    Allow the solution to work for a few minutes. Keep your head tilted to the side and give the solution some time to break up the earwax. Five to 10 minutes should be sufficient.
    • If you used hydrogen peroxide, allow the solution to work until you no longer hear fizzing or popping.
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    Drain the fluid. Hold an empty bowl under your ear, or put a cotton ball up to the outside of your ear. Tilt your head slowly, and allow the liquid to drain out.
    • Be careful that you don't push the cotton swab into your ear — simply hold it lightly against the outside of the ear, so it's positioned to catch the fluid.
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    Flush your ears. After the wax has softened, use a rubber bulb syringe to flush out loosened earwax. Gently squirt lukewarm water (at body temperature—98.6°F (37°C) into your ear canal. For very stubborn wax or for people with very small ear canals, an enema bottle filled with clean, warm water may work better than a bulb syringe.
    • Pull on the earlobe out and up to open up the ear canal.
    • Do this over the sink, tub, or other container: it's a messy operation, and you may flush chunks of earwax out.
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    Irrigate your ears again. With excessive buildup, it may be necessary to repeat the process twice a day for no more than four to five days.
    • Don't drain your ears too often. Doing so could damage your eardrum and the sensitive skin in your ear canal.
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    Dry your ears. When you're done flushing, place a towel over your ear, and tilt your head to the other side to drain the water. Gently pat the outside of your ear with a towel, then repeat the process on the other ear.

Method 2
Medical Remedies

  1. Image titled Clean Your Ears Step 11
    Visit your doctor. If you can't clear the blockage on your own, make an appointment with a medical professional. He or she can tell you in a couple seconds if you have a blockage, and perform a quick procedure to flush your ears. You might be experiencing the following symptoms[3]:
    • Persistent earaches.
    • Muffled hearing.
    • A feeling of fullness in your ear.
  2. Image titled Clean Your Ears Step 12
    Use an over-the-counter solution. To manage long-term earwax problems, your doctor may suggest using over-the-counter solutions containing carbamide peroxide every four to eight weeks.
    • Brands using carbamide peroxide include Murine, Debrox, Auro, Mack's, and GoodSense.
    • Your doctor may also suggest prescription ear drops containing trolamine polypeptide oleate, or Cerumenex.[4]
  3. Image titled Clean Your Ears Step 13
    Relax. The doctor may flush your ears with a water pick or bulb-type syringe to clean out smaller blockages (lavage), or may remove larger blockages in part with an instrument called a curette [5] or by using suction. It doesn't hurt at all, and in just a few minutes, your ears will be safely and thoroughly cleaned—and your hearing will be startlingly better.
  4. Image titled Clean Your Ears Step 14
    See a specialist, if necessary. Talk to your doctor or an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) if you have frequent and troublesome buildups of earwax.


  • Clean ears after taking a shower. It's much easier because the cerumen will be softer.
  • If you are of Asian descent, you most likely have dry-type earwax. Pouring liquid into your ears won't do any good. This type of earwax is simply removed with an ear pick, which you can find at your local pharmacy or Asian supermarket. An ear pick is a (typically bamboo) stick with a small scoop at the end. Carefully use the ear pick to scoop the wax from the ear canal, making sure not to go too deep. As this type of earwax is typically found in very miniscule amounts, it is safe to remove manually as long as you're careful. It it even better to have someone else do it for you.
  • If you're not sure about any of this, consult your physician.
  • If you find your ear canals are drying out too much from the hydrogen peroxide, put a couple drops of oil (baby oil or mineral oil) into your ear.
  • Using cotton swabs too frequently can result of stripping the ear canal of wax, or scratching it, which allows for bacterial infection (like swimmer's ear).
  • For problematic earwax, consult an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Specialist.
  • Do not use the hydrogen peroxide technique if you have a perforated eardrum or a history of ear problems.
  • According to ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists, a cotton swab is the last thing you should be putting in your ear. Cleaning your ears with a cotton swab may cause more problems. Instead, use a moist cloth to wash the external part of the ear or rinse your ears out during a shower.
  • Wipe your ears with a warm washer (not inside the ear only on the outside).


  • If you have an ear infection or even suspect you have a perforated eardrum, see your doctor before performing any at-home remedies. You could seriously damage your ears.
  • The hydrogen peroxide technique should not be used more than once or twice per week at most.
  • Don't use home remedies on children under the age of 12.
  • Do not use cotton swabs. The use of cotton swabs in the ear canal is one of the most common causes of perforated eardrum, a condition that sometimes requires surgery to correct.
  • Avoid "ear candling," which involves placing a hollow, lit candle into your ear. Proponents claim the suction will suck the wax from your ears, but research has shown that it's not only ineffective, it can cause serious injuries including burns and eardrum punctures.[6]

Things You'll Need

  • Wax-softening solution
  • Plastic or rubber bulb syringe, or eyedropper
  • Tissue, cotton balls, or towel
  • Warm water

Article Info

Categories: Cleaning Ears