Ear wax, or what scientists call cerumen, is a yellowish waxy substance we often find in our ears. It’s secreted by tiny glands in the ear canal.
Ear wax is meant to protect the ear by coating the ear canal. The components of ear wax protects our ear canal from dirt, dust, bacteria, and even irritation from water exposure when you go swimming.
So small amounts of ear wax in the ear is completely normal and healthy.
Ideally, once ear wax gets old and can’t do its job anymore it naturally works its way out of the ear canal.
But sometimes, for various reasons, people can get too much ear wax. Then it starts to build up. And when this happens, we reach for the Q-tips, right?
Well, it turns out that using a Q-tip isn’t the best idea. And here’s why…
If you’re not careful, Q-tips can push the wax further into your ear canal. This is often how ear wax problems go from bad to worse. When ear wax gets really stuck and keeps building up, this is called a cerumen impaction.
This kind of build up or impaction can lead to several unpleasant issues such as
- Sensation that your ear is clogged or plugged
- Ringing noises in your ear (this is called tinnitus)
- Impaired hearing
- Itching, odor, and infection
Because of these unpleasant side effects, people often look for ways to get rid of their excess ear wax that don’t involve using a Q-tip.
Luckily for you, this post contains the most effective and natural ways to clean out your ears.
Warnings: Follow the instructions carefully or the wax impaction may get worse. DO NOT try any of these remedies if you have a perforated eardrum, severely blocked ear, tube in your ear, or any known ear condition. ALWAYS use clean utensils to avoid ear infection. You should always consult a healthcare professional before trying anything you read on a website (including these remedies).
1. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a common medicine cabinet item that can be used for a variety of things from disinfecting wounds to DIY toothpaste.
When I worked under a naturopathic doctor, he also revealed to me that hydrogen peroxide is an extremely effective remedy to break up and remove excessive ear wax.
What makes hydrogen peroxide so effective is the bubbling reaction it causes. Once it gets into your ear canal, it seeps into the earwax and begins its bubbling magic. This bubbling is what makes it so effective at breaking down caked-up earwax.
What You’ll Need:3% hydrogen peroxide, warm water, organic cotton swabs or balls, a medicine dropper, a bulb aspirator, a towel.
- Place 1-2 tbsp. hydrogen peroxide in a small glass cup with luke warm water (about half full). Stir until fully dissolved.
- Lie on your side with your clogged (impacted) ear facing the ceiling. Place a towel under your head. If you find that it’s too difficult to reach your ear in this position, you can tilt your head to the side—impacted ear towards the floor. You could also have someone help you with step 3 to make things easier.
- Fill ear or medicine dropper with the hydrogen peroxide and place 3-4 drops of this solution into your ear. Remain on your side or keep your head tilted for at least 5 minutes. This gives the hydrogen peroxide time to penetrate and loosen the wax.
- Turn your head in the opposite direction so the hydrogen peroxide can drain. Clean the outside of your ear with a swab or towel.
- Repeat this process several times as it is usually necessary. If you have a bulb aspirator, use it to suck out the loose wax at the end of each application.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar, Tea Tree Oil, and Rubbing Alcohol
While it may not be as effective as hydrogen peroxide, this option could be helpful for those who have no luck with hydrogen peroxide.
This solution can help dissolve ear wax and prevent any kind of ear infection because tea tree oil and rubbing alcohol are effective at fighting infections. That means this remedy can also be used to alleviate ear infections, swimmer’s ear, or anything of that sort.
BUT, before trying this method, it’s recommended that you test a small amount of tea tree and apple cider vinegar on an inconspicuous location on your skin to see if it negatively reacts. Although it’s effective, this method should also only be used one in a while since it can dry out the ear canal. There’s also a risk that this approach could cause a slight irritation which is why you should test it somewhere else first.
What You’ll Need:Organic apple cider vinegar, organic tea tree oil (this kind), rubbing alcohol, cotton ball or dropper, a towel
- Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and rubbing alcohol in a glass bowl. I usually use ¼ cup of each for multiple trials. Add 2 drops tea tree oil to solution and mix.
- Lie down with impacted ear facing the ceiling. Dab the cotton ball in the solution and then squeeze 2-3 drops of the solution into the affected ear.
- Let the solution do its magic for 5 minutes.
- Turn over so your ear is now pointed towards the ground with a towel underneath it to collect anything that comes out.
- Rinse the ear if necessary and then clean the outer ear with a towel.
- Repeat this process several times until you get desired results. If it takes more than 5-6 tries, consider another method or consult your doctor. If you have a bulb aspirator, use it to suck out the loose wax at the end of each application.
3. Coconut or Olive Oil
If you don’t have any of the other agents and desperately need to clear out your ear wax, chances are you have some coconut or olive oil lying around the house. Both of which can soften your ear wax which makes it easier to come out of the ear–especially with a bulb aspirator.
What You’ll Need:Extra virgin olive oil (must be extra virgin so it’s not chemically extracted) or unrefined coconut oil, dropper (or cotton ball), towel
- Slightly warm 1-3 tsp. oil depending on how many times you plan on trying this ear wax removal process—make sure the oil is not hot!
- Lay on your side or with the ear you want to clear facing up.
- Put 3-4 drops of the warmed oil into your ear canal.
- Allow it to sit for 7-10 minutes.
- Turn your body around so the treated ear is now facing down with a towel underneath it. Allow your ear to drain and clean your outer ear from any wax or oil. If you have a bulb aspirator, use it to suck out the loose wax at the end of each application.
4. Mineral Oil
Like coconut or olive oil, warm mineral oil can soften and break up ear wax, making it easier to remove. And unlike the 2nd approach, this won’t dry out and potentially irritate your ear canal. This method is best for regular cleanings, but often ineffective for stubborn blocks.
What You’ll Need:Food-grade mineral oil, 1 cotton ball, towel
- Slightly warm 1-3 tsp. mineral oil depending on how many times you plan on trying this ear wax removal process. I like to get the oil slightly warmer than body temperature. Again make sure it’s not too hot.
- Lay on your side or with the ear you want to clear facing up.
- Put 3-4 drops of the warmed mineral oil into your ear canal.
- Allow it to sit for 10-20 minutes. Waiting longer usually produces better results.
- Turn your body around so the treated ear is now facing down with a towel underneath it. Allow your ear to drain and clean your outer ear from any wax or oil.
5. Warm Water
This is a less aggressive approach that’s great for people who are skeptical about putting things other than water in their ear.
While it may not be as effective as the other options, it still has the potential to help remove ear wax.
What You’ll Need:Medicine dropper, bulb aspirator, water, towel.
- Slightly warm ¼ cup of water—make sure the water is not hot!
- Tilt your head or lay on your side with the ear you’re cleaning facing up.
- Put 4-6 drops of the warm water in the ear canal.
- Tilt head or flip your body to let gravity do its work. Let the water sit for a couple minutes.
- Place the tip of the bulb aspirator at the entrance of the ear canal (not inside) and suck up any wax or liquid that comes loose.
6. Garlic-Infused Oil
I’m fan of this last remedy because it provides a one-two punch. In other words, not only does it clear out wax, it can also alleviate ear aches caused by infection. That’s because this remedy takes advantage of garlic’s high concentration of allicin—a powerful natural antimicrobial agent.
In fact, studies have even found that garlic kills a wide range of dangerous pathogens including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even parasites (1).
What You’ll Need:Medicine dropper, organic garlic (not from China), organic extra virgin olive oil, towel
- Warm 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil in a glass container (to slightly above body temperature—feels warm to the touch).
- Crush 1 clove of garlic for every tbsp. of oil and place in oil. Mix well and let it sit (without heat) for 30 minutes, then drain.
- Warm the garlic-infused oil—make sure it’s NOT hot.
- Lie on your side with a towel under your head. The ear that needs to be cleaned from wax should be facing up.
- Put 2-3 drops in the affected ear. Wait 5 minutes, and then flip your body to let any excess oil or wax drain. If you have a bulb aspirator, use it to suck out the loose wax at the end of each application.
7.Prevent Ear Wax Buildups With Omega-3s
When it comes to living a healthy life, I believe it’s always best to tackle problems by targeting the root cause.
In this case, your diet could be the reason why you have so much ear wax building up.
You see, evidence suggests that if you don’t get enough quality omega-3s in your diet, it can cause the sebaceous glands in your ear canals to produce high amounts of wax.
In other words, your ear wax problems could be caused by a simple omega-3 deficiency.
So if ear excess ear wax is a recurring issue for you, the solution is quite simple: consume wild-caught fish every week, or take a high-quality omega-3 supplement. If you’re on a plant-based diet, however, you can take flax seed oil instead.
Additional Tips For Removing Excess Ear Wax
When it comes to stubborn ear wax, there are a few more things you can try aside from these remedies and getting omega-3s.
- Eliminate Diary: Approximately 65% of the human population can’t fully digest dairy after infancy (2). This often results in dairy intolerances which can actually contribute to your excess ear wax because it triggers your immune response.
- Try an Elimination Diet: Dairy isn’t the only food that can cause excess ear wax production. Any food that your body is intolerant to can cause excess ear wax—and a huge range of other issues. So if you want to radically transform your health and get rid of your ear wax problem, an elimination diet may be the solution. Honestly, this diet completely transformed my life.
- Don’t Fall for Ear Candling: Ear candling is a common method of ear wax removal that people turn to. I’m all for alternative approaches, but when there’s not a scrap of evidence that an alternative approach works, then I tend to be skeptical. In fact, multiple authorities suggest it’s both ineffective and potentially dangerous (3).
When All Else Fails, Get a Professional to Irrigate Your Ears
If you tried everything here and still don’t get results, all is not lost.
There’s still one more thing you can try.
Healthcare professionals, like naturopathic doctors, will often perform what’s called ear irrigation. It’s a fancy way of saying, they will get rid of your ear wax with pressurized water and sometimes hydrogen peroxide.
They also use an ear scope to find exactly where the wax buildup is. From there, they will use a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide in a medical spray bottle to chemically and physically loosen the wax.
After a few treatments, this method almost always does the trick.