Never Use Cotton Buds to Clean Your Ears

cleaning earsWe rely on our ears for so many things such as communication, listening to our favourite music and enjoying the sounds of the world around us. So why do we continue to use cotton buds to clean them, which can be dangerous and even harmful to our ear health?

At Earworx, we aim to educate you on why using cotton buds can be dangerous to clean your ears, the benefits of using micro-suction, and alternative methods to clean your ears.

Why Cotton Buds Are Dangerous for Ear Cleaning

They Can Damage Your Hearing

Cotton buds aren’t alone in the list of things you shouldn’t stick in your ears when trying to clear a blocked ear or clean your ears. Other common items people use to attempt to clear their ears include bobby pins, tweezers, pens and pencils, and their fingers. But these items can often push wax further down the canal, worsening symptoms. They can also cause unintended trauma to the ear canal or drum.

When you stick a cotton bud in your ear, it doesn’t take much for it to reach your eardrum. Eardrums are delicate structures and even a small amount of pressure can cause it to perforate or dislodge the tiny hearing bones in the middle ear, which may cause conductive hearing loss.

In Most People, The Ears Are Self-Cleaning

Many people who use cotton buds do so even when they don’t have a blocked ear. Often, people use them to ‘clean’ the earwax from their ears, or dry their ears after showering. But our ears are actually designed to self-clean. Ear wax that is formed in the outer third of the ear canal migrates out of the ear via a ‘conveyor belt’ motion of the skin’s surface, assisted by jaw movement. It then either falls out of the ear or can be wiped away.

They Strip Your Ear of Wax Which Can Actually Be Protective

People often think they need to ‘clean’ their ears as earwax is considered ‘dirty’ or unhygienic by many. It is ok to wipe wax away as it emerges from the entrance of the ear canal, but wax sitting inside the canal (where it cannot be seen) is a protective substance. It is sticky, so it traps dust and dirt prior to it entering the ear canal. It is acidic, so it helps prevent infection. It is also bitter to the taste so it deters insects!

It is only when excessive wax is produced resulting in a blocked or impacted ear that earwax should be removed. In that case, you should try earwax softening drops if you do not have a known hole in your ear drum, or seek professional earwax removal by a service such as Earworx.

They Can Lead to Itchy Ears

When you use a cotton bud to clean the ears, or dry the ears after showering, you strip the ear of wax and therefore moisture. Over time, the ear becomes dry, and therefore itchy. This makes you want to pick the cotton bud up again! Throw the cotton buds away and allow some time for the wax to build back up. If you need to dry your ears after a shower, try a hairdryer on low heat instead. Don’t risk pushing wax further down the canal or causing trauma to the ear canal or drum.

The Tips can become Dislodged in the Ear Canal Leading to Infection

Cotton buds ends can fall off and get stuck deep within the ear canal. At Earworx, our highly skilled Registered Nurses remove these from patients ears often.

It’s Wasteful

Cotton buds do not biodegrade and can have a detrimental impact to the environment.

How To Clean Your Ears Without Cotton Buds

If you are producing too much ear wax or your wax is becoming impacted, there are other methods that you can use to get rid of the blockage. Here’s how to clean your ears without cotton buds-

Earwax Softening Drops

The safest at-home remedy is the use of earwax softening drops. These can be bought at your local chemist. They can help to soften and break down impacted wax, allowing the natural self-cleaning process of your ears to carry the wax out of the ear canal.
This is a safe method as it does not require you pushing anything into your ear, which could potentially cause harm to your ear canal or eardrum. However, earwax softening drops are not suitable for people who have a hole in the ear drum. Consult a health professional before attempting ear wax softening drops.


The guidelines for ear wax removal recognise micro-suction as a safe and effective method of earwax removal. Micro-suction is the procedure offered by Earworx and is the preferred method of wax removal by Ear, Nose and Throat surgeons.

It is a dry technique, unlike syringing, making it suitable for people with perforated eardrums, diabetics and people with depressed immune systems. It is a relatively quick and easy procedure, and includes an education session at the conclusion of the appointment to help you to understand how to manage wax build up into the future.

Before the micro-suction procedure, a thorough history is taken by the Registered Nurse. The nurse will then inspect the ear canal and eardrum with a speculum to check if the amount of wax necessitates the micro-suction procedure.

In the case that wax does need to be removed, a small micro-suction catheter is inserted into ear canal and is used to gently remove the wax. Throughout the entire procedure, a nurse will use loupes (a small microscope that sits on the nurse’s glasses), to maintain direct vision into the ear canal at all times.

How Earworx Can Help

Next time you have a blocked ear, rather than resorting to cotton buds, contact Earworx and have a trained professional treat your ears safely.