When most people think of earwax, they cringe. While earwax may be a little gross, it’s also good for your body. Earwax cleans the inside of your ear, a bit like a duster, by collecting hair, dirt, and dead skin cells as it works its way to your outer ear, according to Harvard Medical School. In fact, according to Harvard, if you don’t have enough of the antibacterial properties earwax provides, your ears may feel itchy and you may be more susceptible to ear infections.
Despite the health benefits, too much earwax buildup can cause problems including dizziness, earaches, ringing, loss of hearing and itching, according to WebMD. Unless you have a serious blockage or perforation, doctors might recommend you tackle earwax removal at home, according to WebMD.
Say no to cotton swabs and ear candles
Despite their popularity as an ear-cleaning tool, cotton swabs are actually a bad choice for cleaning out earwax, according to Women’s Health. Your ears are designed to clean themselves, and when you use a cotton swab to speed up the process, you may actually cause your body to make more earwax, according to Women’s Health.
Other popular cleaning methods (such as bobby pins) are major no-no’s, according to Women’s Health. These types of tools could cause clogging, or worse, a punctured eardrum.
One more cleaning method you should nix: ear candles. “The heat could potentially burn your eardrum, and it’s possible that the candle wax could get stuck in your ear and cause even more of a problem,” Dr. Ana Kim told Women’s Health.
Safe earwax removal techniques
You can get rid of pesky earwax, safely, via irrigation. A simple recipe includes a mixture of one part water to one part white vinegar and one part rubbing alcohol. Place a few drops of the solution into each ear and let it set for a few minutes. Then tilt your head to allow the liquid to drain onto a cotton ball, according to ClearEar.
ClearEar also recommends using a few drops of mineral oil (not baby oil) in each ear. The oil aids in the removal of earwax. Try warm oil for better results. Place two or three drops of your choice of mineral oil in one ear and lie on the opposite side so that the oil has time to settle. After 20 minutes, switch sides and repeat. You should place a cotton ball in your outer ear before switching sides to prevent a mess.
Harvard Medical School recommends using a simple saline solution to help break down wax. Apply a few drops in each ear for a few minutes before draining. BeyondDisease suggests combining 1/4 teaspoon of salt with 1/4 cup of warm water for a quick, cheap, saline solution. After your ear has soaked, use a soft cloth to remove loosened wax.