How to remove ear wax without cotton buds, or q-tips for all American readers. Any other names? I hope not…
They have been around since the 1920s. Give thanks to Leo Gerstenzang, the inventor, who became inspired when he saw his resourceful wife attach cotton wool balls on the end of a toothpick to clean their children’s ears.
So that’s what they were designed for – removing earwax. But do they actually remove earwax? And what potential harm can they cause? Read on to find out.
The most common usage – earwax removal
Ironically, although the facts about the dangers of sticking cotton swabs into our ears have been widespread for years, decades even, it’s still their most common usage. It’s crazy when you think about it. Why on Earth is this the case?
Old habits die hard
The longer we do something, the harder it is for us to quit. Just ask somebody who has smoked cigarettes for years and tries to stop. It’s not that easy. Perhaps your mother, or grandmother always nagged you to keep your ears clean. So you just reached for those cotton swabs. Here’s why:
- People have this perception (like I did for YEARS) that earwax is bad. It MUST be removed. Well, this isn’t the case. Earwax is produced as part of a healthy bodily function. It’s perfectly normal because it’s partially acidic, so prevents fungal and bacterial growth. It’s also a great lubricant so that your ears don’t dry and your skin doesn’t crack. Plus it traps hair, dust and dead skin.
- Your ear becomes itchy. And you relieve the itchiness by sticking q-tips in there. Honestly, your ear is itchy in the first place because of the q-tips. The skin in the ear canal is highly sensitive and thin, so a q-tip is more than enough to cause irritation. You may partially break the skin and it scabs over, so that’s going to itch for sure!
- It feels good. Your ear is filled with highly sensitive nerve endings. You stimulate these when you put a q-tip into your ear, which can be quite addictive.
- Speaking of addictive. Now I don’t believe this has any scientific grounding (it might…), but judging by the number of views these earwax removal videos get, I’m guessing people like watching them. And heck, even when I do my research for writing, I couldn’t help but watch a couple of videos (or three, maybe four) on earwax removal. There’s something about it that’s satisfying, even when it’s not your ear! So, some people just enjoy sticking Q-tips in their ear, I guess.
Why cotton buds are unsafe for earwax removal
Unsafe to stick in your ears that is. I’m not suggesting don’t buy q-tips, because they have a lot of useful applications. I’ll talk about that in second. But the reason they’re harmful isn’t to do with the composition or tendencies of the product, it’s because people don’t use them properly. They will stick them in their ears to ‘clean’ them. At least, that’s what they think they are doing.
The harsh reality – you are preventing the natural flow of wax out of your ear. Once you create a blockage, the wax builds up, continuing to roll over itself until you have a substantial clog. If you aren’t squeamish, check out earwax removal videos on YouTube, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. A lot of wax can come out of your ears!
People have also been known to perforate their own eardrums, and think of the nasty consequences if someone were to bump your arm while you were digging around in there….
What’s more, if the wax has hardened in your ear, if a q-tip was to scrape it off, the chances are you’ll tear the skin and cause bleeding.
The many great uses for Q-tips
So let’s start with the ears. You CAN use them to clean the outside of your ears, but that’s as far is it will go, literally….
They do have many awesome uses:
- Apply eczema and acne cream in a light layer to the skin
- Apply makeup
- Give them to your toddlers as a paintbrush! (I like that one)
- Clean your electronics – get into the areas your fingers cant. I’m sure your laptop keyboard will look a lot better
So let’s not do this….
How To Remove Ear Wax Without Cotton Buds
How to remove ear wax without cotton buds is an easier process than you think. Many think if q-tips are bad for your ear canal, how are you meant to clean your ears? Luckily for you, the process is actually really simple. All you have to do is rinse them out with soapy water when you’re in the shower. Make sure you are cleaning the outside of your ears – don’t start pocking fingers in your ear! If you want to gently pinch your earlobe, and make gentle swirling motions, that’s okay too.
For plenty of people, this will suffice. However, if you have a genuine blockage of the ear, irrigation could be your tried and tested method. We have our very own earwax irrigation kit you can try here. You can read everything you need to know on our blog post for irrigation first. The great thing about it is you can do it at home, with just a few easy steps.
Moreover, the dangers of q-tips are well known. It’s been on the packaging of brands for decades. And you don’t want impacted earwax, as it can cause ringing in your ears (tinnitus), partial hearing loss and earaches. So look to take action yourself with our irrigation kit to flush away the wax. Of course, if the earwax problem continues after irrigation, always go to your doctor. And if you have pain or discharge coming from the ear, skip the home irrigation and head straight to the doctors.
References and resources
Elizabeth, M. (2016). The Q-tip Addiction. [Blog] Ear Audities. Available at: https://earaudities.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/the-q-tip-addiction/ [Accessed 24 Feb. 2019].
Laliberte, M. (2016). 17 Genius Uses for Q-Tips You’ll Want to Use All the Time. [online] Available at: https://www.rd.com/health/beauty/q-tips-uses/ [Accessed 24 Feb. 2019].
McGuire’s Hearing Centers (2018). Why you need to stop using things like Q-tips to remove earwax. [Blog] M. Available at: https://mcguireshearing.com/2018/01/why-you-need-to-stop-using-things-like-q-tips-to-remove-earwax/ [Accessed 24 Feb. 2019].
Tech Insider (2016). Why Q-Tips are bad. [Video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYqeUJda2Qs [Accessed 23 Feb. 2019].