Ear Cleaning Kits: Are They Safe And Should You Use Them?

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Sticking a q-tip in your ear and removing that gunky, amber wax seems to have a strange (not to mention gross) satisfaction to it. In fact, people are so obsessed with removing the stuff that a slew of videos have popped up on social media with the latest kits and home remedies for keeping your ears wax free.

In addition to the standard q-tip, there are tiny drills, ear candling methods, ear drops, ear irrigation kits and even a camera-equipped scoop that lets you watch via your own phone as you clean your ears. 

But are these methods safe, and should you really be that concerned about keeping your ears wax-free? We’re going to fill you in some important information and doctor recommended advice on the subject.

But let’s start with why ear wax is actually a good thing and then we will dive into a few ear cleaning kits you can use at home. 

All About Ear Wax

Ear wax is a combination of oils secreted from our glands and dead skin cells. And as obsessed as we may be with removing it, ear wax helps to protect our auditory system. A natural lubricator, it helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and keeps dirt and other debris from reaching the inner ear.

And in case you didn’t know, our ears have the capacity to clean themselves. Over time, ear wax naturally migrates outward and doesn’t need to be removed from the ear canal unless you have an unusual amount of buildup. This is something which is usually signaled by muffled hearing or pain in the ears (and sometimes even in the head and neck).

What Causes Wax Buildup?

Woman sticking her finger in her ear

While ear wax naturally makes its way toward the outer ear, a few factors can cause buildup.

First of all, some people have very narrow ear canals. And that fact alone can make it harder for the wax to make its way toward the outer ear. 

The consistency of ear wax can also vary a lot depending on the person. If you have a lot of oil in your skin, it can have a very gooey texture, sort of like peanut butter.

But if you have less oil in your skin, ear wax can be thicker and crustier – and also less likely to move easily through the ear canal. Which alone or in combination with a narrow ear channel can lead to waxy buildup. 

So what do you do if your ears are clogged? And is it safe to use ear cleaning kits at home, or do you need to see a doctor?

Are Ear Cleaning Kits Safe?

And now we come to a very important question: are ear cleaning kits or ear wax removal kits safe? 

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, “The physical removal of earwax should only be performed by a healthcare provider.” 

The Academy goes on to say that we should also not put cotton swabs or other objects in our ears as they could poke a hole in the eardrum, hurt the hearing bones or scratch the inside of the ear. 

These injuries, in turn, can lead to hearing loss or dizziness and ringing of the ears. 

But perhaps the most common problem with using a swab or similar item is that it can actually impact the wax, which prevents it from moving through your ear naturally. Even if a little wax comes out on your swab, the pressure may push most of it further down your ear canal, leading to clogs and further earwax buildup.

Yikes! So if you’re one of those people who like to swab as a part of your normal hygiene routine, you may want to just settle for using a soft cloth on the outer part of the ear to gently clean it as part of your ear care routine.

But are there really no safe at-home methods? Let’s break it down according to the method and give you the details for ear cleaners.

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Ear Drops

Parent putting ear drops in child's ear

If your ears are feeling clogged, ear drops such as Debrox Earwax Removal Aid are one of the few at-home treatments that get a nod of approval from doctors. They work by breaking up and softening impacted wax.

But if you want results, be sure to use them according to the directions on the Debrox earwax removal kit and over a period of several days. If your ears are still feeling clogged, you’ll want to see a doctor. But even if ear drops don’t solve the problem completely, they will soften the wax blockage, making extraction in the doctor’s office a little easier. 

Check out this video on ear drops from Dr. Emily J. Taylor, an audiologist in Baltimore, Maryland, for further details. 

Ear Candling Kits

Man doing ear candling

TikTok is full of videos of people using this DIY approach for removing ear wax. If you’ve never heard of candling, it’s basically a long, hollow fabric tube that’s been soaked in beeswax. It’s then placed into the ear canal and lit at the top.

According to proponents, this creates a suction that pulls wax from the ear. But according to the FDA, this is a big no-no. In fact, the agency warns that candling can cause burns to the face or ear, puncture the eardrum or even plug the ears further with candle wax.

That being said, candling probably isn’t worth the risk. 

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Ear Drills and Scrapers

Then there are the high-tech products like the Axel Glade Spade and other tiny, drill-like products that are being promoted for removing wax. 

Yes, seeing the inside of your ear on your phone while you scrape away wax may seem kind of cool, but the tiny scooper of the Axel Glade Spade could scratch and injure your ear canal. The same goes for other drill-like ear wax removal tools. Because the ear canal is not a straight tube, there’s actually a good chance that you could harm your ear.

Here’s To Ear Wax

So that’s the roundup on ear cleaning kits and a few other earwax removal products. And as you can see, in most cases, it pays to stick to the old adage that you should never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.

Remember, ear wax actually helps to protect our ears and removes itself as it naturally migrates from the canal to the outer ear, where you can gently remove it with a soft towel.

If your ears are mildly clogged, you may be able to solve the problem with drops or a little ear irrigation. But if you’re in pain or the problem persists, it’s best to see a doctor. If you think you suffer from excess ear wax or are prone to ear infections, it is probably best to see your doctor before trying any over-the-counter cleaning tools.

In other words, drop the q-tips and embrace your ear wax!

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Sherry De Alba

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