Do your ear-bud headphones regularly plug with wax? Or perhaps you have itchy ears or your hearing has become muffled. All of these are good reasons to clean your ears, but the question is: How?

But first, just because something is popular doesn’t make it right. This is never truer than for ear cleaning. From the bathroom cabinet staple, the cotton tip, to trendy ear candling, we have two examples of cleaning methods liable to do more harm than good.

So if cotton tips and ear candling are out, what other options are there to maintain a clean ear canal? From home remedies to professional help, let’s find out what’s out there.

1. A warm shower

The warmth and humidity of a warm shower can go a long way to soften earwax and make it manageable. Get into the habit of wiping out your ears with a soft, clean cloth after each time you bath.

This is more effective than you might think because the ear has a natural mechanism whereby wax travels from deep within the ear canal and exits at the top. By softening the wax softer it travels more easily and becomes available to wipe away.

While this is all that’s needed for normal ears, if you produce excessive earwax or wax that is very dry, you may need eardrops

2. Softening oils

Eardrops help to soften and dissolve earwax, to facilitate its removal. There are many safe and effective commercial drops available via your pharmacy, or you can use a few drops of baby oil or mineral oil.

Tackle one ear at a time, resting with your head on one side on a cushion. Put a few drops of oil into the uppermost ear and rest for five to ten minutes. Tip your head in the opposite direction and wipe away any residue. Repeat for the other ear.

Do this daily for two to three days and it should help soften the wax sufficiently that it brings itself to the surface.

3. Ear irrigation

If eardrops don’t cut it then you may need professional help. Speak to your physician or audiologist about an alternative method. A popular option is ear irrigation where an electric pump powers water into the ear canal to flush out the wax. This is non-painful and a great way to relieve a wax buildup caused by years of cotton tip use.

4. Micro suction 

An alternative used by professionals is micro suction. This is like a small vacuum cleaner which sucks up the wax to remove it. Again, this is extremely effective at removing more stubborn wax deposits.

5. Curettage

Strictly for use in the hands of a skilled professional, our final option is a long slim spoon-like scoop to physically remove wax from the ear canal.

Whatever you chose, if you have persistent pain or difficulty hearing, consult your hearing care provider.