Most of us know that using cotton swabs to clean the excess wax out of our ears is a bad idea. But how else are you supposed to remove earwax? First of all, it’s important to define excess. Everyone produces a slightly different amount, but the average individual produces just enough for their needs. Most excess earwax is naturally eliminated without interfering with hearing.  On the other hand, some people’s ceruminous glands – the source of oily secretions found in earwax — produce less oil, especially with the aging process. Without this lubricant, earwax hardens and becomes more difficult to push out of the ear canal, leading to earplugs that can interfere with hearing. In these cases, it’s important to keep earwax under control.

The good news for those who produce excess earwax is that there are a few safe, easy, effective home remedies to try before visiting a hearing healthcare professional. None of these methods are perfect or work for everyone, but they’re at least worth knowing about.

Mineral Oil/Olive Oil/Baby Oil

It seems counterproductive to use oil to remove an oily substance, but this is one of the gentlest, most effective methods. Warm one of these natural, gentle oils to room temperature and place a few drops in the ear canal. Lie down with the affected ear facing up for a few minutes to let it penetrate and soften the earwax. When you get up, the excess wax should easily drain out on its own. You can also purchase over-the-counter drops or sprays (known as cerumenolytics) that work the same way.

Ear irrigation

As its name implies, irrigation methods use water solutions (such as equal parts vinegar, rubbing alcohol and tap water) to drain excess earwax. This method is the next step if oil drops or other cerumenolytics don’t work, and should be used sparingly for many reasons. It’s never the best idea to intentionally place liquids in your ear, since it can encourage infections and damage ear structures with pressure. Secondly, some people are sensitive to vinegar or rubbing alcohol. While this method is often performed by a hearing health professional, there’s also an at-home version. Simply place a few drops of the warm water solution into your ears, let it soak for a few minutes, and swab away the excess earwax that drains out. 


Peroxide is another liquid method that should be used very sparingly (no more than once a day for a few days at a time) since it often causes irritation and dryness. Mix it with a little mineral oil and place it in a dropper for easy application.

All of these methods are gentle and effective at occasionally removing excess earwax. However, severe cases of earwax buildup are best dealt with by a hearing healthcare professional who has the right tools to quickly and safely clean your ears and remove earwax.