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Although having impacted ear wax is a relatively benign condition, it is best addressed by a doctor or a hearing professional. However, in mild cases of wax build up there are steps that can be taken at home to help address the problem.

Boots Hearingcare takes a look at some of the ins and outs of cleaning your ears at home, giving you a clear picture and showing how to be safe as well as successful with the whole process…

How to clean your ears at home

Excess ear wax is not uncommon. If your ear canal is completely blocked, you should not attempt to clear out the wax on your own. In this situation, we advise that you consult a hearing professional, your GP, or an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT).

However, in mild cases you may be able to treat the blockage yourself. Follow our instructions for quick, easy, and above all, safe relief from ear wax build-up:

Step 1: Run warm water or saline solution into your ear canal (you can use an ear irrigation kit for that). After a few minutes, the lukewarm water will soften the earwax, so that it can drain through the outer ear. One simple way to do this is by letting a little warm water dribble into the ear canal while showering.

This suggestion is to be followed only if you’re 100% sure you have no infections or perforations in your eardrum.

Step 2: Dab the ear opening and the liquid very gently with a clean cloth. Be careful when using warm water. The water temperature should never be hot, only lukewarm.

Something to remember: You can help old ear wax move out of the ear canal by chewing and moving your jaw. Once the ear wax makes its way to the ear opening, it will often dry up and fall out. You can also wipe it off with a cloth or cotton ball.

If you have very narrow ear canals or excessively large amounts of ear wax, visiting a trained hearing professional or your GP may be best. A specialist can safely clear blockages so your hearing will not be affected. Don’t disregard the signs of a blockage and allow ear wax to accumulate in your ear canal. This could lead to hearing loss in the long run.

If possible, always seek help from a doctor and have a professional perform any procedure. Your ear structures are incredibly delicate, and excess wax can damage your eardrums. Even if there’s no rupture, we recommend visiting an ENT, as in some instances medical intervention may be necessary. Those who wear hearing aids or swim regularly should also keep a close eye on their ears to prevent infection.

What not to do when cleaning your ears

When it comes to cleaning your ears at home, there are quite a few misconceptions floating around. Not all methods are safe or reliable solutions for clearing blockages yourself.

Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to minimise the risks, such as:
Refrain from using cotton buds altogether:

Imagine a narrow pipe that you want to free from dirt with a long stick. Now imagine that the stick you’re using is only marginally narrower but much shorter than the pipe itself. Can you see why this isn’t an effective strategy? The same way, when you stick a cotton swab into your ear canal, you’ll end up pushing the blockage further down. Not only may you entirely plug the exit, but you also risk injuring the eardrum. Another possible complication is when the wax hardens right at the eardrum site, which may lead to drastic hearing loss.

Although many people use cotton buds for ear cleaning, that does not make ear swabs safe. It’s never a good idea to stick any objects into your ear canal. Be extra cautious, especially if you’ve had ear surgery in the past, have a ruptured eardrum, or you have ear pain or drainage.
Ear candling

Ear candling is another popular method of DIY ear cleaning. While many tout its effectiveness, we do not recommend it.

Ear candling - a technique that involves placing a lit, hollow, cone-shaped candle into the ear canal - can cause serious injury. Including permanent harm to the ear canal. Unfortunately, there’s a real trend for Hopi ear candling now, so don’t be tempted to jump on the bandwagon and risk irreparably damaging your ears.

Taking sensible precautions when cleaning your ears will help make the process safer, easier and more effective.

Wax Softeners and Prevention

Earol Olive Oil Spray
Odinell spray 50ml

Earol Olive Oil Spray 10ml

Odinell Spray 50ml

Use once a week to moisturise the ear canal and soften wax Designed to combat wax build-up, contains camomile to soothe and reduce irritation

Shop our full range

Ears clean but still feeling blocked?

Check your hearing with a hearing test at one of our Boots stores near you, or book an appointment with a hearing health professional.

Look to Boots Hearingcare for proven advice on cleaning your ears at home or instore if symptoms become more severe.

Find a Boots Hearingcare store near you