This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


4 Dangers of Using Cotton Swabs To Clean Ear Wax & How To Safely Clean The Ears?

Cotton swabs are used by many to clean their ears.

It is safe just to clean the outside of your ear with these cotton swabs and the inside of the ear should be avoided.

Using cotton swabs on the inside can lead to various complications such as injury and infection.

4 Dangers of Using Cotton Swabs To Clean Ear Wax

4 Dangers of Using Cotton Swabs To Clean Ear Wax

Ear wax is a natural way of protecting the ear from dryness, dirt and also bacteria. It prevents the bacteria from getting deep inside the ear.

Over time the ear wax migrates to the outside of the ear from where it can be removed easily.

Using cotton swabs in the ear can lead to a variety of problem including:

Ear Wax Impaction

Trying to clean the ear with a cotton swab can actually push the ear wax deeper. This prevents the ear wax from naturally clearing causing it to build up inside the ear.

The accumulation of excess ear wax can lead to unpleasant symptoms like pain, feeling of fullness, and muffled hearing.

Injury To The Ear

Inserting cotton swab deep inside the ear can injure the structures of the middle ear.

One of the most common injuries related to the use of a cotton swab is a ruptured eardrum.

A study done to look at the cotton swab related injuries in children found out, about 73% of ear injuries were associated with ear cleaning.(1)

Another study reviewed the cases of ruptured eardrum found out that 44% of cases were due to penetrating injuries.(2)


Ear wax traps and slows down the growth of bacteria that enter the ear canal. If the cotton swabs push the earwax inside, the bacteria also gets pushed further. This increases the chances of ear infection.

Foreign Body In The Ear

Sometime, the part of the tip of the cotton swab might come off inside the ear, causing a feeling of discomfort, pain, and fullness.

Cotton swabs are one of the reasons for the emergency room visits for a foreign body in the ear.(3)

How To Safely Clean The Ears?

If you want to remove the ear wax from the ear safely, the following are the steps:

  • Add a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil or glycerine into the ear with the help of a dropper. It helps soften the earwax.
  • After the ear wax gets softened irrigate the ear. It can be done using a bulb syringe and by adding warm water to the ear canal.
  • After irrigation, tip your head to the side of the ear irrigated and allow the water to drain from the ear.
  • Using a clean towel dry the outer part of the ear.
  • Those who have ruptured eardrums or tubes in their ears should not clean their ears with this method.
  • You do not need to see a doctor, to clean the ear wax until it seems to get to hard or gets build up.

However, consult a doctor in the following conditions:

The ear gets cleaned by them self and therefore it is not necessary to clean them often. Using cotton swabs to clean the ear can pose numerous problems and should be avoided.

If you are actually concerned about cleaning you ear, simply take a wash cloth after a warm shower and wipe it away. If worried about the wax build up, consult a healthcare provider. Also, consult a doctor in case of any discomfort in the ear.

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 4, 2022

Recent Posts

Related Posts