Lifestyle and home remedies

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If your eardrum doesn't contain a tube or have a hole in it, these self-care measures may help you remove excess earwax that's blocking your ear canal:

  • Soften the wax. Use an eyedropper to apply a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin or hydrogen peroxide in your ear canal twice a day for no more than four to five days.
  • Use warm water. After a day or two, when the wax is softened, use a rubber-bulb syringe to gently squirt warm (body temperature) water into your ear canal. Tilt your head and pull your outer ear up and back to straighten your ear canal. When finished irrigating, tip your head to the side to let the water drain out.
  • Dry your ear canal. When finished, gently dry your outer ear with a towel or a hand-held hair dryer.

You may need to repeat this wax-softening and irrigation procedure several times before the excess earwax falls out. However, the softening agents may only loosen the outer layer of the wax and cause it to lodge deeper in the ear canal or against the eardrum. If your symptoms don't improve after a few treatments, see your doctor.

Earwax removal kits available in stores also can be effective at removing wax buildup. If you're unsure which one is right for you, ask your doctor for advice on how to properly use other earwax-removal methods.

Don't try to dig it out

Never attempt to dig out excessive or hardened earwax with available items, such as a paper clip, a cotton swab or a hairpin. You may push the wax farther into your ear and cause serious damage to the lining of your ear canal or eardrum.

Aug. 18, 2011