A lot of medical professionals advocate the use of ear drops as a preparatory step to irrigation. Why? Because they effectively soften the wax, making for an easier flushing process with irrigation. They are highly complementary products, so I encourage you to pick up some. But what type?
Well, you have a number of options actually. We’ve done the research here and the items below are all suitable ear drops. So no matter what ones you choose, they’ll do the trick. The one thing that may be the determining factor is the sensitivity of your skin. Therefore, we’ll touch on that here. I guess, I’d recommend just choosing one, maybe two from the list that suits you best and go from there. For ease of application, it’s always best to use a dropper, which your product may already come with. If not, you’ll have to source one as it makes for precise dosage.
We’d recommend using ear drops for up to 5 days before carrying out irrigation. Simply apply them twice a day, for up to 5 days. Now your earwax is ripe for the tacking! This applies to any and all forms of ear drops, as well as storing in a cool, dry place, away from children. Plus, always be mindful of expiration dates and the temperature of the drops. Always warm the solution bottle in your hands before dripping into your ears.
1. Backing soda
This one might surprise you. You may have read articles about the 50 plus uses of baking soda; it’s a highly versatile mixture! Most people will use it to make their cakes rise, but what about for ear drops? So, mix a ½ teaspoon of baking soda with 50-60 ml of warm water (body temperature). Apply 5-10 drops per ear with your dropper, and allow the solution to stay there for up to 30 minutes.
Now, it’s wise to proceed with caution on this one, as the properties of baking soda can irritate the skin. So, whether you’re using it for your ears or for deodorant (yes, people do that!), be mindful of your sensitivity. Don’t worry; it’s highly unlikely anything serious could come of it. If your body doesn’t agree with it, you may experience some dryness in the ears. Stop using if that’s the case.
Debrox is actually a brand, but it’s used so often for earwax I thought I’d give it a mention. Carbamide peroxide is the active ingredient to soften and break up the wax. Carbamide peroxide is actually quite similar to hydrogen peroxide because both are earwax removal agents. Hydrogen peroxide + urea = Carbamide peroxide
Directions: use it twice a day for up to four days, using 5-10 drops per ear on each occasion. In this design, you don’t need a separate dropper as it’s built inside the ½ oz. bottle.
3. Olive oil
This is probably the most cost-effective method because you’ll already have it unless you’re using the finest quality extra virgin olive oil….
But you don’t need to do that. Still, it’s recommended you use an extra virgin olive oil because it’s of a purer quality. It isn’t going to be chemically processed.
Some studies say it’s not the most effective earwax removal strategy because it doesn’t contain an active ingredient, e.g. carbamide peroxide. Of course, you have to think about how you’re going to apply it. If you need to purchase a dropper anyway, you might as well ditch this method for a specifically formulated mixture. But here’s a great tip for you: instead, take a cotton swab and dip it into the olive oil, and let the drops trickle into your ear. Use 2-3 drops per ear, keeping your head tilted for 5-10 minutes. Repeat application once or twice a day, for 1-2 weeks.
4. Almond oil
Again just like olive oil, it may not be as effective as the commercially based earwax drops. But if you have it lying around, it could be a nice little cost-saver. Just like other oil-based drops, it’ll definitely soften the max to some degree. Almond oil does have many health benefits, which is nicely illustrated by Susan Patterson at Natural Living Ideas
The application process is going to be the same as olive oil. Use 2-3 drops per ear, keeping your head tilted for 5-10 minutes. Repeat application once or twice a day, for 1-2 weeks. Don’t forget the cotton swab advice!
5. Saline solution
As you’ll no doubt already know, saline solution is just common salt (sodium chloride: NaCl) mixed with water. The best part is, you can make this at home:
- Use 1 teaspoon of salt for 1 cup of distilled water
- Using distilled water (buy pre-bottled or make your own), heat in a saucepan until it reaches a boil
- Add your salt in accordance with the ratio, e.g. if you’ve boiled 1 cup of water, add 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Allow the solution to cool down to body temperature (37.5 ) before using a dropper for usage
Afterward, apply to your ear(s) using 3-5 drops per ear, allowing the solution to remain there for 5 minutes. Use a dropper, or soak cotton wool or a cotton swab to administer. Admittedly, it’s far more convenient to just buy a pre-bottled saline solution. But as a bonus, you’ve learned a new skill to treat wounds and new piercings! Just make sure you use ordinary, non-iodized table salt if you’re making your own, as rock salt and sea salt can cause irritation.
6. Baby oil
This stuff is great for adults too! Especially if you go with Johnson’s baby oil, you know you’re getting an incredibly safe product. It’s hypoallergenic (very minimal risk of allergic reaction), dermatologically tested and pH balanced. Therefore, it’s gentle enough for the highly sensitive skin of the ear canal.
Again, use 2-3 drops per ear, keeping your head tilted for 5-10 minutes to allow the wax to get to work. We would suggest that out of all the oil-based options, this is the best one because it’s specially formulated for your skin.
7. Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)
You’re going to want to use 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, which can easily be bought in the supermarket or chemist. Actually, many over-the-counter ear drops use hydrogen peroxide anyway.
Tilt your head and administer 5-10 drops of H2O2 and keep your head tilted for 5 minutes. For best results use once a day for 3-14 days.
I’ve saved the most surprising solution until last. Specifically, I’m talking about apple cider vinegar. It’s also got a lot of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties so it’ll fight against ear infections.
Just like many of the other remedies, you’ll have to draw in the solution with a dropper. You’ll only need 2-3 drops of the solution, and then keep your head to one side for 5 minutes.
And once you’re done….
After your course of ear drops, it’s time to apply irrigation. You can find our irrigation kit here.
You can always educate yourself further on ear health with our many articles!
Agarwal, S. (2018). How to Clean Your Ears: 5 Easy Home Remedies. [online] food.ndtv.com. Available at: https://food.ndtv.com/health/how-to-clean-your-ears-5-easy-home-remedies-1677540 [Accessed 5 May 2019].
Allen, H. and Cox, D. (2016). Sodium bicarbonate ear drops. [online] Patient. Available at: https://patient.info/medicine/sodium-bicarbonate-ear-drops [Accessed 4 May 2019].
Boots (n.d.). Johnson’s Baby Oil. [image] Available at: https://www.boots.com/johnsons-baby-oil-500ml-10260584?cm_mmc=bmm-buk-google-ppc-_-PLAs-_-(GB:Whoop!)+Johnson%27s-_-(GB:Whoop!)+P9B+Nominations+-+Desktop&gclid=CjwKCAjwk7rmBRAaEiwAhDGhxOx8ZOcNuVN9dF8Mj2UfDuNuFqBcS8-GNTGoJ2AKG3pSy30L1WLMexoCyWsQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds [Accessed 5 May 2019].
Duffy, K. (2013). Salt sprinkled into water. [image] Available at: https://mindfulbalance.org/2013/01/22/the-salt-and-the-water/ [Accessed 5 May 2019].
ehowhealth (2009). Earwax Removal : Is Almond Oil Good for Removal of Earwax?.
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLhCR3mUapM [Accessed 5 May 2019].
Hand, J. (n.d.). Backing soda in a glass jar. [image] Available at: https://blog.bulletproof.com/baking-soda-combats-autoimmune-disease-study/ [Accessed 4 May 2019].
Helmenstine, A. (2019). Learn How to Make Saline Solution at Home. [online] thoughtco.com. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-make-saline-solution-608142 [Accessed 5 May 2019].
Hip2Save (2018). Debrox pictured in a pharmacy. [image] Available at: https://hip2save.com/2018/12/30/over-65-off-debrox-earwax-removal-products-at-target-3/ [Accessed 5 May 2019].
Nordqvist, C. (2017). Olive oil on a table. [image] Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266258.php [Accessed 5 May 2019].
Patil, K. (2019). Vinegar in a glass jar. [image] Available at: https://www.organicfacts.net/vinegar.html [Accessed 5 May 2019].
Patterson, S. (2015). Almond oil on a table. [image] Available at: https://www.naturallivingideas.com/sweet-almond-oil-benefits/ [Accessed 5 May 2019].
Santos-Longhurst, A. (2018). Can Olive Oil Remove Wax or Treat an Ear Infection?. [online] healthline.com. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/olive-oil-in-ear#effectiveness [Accessed 5 May 2019].
Silver, N. (2018). Using Hydrogen Peroxide for Earwax Removal. [online] healthline.com. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/ear-wax-removal-hydrogen-peroxide#research [Accessed 5 May 2019].