Why you shouldn’t use Q-tips to clean your ear

I used to clean my ears with Q-tips each time after I showered. I thought I was so so badass eco-friendly because I went all out for the “plastic-free” ones with organic cotton. As always, plastic-free only meant the product, not the packaging…

I didn’t waste a thought on how incredibly stupid it was to waste organic cotton on something that will be tossed after only one single use! Did you know that 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) of cotton has a water footprint of 21,000 liters (= 5.500 gallons) of water?

Okay, so we waste all these resources, but at least at the end of the day, we have clean ears, right? Nope. Wroooong!!In fact, Q-tips are even bad for you! Q-tips can damage your ear drums – trust me, you might still need them! Besides, they don’t really remove the earwax, but push it even further into your ear, basically clogging it! Once clogged, you will need a professional earwax extraction. Yay!

Earwax isn’t the enemy you need to fight, it is actually good for you! It protects your ears from infections, fungi, and even insects! So here’s another video. And yes, I like youtube videos.

Your ears don’t need your help. Just like cats they conveniently clean themselves! I quit Q-tips when we went zero waste. About six months later suddenly a yucky and surprisingly large brown lump fell out of my right ear, eeeeeewwww! It looked a lot like the earwax shown in the first “Why Q-tips are bad” video. I inspected it and I saw an indent on one side that was shaped just like the tip of a Q-tip 😳! A couple of months later another lump fell out of my other ear. I really didn’t know my ears were clogged, but I’m glad I didn’t have to get a professional earwax extraction, phew!

I don’t want to quit Q-tips, isn’t there a zero waste option?

Sighs, why, why, whyyyyyy??? I do get this question whenever I write or talk about how Q-tips are actually BAD for you. But seems like a lot of you guys out there like to damage your ears 😅.

Let me stress that you really shouldn’t put anything in your ear! Q-tips don’t actually clean your ear, but can harm your ear!

I know, I know, a lot of you don’t want to listen to me.

So yeah, if you insist, there are better options. There are loop earwax removal tools you can buy in pharmacies, either made from stainless steel or plastic. If you do buy one, get the stainless steel one. Duh.

And there are also bamboo ear spoons, which are very common in Asia and can even be spotted in mangas and animes. Yup, really.

Bamboo Ear Spoon

Both earwax removal tools don’t push the earwax into your ear to the same extent as Q-tips do. However, they can still damage your ear drums. Just saying. Again.

My honest opinion: I’d rather let my ears clean themselves. Yay to being a lazy ass 🍑 😜!

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Filed under #SimpleSwap, Bathroom, Health & Personal Hygiene


  1. While we clearly shouldn’t put anything in our ears… I know I’m going to. When I first saw this post a couple of weeks ago, it inspired me to start using a blackhead extractor as an ear spoon; seems to work fine, mine’s metal and easy to clean, and it’s already paid for and taking up valuable bathroom real estate…

  2. Complete nonsense. It amazes me at the amount of information people are still parroting back and forth due to the status quo of the medical industry. Doctors are dead wrong about Q-tips. They thrive on theory here.

    You COULD injure your ear. You COULD push wax further back. you COULD dry out your ears. Blah Blah Blah. I have never ONCE pushed ear wax to the back of my ear with a Q-tip.

    I have been cleaning my ears with Q-tips for 35 years. I am 44 years old. When I was around 18 I tried using a bulb syringe to clean my ears. Due to the water pushing a wax buildup against my ear drum, I couldn’t get it out. So I went to the doctor. He used a machine to flush it out. Upon inspecting my ears, he said I had the cleanest ear canals he had ever seen. I told him it was due to cleaning them with Q-tips. He didn’t lecture me.

    Wax does have it’s purpose. But it gets dirty rather quickly and needs to be removed. Along with it goes the dirt, hair, and whatever else. And the ear immediately begins to make more wax. It is a cycle. My children have loads of problems if I do not clean out their ears.

    Cleaning the ears with a Q-tip is something that requires understanding and coordination. Yes. you COULD push back the wax. If you don’t do it right. What I do is dip the Q-tip in almost hot water, and stick it to the edge of my ear canal to make the water go into it. I do this quickly and repeatedly to get the canal wet and warm. Then I dip a new Q-tip in the water and stick it down into the canal, while rotating it. I keep it as centered as possible in the canal. This and the rotation helps to “cut through” any wax instead of pushing it back. Once it goes in far enough. I push to the side of the canal, making a slight pulling motion, working it around the canal walls to pull ALL wax forward. I work it all around to one side and pull it all out at once. The Q tip looks horrible when it comes out. I repeat the process and then its done. I do the other ear the same way.

    To complete it, I take a sheet of toilet paper and drape it over the end of my pinky finger and stick the finger into an ear and vigorously shake the canal like an earthquake while rubbing the back of my tongue vigorously across the soft palate. Its an old trick for getting rid of an ear itch. When I remove the finger from the ear, the toilet paper has wax on it. Ear is clean and dry.

    Feels much better and cleaner. I usually do this a couple times a month. In the winter, I sometimes get ear itch and will do this just for ear relief. Always works great. I think 35 years is plenty of time to PROVE this is safe and effective. What matters is figuring out ways to make something WORK for you instead of against you. Doctors will always give you the DUMMY way of doing something. Ultimately costing you money and filling their pockets.

  3. Katherine

    I stopped using cotton swabs in my ears due to worry about puncturing my ear drum, too.

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