Do you ever experience a deafening buildup of ear wax? It usually hits me early in the outdoor swimming season, when water finds its way into my ears. Here’s my favorite method of earwax removal: using olive oil!
Earwax Removal with Olive Oil
Years ago my doctor recommended an olive-oil and warm-water procedure to remove a buildup of earwax safely at home. When I suspect the wax buildup, I get out my gear:
- an eye-dropper
- a hand-held bulb syringe
- a little olive oil
I sterilize the dropper and the syringe in boiling water, warm (to skin temperature) some oil on the stove, and use the eye-dropper to insert a few drops of the warmed oil into each ear, tilting my head to one side to allow the oil to flow down into my ear canal.
I then go to sleep for the night, placing a cotton ball in my ear and a towel on my pillow to absorb any oil leaks.
In the morning, I fill the syringe with warm water and, kneeling in my bathtub, tilt my head sideways and deliver a strong squirt into each ear. Sometimes it takes a few swishes of warm water and a few good shakes of the head before the wax ball slides out.
Don’t use a pressurized device (e.g., a Water Pick) to flush out the wax, as it could damage your eardrum. Also avoid using tools like Q-Tips, as they could push the wax deeper into the ear.
Occasionally, I have to repeat the process another evening. Other times, the wax comes out without any warm-water syringing.
For decades, this technique has worked well for me. But if I experienced pain, swelling, or unusual sensations in my ear before or after using this technique, I’d definitely see my doctor.
Words of Caution
Doctors warn against removing ear wax unless symptoms develop (sense of pressure/swooshing, ringing, or roaring in the ears). Earwax serves important health benefits: It lubricates and cleans the ear canal, picking up bits of dirt, dust, and dead skin that stick to it on the way out. The wax also contains antibacterial substances that help prevent infection. It generally removes itself without help.
Experts also warn against poking cotton swabs or anything else into your ears that might push the wax ball further down into the ear canal. Wearing ear buds for MP3 listening or ear plugs for sleep may also encourage wax buildup by blocking its normal exit route.
Frugal folks in times past have used earwax for a variety of purposes:
- Medieval scribes mixed earwax (among many other substances) to prepare the pigments they used to illustrate illuminated manuscripts.
- The 1832 edition of the American Frugal Housewife recommended earwax as a remedy for cracked lips and noted that “nothing was better than earwax to prevent the painful effects resulting from a wound by a nail [or] skewer.”
- Dating back to medieval times, seamstresses would sometimes use their own earwax to stop the cut ends of threads from fraying.