Rapid Ear Wax Removal System – My Favorite Home Solution So Far

Have ear wax blockage? Here’s an easy and fast home ear wax removal system that really works. Share it on!

I. My Favorite Home Solution So Far

1. Buy a Water Pik. I recommend the WP 450 Cordless Plus. Available at Amazon for $42 (free shipping with Prime), or right away at Target for $55. You can also use it to replace daily flossing, saving time there as well.

2. Buy three bottles of hydrogen peroxide. Also at Target, or your local supermarket. 50 cents a bottle. Charge the Water Pik, put the peroxide in the reservoir, and set the pressure setting on low.

3. Kneel over your tub and irrigate your ear. It takes just 2 minutes (two 45 second reservoirs full with peroxide) to clear a typical impaction, in my experience. As long as you use common sense (see below), it is totally safe.

If you are one of the 6% of people (18+ million Americans, 400+ million worldwide) who have excessive ear wax buildup, and who get  clogged ears and ear wax-caused tinnitus at least once a year, I think you’ll love this solution.

If you have someone who can look in your ear before and after you irrigate it, to visualize the wax and your eardrum, get an otoscope too. Dr. Mom Slimline Otoscope is a popular one on Amazon, $27.

Common Sense Warning:

If your ear is painful, or you’ve had a blocked ear for days, one that might be inflamed, I’d use one of the other much slower home solutions below, or go your doctor. An inflamed eardrum can be delicate, and you might perforate it with a jet of high pressure liquid in your ear. Even doctors cleaning out ears with syringes or scoops are reported to perforate the tympanic membrane in the eardrum in up to 1% of cases (though the typical percentage isn’t known, as there are so few controlled studies of this subject) and that can result in significant disability. So be careful. But if you’ve just recently blocked your ear with wax, and you don’t use this in any way that will cause you pain, I think the Water Pik is your best solution by far.

Don’t put the Water Pik into your ear, just get the tip into the canal, and let the rapid flow and the peroxide strip away the ear wax, not the water pressure. Take a break every 10 seconds to clear your ears, and stop as soon as your hearing clears up. If you still hear faint ringing an hour or more later, you may still have some wax stuck to your eardrum. If so, do it again for another 10-40 seconds, wait an hour, and listen again. Soon even the faintest ringing will stop and you’ll be hearing wonderfully again. Also, be sure not to use cold peroxide. It should be room temperature or a bit warm. Cold water in your inner ear can make you nauseous or dizzy.

Want to spend a whole lot more for very little extra value? There’s an older model Water Pik with a tip that directs the water to the sides of the ear canal, rather than directly at the eardrum. Its called the Bionix OtoClear Ear Lavage system, and it costs $230 (!). Here’s a video of it in action.  Most of us would never pay that, and fortunately we don’t have to. Just use your Water Pik on low, and direct its jet at the side of the ear canal rather than the back. YouTube now even has a few videos of Water Piks being used for ear wax removal by physician assistants, so I see what I thought was my own little secret is out.

If you overproduce ear wax you may end up using your Water Pik for a minute or so every few months, just to manage wax buildup before it becomes a problem. If you are a swimmer, you might use it when you get home after a swim, to keep your ears dry and clean.  Just be sure not to use this device to clear out all the wax, which is there to protect your ears from bacteria. Again, use your common sense.

Below is some additional info on ear wax removal.  You can skip it, unless you want more removal tips:

II. Nonsolutions

1. Q-Tips. These are both ineffective and dangerous. As almost all of us know, Q-Tips will very occasionally get the wax out, but most times they just compact it deeper in the ear canal, creating a plug. The big problem is that if you push too hard, you’ll rip your eardrum. An ear wax removal startup called Clear Earpitching in minutes 21-28 in this video, estimates that 20,000 people perforate their eardrums with Q-Tips every year worldwide. Think of how many people dig at their ears to get this level of injuries, and you see the magnitude of the ear wax removal problem.

III. Other Home Solutions

1. Ear Wax Removal Syringe. Acu-Life makes a great Ear Wax Removal Syringe, $5, with a tip that diverts the liquid to the sides of the ear canal, so you can push the plunger as hard as you want. But the flow ends up being pretty mild, so even if you load it with peroxide it will take up to an hour, sitting in the shower with it, using it 40+ times on your ear, to dislodge heavy plugs. If you have that kind of time and want to save money, go this route. If you don’t have that kind of time, I’d get the Water Pik. Again, use warm peroxide, as cold water in your inner ear can make you dizzy or nauseous.

2. Debrox, or Murine ear wax removal systems. These cost $6-$8 a pop, and use carbamide peroxide (a relative to hydrogen peroxide), but in very small amounts. You are supposed to use them for several days in a row to soften the plug before you irrigate it with the ineffectual little squeeze bulb (forget that, use a syringe instead). They’ll eventually work, but they take days of effort. I’d use this very slow and inefficient solution only if your ear is painful or has been impacted for several days, and you’re worried it may already be infected. Alternatively you might use it for a few days (or the cheaper homemade solutions below), if you have a hard plug, to soften it up, and then use the Water Pik.

3. Homemade solutions. Commonly recommended are vinegar, mineral oil, isopropyl alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide. Some recommend mixing these, in various ratios. Hydrogen peroxide will dissolve the ear wax (it attacks bacteria and other oxidizables in the wax, and the heat of oxidation dissolves the wax), isopropyl alcohol will also dissolve ear wax (though I find it a bit harsh to use regularly), and oil or vinegar will slowly penetrate behind the plug, making it easier to pop out.  To use the oil or vinegar, lay down for awhile with them in your ear (30 minutes) then use a syringe or the Water Pik to flush out the plug. The hydrogen peroxide takes only 3-4 minutes before the bubbling slows down and you can put in a new batch of hydrogen peroxide. I’d recommend using the isopropyl alcohol even more briefly, if at all. Don’t like the way it makes me feel afterward. Does anyone know the best solution for dissolving ear wax and quickly penetrating into plugs that is also mild? If so, let us know!

4. Sauna or steam bath visit. Taking a 20 minute sauna or steam bath before any of the above can soften up your ear wax enough for it to come out when you flush it.  For really hard plugs you might combine the 30 minute vinegar or mineral oil ear soak, the sauna, and then the Water Pik with hydrogen peroxide.

IV. Two-Person Solutions

1. Ear wax scoops. These are popular in asian cultures, though their ear wax tends to be crumbly and easier to scoop out than caucasian ear wax. If you want to try this, you might use Jobar’s Lighted Ear Wax Scoop on Amazon, $4. If the person using the scoop wears a lighted magnifier, $5, it may also help them visualize the wax while they are working. I’d also use an otoscope before and after. I wouldn’t use the scoop yourself, as you can’t see the wax.

V. Physician Removal Solution

Going to your physician is a common response to a blocked ear, and ear wax removal is a surprisingly big business. Wikipedia says about 150,000 ears are irrigated each week in the US alone, by doctors and their aides, and 40,000 in the United Kingdom.  Health Care Blue Book says the average cost of an ear wax removal treatment is $88. Thus in the US alone, there’s a $690 million dollar business here. Globally, that’s perhaps $1-2 billion of annual health care expenditures that could be eliminated with a good cheap home ear wax removal solution. Ideally it would be a quarter of the cost of the one I’ve got here. I’ve been to my physician a few times in my life to get ear wax removed, after my shenanigans couldn’t get it out. Each time I’ve asked if the heavy duty syringe they used in the office was something I could purchase. No dice. Fortunately you don’t need a prescription or a medical license for the Water Pik, and if you use it, consider it a small step you can take to combat the developed world’s epidemic of out-of-control health care costs.

I suspect many physicians, being by nature conservative folk, wouldn’t recommend their patients use either the $230 Bionix or the $42 Water Pik for their ears, and people certainly should exercise caution (see warning above). But if you are a responsible human being, who has good common sense, I think you deserve to have the most powerful and affordable tools at your disposal. For ear wax removal, that’s the Water Pik. So I hope the more independent-minded readers will take it upon themselves to try this the next time they have a blockage, rather than take it to a physician. You deserve to be able to solve this problem yourself, immediately, whenever it occurs. Good luck!

VI. More on Water Pik

Water Pik is a smart little company. It was founded in 1968 by engineer John Mattingly  and dentist Gerald Moyer, and is presently owned by private equity firm The Carlyle GroupThey introduced the first massaging showerhead in 1974, a very cool innovation for its time. Recently they figured out that cordless Water Piks are way more desirable for most people than countertop Water Piks, which take up far too much space, can’t be used in the shower, and don’t deliver much extra value, for all their added complexity. Their new line of cordless Water Piks are not the best built, but they are better than the earlier ones. The WP 350 Cordless, for example, had a recharging terminal that corroded rapidly, so the unit needed to be replaced after a year or two. The WP 450, which I have, is apparently better built, but we’ll see.

Also, Water Pik finally got its act together with respect to doing scientific studies, and now they state on the box that they are “clinically proven to be twice as effective as string floss for improving gum health,” and that they are “proven in laboratory tests to remove 99.9% of plaque with a 3 second application to the treatment area.” For years people had no idea whether these devices actually worked, and their reputation suffered. I’m sure it will take them several years before people start using these for flossing, as they went so many years without quoting any good studies on their packaging. What may have saved the category was kids with braces. Water Piks are quite good at getting food out of braces. So they’ve been a success even in spite of themselves, as is often the case in many businesses.

My hat is off to Water Pik for steadily improving their product, and sticking around long enough for us to find a great new application for it. I expect to see warnings on future Water Piks not to use them for cleaning your ears, just like with Q-Tips. Unless Water Pik embraces this use and gets safety studies for it, and makes a deal with Bionix OtoClear for their safety tips, it may take years before a truly affordable physician-approved ear cleaning Water Pik comes out. In the meantime, you don’t need anyone’s permission, just a little common sense. You can just Do It Yourself.

Comments? Corrections? Know any other cheap, fast, and effective solutions not mentioned here? Let us know, thanks!

Comments

  1. I use the water pik for my clogged ears and it works great! No more doctors!

  2. philip g says:

    This solution worked great for me, and I really appreciated the detailed info on the web site, which to my mind confirmed its trustworthiness (not just some company trying to push its product). The first time I had my ear plugged, I went to the doctor and they used a high pressure device to remove the wax. Had to pay $30. This time, the doctor’s office implicitly criticized me for not having come in for at least three years (sorry, I was healthy) and then made me feel as though they would be doing me a favor by squeezing me in the following day. So I bought the water pik. My only challenge was getting a feel for directing the hydrogen peroxide to squirt in the right place without scoring a direct hit (which was uncomfortable) and maybe I should have paid closer attention to the need to warm the solution because I was a bit dizzy, but those mild inconveniences paled in comparison to the relief I felt upon getting my hearing back and relieving the pressure in my head, and within 10 minutes any dizziness went away.

    • Great to hear this Levi and Philip! Yes I really think with this Water Pik + hydrogen peroxide technology we finally have a solution that will allow anyone with common sense and care to rapidly and efficiently manage their own ear problems, which I feel is the best for both us and society. Doctors will push back, however, as this approach gets more well known. If Water Pik got smart they could ally with some doctors and make an even cheaper and safer version of their product, but I expect that will take many years. Meanwhile we can follow the ethic of DIY (Do It Yourself) and spread the good news to the many others we know who have this problem.

  3. Dana SIms says:

    Went to the doctor last week for my annual physical. They told me that my ears were impacted and needed to be cleaned out. They tried in the office, but to no avail. Told me to buy some Debrox, use it for two weeks and come back. I did the Debrox for two nights and then tried their little ‘syringe’. That was laughable. :) Then I noticed the Water Pik on the counter and thought, “Why not?” Filled it with warm water and turned it on the lowest setting. The trick was finding the right angle. Holy Moses!! The wax that came out was totally disgusting. Blech. But, the funny thing was that it felt GOOD to have the warm water in my ears and it itched like crazy. After I was done, I wondered if I was the only nut case to have figured this out. Looks like I’m in good company. LOL It works and if you use common sense it’s a procedure that can be done at home.

  4. Back in 1993 when my daughter was 4, her peds dr. diagnosed ear wax in abundance in her ears. She had her nurse put the Water Pik on the lowest setting and using warm water cleaned daughter’s ears. I asked a bunch of questions and decided to do this at home where I could leisurely use the Water Pik. Did it the next day and was amazed at all the wax that slowly came out! My daughter kept saying how clear her hearing was for days after! And she also got over her aversion to having water in her ears during bath time.

  5. Thank you. This is the information I needed and at just the right time.

  6. I had a clogged ear and went to CVS minute clinic and got mine done for $60. The practitioner actually used the same exact waterpik I bought from target except she had the the fancy ear tip you mentioned on it.

  7. My doctor cleaned out my ear and it worked incredible! Now, that it is clogged again, I have to wait a month for another appointment, so I bought a waterpik based on your recommendation. It hurts!!! The waterpik is soooo much stronger than the syringe-style the doctor uses. You are going to damage your eardrum if you use a Waterpik! You people are crazy and full of it! DO NOT USE A WATERPIK IN YOUR EAR!!!! IT HURTS!!!!!

    • Hello Micah! Did you use the lowest setting of water flow? There are two settings on the water pik. It is a bit uncomfortable, but it most definitely does not hurt on the lowest setting, UNLESS your ear is inflamed (e.g, you waited several days after it got plugged to do anything about it, and now its infected). Don’t throw away the water pik, it will be very useful for future ear cleanings when your ear gets blocked again but not inflamed. Also, if your wax plug doesn’t come out on the lowest setting after using a reservoir or two full of hydrogen peroxide (not water) while bending over the tub, you should consider sitting in a sauna or steamroom at a gym (you can get a free day pass for this at any gym) for 20 mins beforehand. If you don’t have access to a sauna you can sit in the shower for 15 mins, letting hot water run into your ear (as hot as is comfortable, but again not so hot that it hurts). Either of these tricks will make the wax plug VERY soft and it should come out VERY easily, even at the lowest flow setting. This works, you will get the hang of it if you persist. Good luck and congratulations for trying! As always, I’m not a doctor, use your own common sense here. If it hurts, go to the doctor’s office.

  8. I had acute otitis many yrs ago & went to ER which was very busy. They put me in a small room & gave me a water pic & said “go for it”,not really,but just to be concise here.Anyway,it cleared out the plugs & pain fast using water. I did find info which states water will promote fungal growth & am wondering about the water content of peroxide & if alcohol back-flushing would dry it up,although 70% does contain 30% water. Maybe this would drive someone with OCD crazy. Alcohol is irritating.
    Thanks for your info site.

  9. WOW- Ive been struggling with ear wax/skin impaction issues for years. I have awful insurance, so its become quite expensive to go to the ENT every few months for a cleaning. I finally had enough and just used a Water Pik for the first time- and- OH MY GOD- the clogs came out of my ears instantly! It was like magic! Within the first 10 seconds of each ear- I could hear again and all the debris was in the sink! Id tried EVERYTHING- useless syringes, ear wax removal kits- everything- and this is the only thing that worked. Please stop wasting money- go get a Water Pik now! (I really cant see how youd puncture your ear drum doing this unless youre a total idiot)

  10. Heather says:

    I cannot think of a time I have ever commented on an article, but I have to say a big huge thank you!!! Ever since I amped up my exercise, my ears have been giving me problems….I knew instinctively that it was wax build up even though I have never had a problem before. Yesterday, my ear ‘stopped working’ for lack of a better way of saying it….like someone just closed it up. I have not been to a doctor in years (big into natural health..), but starting thinking, today, that I might need to see a professional. All morning I did all the natural recommendations…vinegar, oil, peroxide, etc…nothing helped. I have six kids and had to tell them to speak into my right ear…frankly, I was annoyed by the inconvience of this seemingly small problem. Looking in our medicine closet I saw our Water Pik and thought….hmmmmm…. I went on-line and found your article. So well written, I knew exactly what to do! I wish I could post a pic of what came out…I did take a picture for my family…that is just gross enough for our entertainment. I am shocked at how great I feel, having that cleared from my ear…over and above simply being able to hear, again. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  11. So, for a small expense, you can turn your home waterpik into something even closer to the one the doctor uses. You can buy the wands that they use (it has an angle and I think less pressure than the typical waterpik wand.) Three wands, about $20. http://www.amazon.com/Adapter-WP-360-Bionix-Medical-Technology/dp/B004YTUSB4/ref=sr_1_1?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1378250379&sr=1-1&keywords=bionix+wand. Then you just need the tip. The tips can be bought as well, but they are something like $70 for 40 tips. (Bulk much?) However, I found that the tip from the Acu-Life Ear Wax Removal Syringe screws onto the wand. It prevents you from inserting too far and directs the water to the sides of the ear canal rather than straight towards the ear drum. About $6 for the syringe. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000SOJXGA/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1. Just thought that I would share.

  12. A+ very useful. I helped my wife with this today and it worked EXACTLY as you indicated. Kudos and a heart felt thanks from her. Best tip in years!

  13. Wow, thanks for the great tip! I happen to have one but never thought to use it this way. I have a partial blockage in my left ear that traps water if I swim. I will do this right away. You are a godsend!

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