Is It Safe To Use Hydrogen Peroxide To Remove Earwax?

Experts weigh in on the earwax removal method.

Despite most people growing up cleaning their ears with a cotton swab, the medical community has made it very clear over the last few years that this is not a safe way to go. You could puncture your eardrum or push gunk deeper into your ear canal—it's just not a good idea.

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Still, it's not like your earwax just magically disappears, and sometimes you want to get it out ASAP. That's probably one of the reasons why one woman went viral on TikTok in August 2021 for using hydrogen peroxide to clean out her ears.

As of October 2022, Ayisha Friedman-Negrín (@ayishafrita) racked up 2.7 million likes for demonstrating what she says is "how to properly clean ur ears."

In the video, Friedman-Negrín lays her head down on a towel with one ear facing up. She puts a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in her ear and waits for a moment. "It's going to just bubble in there," she says. "It basically is just separating all the earwax and then I'm going to flip and it's all going to come out."

Friedman-Negrín waited until "the sizzling has calmed down" (FYI: she meant "bubbling"), and then did exactly as she explained: She covered her exposed ear with a towel, flipped her head over, and let the earwax drain from her ear.

People had plenty of questions in the comments. "Imma need a doctor to confirm this is safe before I try lol," another said. "Getting mixed reviews on doing this and I'm so confused," someone else wrote.

So what's going on here? Is it safe to put hydrogen peroxide in your ears to clean the earwax out? (The short answer: It's complicated.) Here's what you need to know.

First, Do You Actually Need To Clean Your Ears at All?

If you rarely (or never) clean your ears, that's actually totally fine. "Most people don't need to do anything," Scott B. Shapiro, MD, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, told Health.

Your earwax (aka cerumen) is there for a reason, said Dr. Shapiro. It works to stop dust, germs, and small objects from damaging your ear, along with protecting the delicate skin in your ear canal.

For most people, earwax will either ooze or fall out of your ear over time or wash away in the shower, Erin McNeely, MD, an internal medicine physician at Spectrum Health, told Health. "Your ears basically do self-cleaning," said Dr. McNeely.

Is It Safe To Clean Your Ears Out With Hydrogen Peroxide?

Sort of. "We typically recommend that people dilute it," said Dr. Shapiro. "Regular strength hydrogen peroxide can be irritating to your ear canal skin and eardrum." And, if you have any issues like an infection, pain, or a perforated eardrum, you shouldn't do this, Dr. McNeely said—it could make things worse.

Have otherwise healthy ears and want to try this hack? John Dobrowski, MD, an ear, nose, and throat physician at Mass Eye and Ear and instructor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery—at Harvard Medical School, suggested creating a mixture that's half hydrogen peroxide and half water so it's less abrasive on your ears. Then, just use a dropper or gently pour a little in there. Dr. Shapiro suggested letting it sit for about 10 seconds, and then flopping your head over to let it drain.

In this case, the aftercare is just as important as the process: "If used, the ear needs to be thoroughly dried afterwards," said Dr. Dobrowski. "A damp environment can potentially lead to otomycosis, or fungal infections in the ear canal."

There are other options for cleaning out your ears, including applying a few drops of mineral oil or baby oil in there "to soften the wax," said Dr. Shapiro.

Regular Ear Wax Maintenance Best Practices

If you feel like you need to clean out your ears regularly, Dr. Dobrowski suggested checking in with an ear, nose, and throat specialist, aka an otolaryngologist.

"The otolaryngologist can take a look in the ear and prescribe lotion, drops, or steroid oil to minimize crusting and flaking that may be present in the patient's ear," said Dr. Dobrowski. "The ears are very sensitive, and the more you do to them—such as cleaning them excessively at home—the more problems you may experience with the ears."

Again, there is no need for the average person to clean out their ears regularly. "Earwax is almost like the oils on your skin," said Dr. Shapiro. "If you wash it away, the area can get dried out and set you up for irritation or infection."

So, unless you're having trouble hearing or are really bothered by your earwax, Dr. Shapiro said there's really no need to clean your ears. "It's overkill for most people," said Dr. Shapiro.

A Quick Review

The bottom line: You can clean your ears out using a diluted mixture of half hydrogren peroxide and half water, but it's not necessary. The ears tend to keep themselves clean. If you feel like you're constantly tending to your ears, reach out to a healthcare provider.

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  1. Anwar K, Gohar MS. Otomycosis; clinical features, predisposing factors and treatment implications. Pak J Med Sci. 2014 May;30(3):564-7. doi: 10.12669/pjms.303.4106.

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