Issue: I must clear my ear canals of water or I will get "swimmer's ear" (an ear infection). Regularly cleaning the ear wax helps prevent infections. I currently use cotton swabs, but I would like to use a non-disposable item.

I have not tried many options because cotton swabs have been convenient until recently. Cotton swabs are 100% effective for me. I have tried using my pinky finger, using a towel, and shaking my head, but none of those solutions have consistently worked. However, because cotton swabs have been effective it is possible (but unlikely) that one of the three above solutions could work if I knew a better process.

Constraints (important)

  1. I live in a tent.
  2. I am constantly traveling.
  3. Everything I own must fit in my pack, therefore size and weight is important.
  4. I am in Central America, and I am rarely in cities, so my access to many items is limited.
  5. I strongly prefer a non-disposable solution.
  6. I prefer to have items with multiple functions.
  7. Extremely limited budget.
  • 3
    "Regularly cleaning the ear wax helps prevent infections" - somewhere I read the sheer opposite!
    – Hawk
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 6:08
  • 1
    Are you trying to get out water or wax? Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 13:49
  • Welcome to Lifehacks S.E.! If you need any assistance with the site, please visit The Help Center.
    – L.B.
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:58

7 Answers 7


Toilet paper works well for this:

  1. Take one sheet of toilet paper.
  2. Roll up one of the corners into a wick.
  3. Gently stick the wick in your ear. It will absorb the water.

If you insist on reusability, use a thin cloth instead. A T-shirt or handkerchief will do. You won't be able to roll this into a really thin wick, but if you fold it twice you get a corner you can stick in your ear.

To make the procedure more effective, lean over until your ear points straight down.

  • 1
    Welcome to Lifehacks! I think this can be an acceptable answer; do keep in mind however; that the person asking does prefer that the item not be disposable. I think this does appear to be something that could work at least temporarily. If you need any assistance with the site, please visit The Help Center.
    – L.B.
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 15:08
  • I almost feel silly for not thinking of toilet paper. It is something I carry and it is very easy to buy one roll of TP here (for a reasonable price, too). But buying swabs is absurd unless I buy in bulk. You are correct that when I have used towels before, I did not attempt to wick the water, which is much smarter. I wonder if I can combine the curvy device from another answer with the tip of my microfiber towel. Commented May 1, 2015 at 23:31

What I heard from my ear specialist doctor is so simple that we almost forget about it. The human ear has a feature of self-cleaning, i.e. the wax will be propelled to the outside just by itself. However this self-cleaning process will not work if we push the wax back in to the outer auditory canal.

Any mechanical device we may use has a high risk that it will push the wax back in to the ear which eventually will lead to a plug. Cotton tips are especially dangerous in this respect (when pushing too far they can even damage the eardrum).

So what we only need to do is to remove the wax that is on the outside of the ear canal. To avoid pushing is back in we do have an in-built tool:

Use your little finger to move it gently in circles around your ear canal. This will remove all wax that may sit there.

The finger will be to big to push wax back into your ear but it is small enough to clean the outer side of our ear canal perfectly. Of cource we need to take care to have our nails cut short to avoid scratches that may lead to infections.

In case you don't want the wax to sit on your finger you may wrap a tissue around it before cleaning.

  • 1
    He is a swimmer. I think he is trying to get water out of his ear after he swims, not remove wax. Removing wax was just one of his proposed solutions (that is not completely working). Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 13:54
  • That makes a lot of sense for wax issues. Like children, the shape of my ear canal makes me more prone to ear infections from water staying trapped in my ear. It certainly happens after swimming, but even happens after a quick shower. Commented May 1, 2015 at 23:25

Put a few drops of isopropyl alcohol in your ear. The alcohol evaporates faster than water and has a lower surface tension, encouraging the water to come out.

Wear swimmer's ear plugs so the water doesn't get in.

  • Ear plugs are the lightweight, reusable way to go! Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 13:05
  • Alcohol is interesting and I did not know about that, but I don't carry that item (I carry triple antibiotic cream), so--for me--that is not a good solution. I do carry ear plugs, however, and I like multipurpose items, so that is excellent. Ironically, one of the questions I was eventually going to ask this site is about non-disposable earplugs or homemade earplugs. Commented May 1, 2015 at 23:22

One strategy might be to wick the water out. Get a soft, somewhat thick string and stiffen it with starch. You can then push it into your ear canal and wick up any water you get from swimming. Use each end for either ear. Dry out the string between uses.

Note that this will not actually dry the ear canal, it will just remove any puddled water. To fully dry the ear canal use 70% alcohol, one drop, after any excess water has been removed.

  • This is another great idea for wicking. I carry nylon thread and rope, which do not wick, but I have been considering purchasing 20-100 meters of string. If I purchase string, I will consider buying a material that will wick. Commented May 1, 2015 at 23:35

Use one of these:

enter image description here

You can by it or make it yourself. It doesn't push the wax back into the ear and since it's rounded you will not hurt yourself.

  • 2
    You can use a paperclip for this. Still: be careful when you insert it in your ear, you don't want to rupture the eardrum.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:15
  • 2
    Welcome to Lifehacks! This answer has the ability to be okay. However, It would be helpful if you included a link to what this actually is, where it could be purchased etc. Also, since this person would probably prefer to have something they could make or would readily have at their disposal, you may included links or instructions on how to make something like this. If you need any assistance with this site, please visit The Help Center.
    – L.B.
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 15:04
  • That is a fascinating looking device. I see how it will help with the wax. I'm not sure how much effect it will have on the water. Commented May 1, 2015 at 23:27
  • I dont feel, using this screw driver sized object advisable, to insert into our ear for cleaning Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 9:28
  • @MANEESHMOHAN, while I am sufficiently embarrassed to have commented on such a topic at at I still have to point out that the picture is not to scale.
    – user5308
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 10:32

I was looking for the same type of thing as you and found this on Amazon

enter image description here


Hydrogen peroxide (cheap) squirted in your ear with something like this:

enter image description here

Then swish the foam out with warm water.

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