How to Clean Baby Ear Wax Safely and Properly

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
December 11, 2021

It never failed to surprise me how much fluid a baby can create being such a small human. That surprise extended to see how much wax my youngest son's ears could create. I knew I needed to learn how to clean baby ear wax when I noticed the outsides of his ears filling with sticky wax.

My pediatrician made a point of stopping me from going in with a pile of cotton swabs with the intent of solving my son's sticky ears issue. I learned a lot about ears those early years. How to clean baby's ears safely was one of those challenges.

What Is That Yellow Stuff?

baby girl makes questioning gesture with big smile on a red background

That yellow stuff coming out of your baby's ears is called cerumen. However, we just call it ear wax.

Ear wax protects your ear canal from infection-causing germs as wax has properties that fight infections. Also, ear wax traps dirt and other debris and keep it from irritating your ear. That is why the color of the wax can be so dark and weird looking when it becomes visible. It has trapped debris and holds skin cells due to its stickiness.

Also, ear wax protects the moisture level of the ear canals. If we didn't have ear wax, our ears would be dry and itchy.

Since the ear regularly makes earwax, it works its way out the opening of your ear naturally.

How to Clean Baby Ear Wax: What Do I Do?

Most of the time, the extra earwax comes out when bathing making it unnecessary to even worry about it.

Some people simply have ears that make a whole lot of wax, and this ends up blocking the ear canal. The color of this wax varies from person to person, as well. Typically, the older wax is darker, whereas fresh wax is more sticky and yellow.

via GIPHY

There are situations where having excess ear wax gets in the way of hearing. Some people's ears just cannot handle the level of wax created and clean it out as quickly as it needs to. Wax builds up, in that case. Also, the build-up of wax may end up causing pain and create a sense of blockage in the ear.

Your baby is not able to tell you such things, but you know your baby better than anyone. Parents can tell when it's time to have a doctor check out their baby's ears.

Safety First

It's tough to leave the ear alone when you see all that wax building up, but before going in after that wax, there are some considerations on how to clean baby ear wax safely.

Just say no

a lilac background with a container of cotton ear swabs in the foreground with a red circle and slash for

The first item often grabbed with the intent to clean out ear wax is a cotton swab. Doctors don't recommend the use of a cotton swab to clean wax from your baby's ears.

The eardrum is delicate, and poking anything inside the ear may cause a higher likelihood of infection. Also, it can push the wax in further, causing impaction of the wax. Even worse, there are reports of significant ear injury due to cotton swabs.

The same recommendation applies to the use of fingers to clean out the baby's ears, as well. Many ENT doctors say it, so we'll repeat it here, "don't put anything smaller than your elbow in your baby's ear!"

Warm and Wet

There is a safe and recommended approach for handling excessive ear wax in your quest to learn how to clean baby ear wax. All you need is warm water and a baby-soft washcloth.

First, then

Baby in a blue tub flinging water with a metal cup in a bath where we learn how to clean baby ear wax safely

You will want to time cleaning your baby's ears during or right after bathing. The warmth of the water softens up the ear wax, making it a little easier of which to work.

After pulling the ear back a little to straighten things out, gently wipe with a warm and damp washcloth by gently cleaning around the outer ear to grab any build-up of wax.

Wring out the washcloth carefully. Having the washcloth only warm and damp will help you avoid accidentally getting water in the ear canal.

Do not try to insert the washcloth into the baby's ears.

How to Clean Baby Ear Wax: I Am Under-Qualified

ENT doctor's pediatric waiting room, where you can learn how to safely clean baby earwax

If you find your baby is running a fever or has excessive wax, you might consider visiting an Ears, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor.

Previous issues with the eardrums, including tubes or ear surgery, warrants a call to the doctor right away. Furthermore, make the same haste if you notice your baby reacting with pain in the ears or you notice bleeding.

ENT doctors have specialized equipment, so they may see inside the ear canal and gently clean excessive wax. Having the doctor clean the ears can all be accomplished without causing damage to the eardrum or delicate tissues in the ear canal.

It is your doctor's responsibility to determine if your baby's ears are producing too much wax. As it is, our ears are self-cleaning machines.

If your doctor recommends it, you might be able to use earwax softening drops. Afterward, the ears can be flushed as the wax has had a chance to soften. Doctors do recommend seeing them before using drops of any kind in your baby's ears.

Now That I Can Hear

baby on stomach smiling huge grin, with ear up in the air. for how to safely clean earwax article

Before you jump in and worry about the amount of wax your baby's ears create, consider cleaning the outside of the ears, first.

If you come to the conclusion the excessive war wax is harming your baby, your doctor will be able to determine for sure and help you develop a safe plan regarding how to clean baby ear wax.

There are tons of home remedies for baby ear wax, but these are the ones that we can recommend -- talk to your doctor about any other method before trying it. Do you have any advice to share on this topic? Shout it out in the comments!

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