Too much earwax for comfort? We recommend the best ear wax removers to unblock your ears quickly and safely
Ear wax (‘cerumen’) is pretty useful for keeping infections and water off your precious ear drums. But too much of it can be uncomfortable and even interfere with your hearing, so the best ear wax removers help you get excess wax under control safely at home.
Most ear wax removers come as ear drops. The most common active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide (which “fizzes” in your ear and breaks down ear wax, so it then falls out), closely followed by olive oil (which softens the wax, and appeals to many people as a more natural solution). Sodium bicarbonate and even sea water are also popular ear wax remover ingredients. Hydrogen peroxide is the only one ‘clinically proven’ to work, but all the others are deemed safe and clinically recommended. What definitely isn’t recommended is to stick a cotton bud into your ear, because it’ll just make the problem worse.
Skip to discover our recommended products for dealing with ear wax, or read on for more tips on choosing the best ear wax remover for you.
How to choose the best ear wax removal treatment for you
What types of ear wax remover work best?
For years, GPs have used irrigation (a blast of water from a syringe) to break up and remove ear wax. But ear wax removal is no longer offered on the NHS. If too much wax is causing you pain or hearing trouble, it’s still worth consulting your GP for advice, but there are now plenty of good ear wax removing treatments you can use safely at home to soften or break up the excess wax.
Ear drops are an affordable and effective treatment. A drop or two of specially-formulated liquid, left to work for a few minutes several times a week, is usually enough to make even hardened ear wax disintegrate and come out of your ear naturally – without the need to push foreign objects into your ear canal.
Some ear wax remover liquids come in spray form, which you may find easier to administer than drops. Some also come with special syringe-style applicators to help get the solution safely into your ear and deliver a measured amount with each squirt.
We haven’t included ear candles (aka hopi candles) among our recommendations, even though they are freely available via Amazon. “There’s no evidence that ear candles or ear vacuums get rid of earwax,” says the NHS (more info here). Hearing charity RNID says medical research has shown that ear candling is “both dangerous and ineffective”, and may even result in serious injury (read more here).
But even the most innocuous ear drops should be avoided if you have, or may have, a perforated eardrum. So if you’re suffering pain, see your doctor or a pharmacist for advice first. The NHS’s Health & Care Video Library has a useful short film on dealing with ear wax safely.
What ingredients should I look for in an ear wax remover?
Hydrogen peroxide, usually in the form of carbamide peroxide (aka urea hydrogen peroxide), sounds alarming but it’s the most common active ingredient in ear drops. When hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with ear wax, it releases oxygen and causes foaming (hence the fizzing sensation inside your ear) which helps to soften, break up, loosen and remove excess ear wax
Olive oil softens ear wax naturally, enabling it to trickle out on its own, so it’s been used for many years as a natural ear wax remover. It can be a bit greasy to work with (it is oil, after all), so we’ve included a less messy olive oil spray among our recommendations.
Sodium bicarbonate is the chemical found in baking soda. It’s a form of salt that causes dirt and grease to dissolve in water, as well as being brilliant at absorbing odours, so it has all manner of household uses. It also does a great job of softening ear wax, and is recommended by clinicians as a gentle natural alternative if your ear wax problem isn’t too serious.
Salt water, in the form of saline or sterile sea water, is an increasingly common ingredient of ear cleaning products. Again, it’s not strong enough to break up hardened and impacted ear wax, but it’s brilliant for keeping your ear canal clean and avoiding the need to stick objects (such as cotton buds) in there.
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The best ear wax removal treatments you can buy in 2023
1. Otex Express Combi: Best ear drops for removing hardened ear wax
Price: £6.80 | Buy now from AmazonMost of the ear drops you can buy are ‘clinically recommended’ to help remove ear wax, but Otex Express is one of few that are ‘clinically proven’.
This liquid treatment comes with a handy rubber squeeze bottle (basically a syringe) which makes the drops easy to administer without causing a mess. You can use the bottle to keep your ears clean with warm water once the treatment has cleared out your excess ear wax. Users report that it only takes around three or four days of twice-daily treatment to clear their ears.
The active ingredient in Otex Express, hydrogen peroxide, works by breaking hardened ear wax into pieces so it then falls out of your ear by itself. As with all hydrogen peroxide ear drops, Otex Express makes a crackling and popping sound as it gets to work, and some people find that the breaking-up of the ear wax makes their ears feel even more clogged up at first. Once you get past that stage, it’s a really effective, fast way to remove ear wax at home.
Key specs – Size: 10ml; Format: Drops plus rubber syringe; Active ingredient: Hydrogen peroxide
2. Earol Olive Oil Spray: Best olive oil spray for removing ear wax naturally
Price: £6 | Buy now from BootsOlive oil is a tried and trusted way to soften ear wax. It’s not a quick solution, but it can work on hardened ear wax. Squirt a measured dose of oil into your ear twice a day, and over a few weeks you’ll notice lumps of earwax naturally falling out of your ear, usually when you’re sleeping or showering.
You can buy olive oil ear drops, but we prefer this spray format because it’s much less messy and easier to apply. It also delivers a measured dose each time, reducing the chance of overloading your ear canal with oil and ending up with the stuff all over your clothes and bed sheets!
Key specs – Size: 10ml; Format: Spray; Active ingredient: Olive oil (100%)
3. Otex Sodium Bicarbonate Ear Drops: Best gentle ear wax drops for long-term use
Price: £4 | Buy now from AmazonIf you’ve ever used sodium bicarbonate (basically bicarbonate of soda, aka soda) for cleaning around the house, you’ll know how powerful this salty substance can be. It’s also a great natural ear wax treatment, softening wax in a similar way to oil, so that the stuff then comes out of your ear of its own accord.
Soda takes a bit longer to work than hydrogen peroxide, and you may find it’s not quite as good as oil as softening hardened wax. But this is a great, gentle solution to occasional ear wax build-up, and we really like the pipette dropper which makes application as easy as possible. It’s also safe for long-term use, and many will find it more comfortable than oil.
Key specs – Size: 10ml; Format: Drops; Active ingredient: Sodium bicarbonate
4. Audiclean Ear Cleansing Wash: Keep your ears free of dirt and excess ear wax
Price: £11 | Buy now from BootsWater may not seem a particularly powerful weapon against wax (usually wax repels water), but this sterile salt water spray is clinically proven to disperse ear wax and help prevent build-up. It’s also endorsed by ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialists as a safe alternative to dreaded cotton buds. This easy-to-use pump spray won’t get rid of hardened wax – you’ll need to use one of our other recommended treatments for that – but if you use it two or three times a week it’s brilliant for keeping your ears clean and preventing wax problems.
Audiclean also makes ear wax removal drops, which combine vegetable oil with water (£8.45 from Amazon), but users report much better results with Audiclean Ear Cleansing Wash.
Key specs – Size: 115ml; Format: Spray; Active ingredient: Sterile sea water
5. Cerumol Olive Oil Ear Drops: Best value olive oil ear drops
Price: £4.50 | Buy now from BootsThese olive oil drops are affordable, easy to use (thanks to the pipette dropper), and a totally natural solution to ear wax. Children may find the dropper less intimidating and more comfortable than a spray, such as the olive oil spray above, so it’s a handy bottle to keep in the bathroom cabinet. However, if your ear wax is hard and built up, you may need something stronger to loosen it first.
Key specs – Size: 10ml; Format: Drops; Active ingredient: Olive oil (100%)
6. Naveh Pharma CleanEars Earwax Removal Spray: Best ear wax remover for children
Price: £8.95 | Buy now from Amazon
For tiny ears, particularly those of children and babies, the Naveh removal spray is a good option. It bypasses the need for a tilt of the head, instead featuring a spray nozzle that’s inserted into the ear canal. The liquid should spray out and quickly dissolve any wax buildup, alongside delivering a shot of moisture at the same time.
CleanEars’ formula includes spearmint oil for its antiseptic properties and pleasant smell, alongside mineral oil and phytosqualane for moisture.
Key Specs – Size: 15ml; Format: Spray; Active ingredient: Mineral oil