Should You Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Treat Earwax?

Close up photo of an ear examination with an otoscopeWe’ve all been warned against the dangers of removing earwax with Q-tips, and we’ve also seen the research showing that ear candling is dangerous and not effective at removing wax. This has caused many to turn to other methods of earwax removal, including rinsing out the ear canals with hydrogen peroxide, but is this practice safe?

When Does Earwax Need to Be Removed?

Healthy ears produce earwax, which plays the important role of lubricating the ear canals to prevent them from becoming dry and itchy as well as trapping debris. In most cases, earwax does not need to be cleaned or removed, as it will fall out on its own thanks to jaw movements when talking and chewing.

Earwax only needs to be removed if it becomes impacted. Symptoms of impacted earwax include earache, itchy ear, infection, hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo. Impacted earwax should be removed at a doctor’s office by an expert.

If you feel your earwax is unsightly or you want it gone, there are safe ways to clean it at home.

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Safe?

Hydrogen peroxide can help soften and dissolve earwax. In general, hydrogen peroxide has a good safety profile when used properly. Most OTC hydrogen peroxide solutions have a 3% concentration, while OTC ear drops contain about 6.5% carbamide peroxide, which contains hydrogen peroxide but also releases oxygen to soften the wax.

While generally safe in low concentrations, some people experience side effects like:

  • Temporary fizzing/bubbling sensation
  • Temporary ear pain
  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Bitter taste

How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide Safely

At concentrations over 10%, hydrogen peroxide can cause skin irritation like blistering and even burns. Be sure to check the label of the product you’re using. Ideally, you should use drops containing hydrogen peroxide that are formulated specifically for the ears.

Even in safe concentrations, it’s possible to introduce too much hydrogen peroxide into the ears. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions or advice from a doctor. The rule of thumb is that you should not put more than 10 drops in one ear at one time. Instead, place 5-10 drops in each ear twice daily for no more than four days in a row.

If you’re experiencing discomfort, flush out the excess hydrogen peroxide and earwax with warm water while standing in the shower, or use a bulb syringe.

Consult a doctor if you have ongoing discomfort, and never use hydrogen peroxide if you suspect you have an ear infection or damaged eardrum. For more information about how to safely clean your ears or to schedule an appointment for earwax removal, call the experts at the PIH Health House Clinic today.

Los Angeles: 213.483.9930
Orange: 714.516.9570


This information is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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