The Use of Sweet Oil for Ear Wax

For many people, knowing how to use sweet oil to remove earwax may prevent the need to purchase expensive over-the-counter wax-softening drops. More commonly known as olive oil, sweet oil is a common home remedy for loosening chunks of hardened, stubborn earwax that can occlude the ear canal and lead to potentially bothersome ear symptoms. Learning the facts about sweet oil and earwax can help you identify instances where an inexpensive bottle of olive oil may help stave off a sticky case of too much wax.

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If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


Secreted by special glands in your ears, earwax is an orange-yellow substance that lubricates the sensitive ear canal skin. It also helps keep germs and other foreign substances from harming the tiny, delicate parts of your ear. Usually, earwax gradually leaves the ear canal in small chunks, often aided by jaw movements that occur as part of chewing and swallowing. Earwax that builds up excessively in your ear canal could occur from various causes, including unusually narrow ear canals, improper ear cleaning procedures and the use of hearing aids. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, wax compaction occurs more frequently in special needs individuals and the elderly 2.


According to Lisa Chavis, practicing pharmacist and author of the book “Ask Your Pharmacist,” sweet oil provides a prime softening solution for hardened or built-up earwax 3. As an oil-based cerumenolytic, olive oil works by lubricating the chunks of wax. This oil coating allows the wax chunks to move out of the ear canal more easily, especially if you follow up the treatment with an irrigation session.


Insert several drops of sweet oil directly in the ear canal of the affected ear, recommends Chavis. Tilt your head to the side or rest it on a flat surface, such as a table, to allow the sweet oil to penetrate completely into the ear canal. Doing the sweet oil treatment right before bedtime typically helps the oil soak completely into the wax overnight. Follow up by irrigating the chunks of wax from the ear using body-temperature water and a bulb syringe. Aim the irrigation water at part of the ear canal wall next to the wax blockage to minimize your chances of pushing the ball of wax further back into the ear canal, suggests Medline Plus 4.


Chavis notes that you may need to perform a sweet oil treatment on your earwax for several days before you notice significant improvement in your compacted wax symptoms, which may include a plugged feeling in your ear, gradual loss of hearing, and ringing, itching or odor in the affected ear. If you fail to get the wax chunks out or your symptoms don’t seem to improve within three days of your sweet oil treatment, you may need to enlist your doctor’s aid in removing the wax. Opt for physician-performed wax removal instead of using sweet oil at home if you have ear tubes, unusually narrow ear canals, or suffer from diabetes.


Never use sweet oil or any other cerumenolytic to soften the earwax in your ear if you suspect you might have a ruptured eardrum 5. A ruptured eardrum could occur from an injury, excessively loud noise or ear infection, as well as inserting cotton swabs too far into the ear canal 5. Signs of a ruptured eardrum include an abnormal buzzing sound in the affected ear, ear drainage, an earache or ear pain, and partial hearing loss 5. Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect you might have a ruptured eardrum 5.