How Can I Remove the Cotton From a Q Tip Stuck in My Ear Canal?

The American Academy of Otolaryngology recommends discontinuing the use of cotton-tipped swabs used for probing or cleaning your ears 1. Cotton-tipped swabs cause earwax blockage deep in your ear canal and press earwax against your ear drum. Sometimes the cotton from the swab can become lodged inside your ear canal--this can be scary--and the cotton needs to be removed as soon as possible.

Is This an Emergency?

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

Another Set of Eyes

Don’t try to remove the cotton with any other object. Don’t stick anything else into your ear canal. Only if you can see the cotton clearly in the mirror and can pull it out with your fingers--then go ahead and pull it out. With the awkward position of our ear canals--another set of eyes would be the best thing. If you can, have someone pull back on your ear lobe and try to see the cotton in your ear canal. This needs to be done in a well-lit room. If the other person can see the entire piece of cotton and can pull it out with her fingers, then proceed. Don’t allow another person to use an object to try and remove the cotton from your ear. If the cotton gets pushed deeper into your ear canal, it could cause severe pain, permanent hearing loss and severe dizziness. This other set of eyes helps you determine how deep the cotton is in your ear canal.


If you can’t see a doctor and want to attempt removing the cotton yourself, lubrication is your best bet. When cotton gets wet, it shrivels up. Use olive oil or baby oil to wet and lubricate the cotton and your ear canal. Place four to five drops of room temperature oil in your ear, and then quickly tilt your ear down towards the sink--you may want to have a tissue handy to catch the excess oil dripping out. Keep your ear pointed down for two to three minutes, and then repeat the drops. The combination of gravity and lubrication should bring the cotton out of your ear canal.

If you have tubes in your ears or a hole in your eardrum, don’t use oil -- contact your physician immediately.

Seek Professional Help

If you begin to experience an earache, severe pain, dizziness or loss of hearing soon after the cotton becomes stuck in your ear, contact your physician immediately. An urgent care facility is equipped to remove the cotton from your ear canal quickly and safely. There’s probably no need to visit an emergency room unless your doctor recommends you do so. Physician removal is the best option. Your physician can make sure all of the cotton is removed and check for any internal damage.