Isopropyl alcohol also referred to as rubbing alcohol, finds all kinds of uses as a household supply, cleaning everything from stainless steel to makeup brushes. Available in 70% (the most common) and 99% dilutions, it’s a staple you always want to have on hand. But can you use it for your ears beyond keeping fresh piercings disinfected? Read on to find out more.
From cleaning to small medical issues, there are many reasons why people might consider using rubbing alcohol in their ears. But if you haven’t heard of doing so before, you might be wondering, “Can you put rubbing alcohol in your ear?”
When it comes to putting rubbing alcohol in ears for cleaning purposes, it’s safe to do so as long as you do it correctly. Start by putting 2-3 drops in one ear, then hold your head to the side for a few minutes so the rubbing alcohol can clear out bacteria and earwax. Let it drain out, and then do the same for the other ear.
You should only put rubbing alcohol in your ear in certain situations, including those listed below.
Earwax—secretions from sebaceous glands, skin cells and other microscopic debris—acts as a natural, protective barrier between your ears and the outside world, but sometimes we produce too much. While putting rubbing alcohol in ears for wax removal won’t do much on its own, you can use it in combination with hydrogen peroxide.
The first step is to put drops of hydrogen peroxide, or a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide that is sold specifically for ear cleaning, into the ear. The solution will bubble and break up the wax. However, after the bubbles subside, water can be left in the ear. Flushing with rubbing alcohol will help dry the ear canal and avoid infection.
Cleaning ears with alcohol is most useful when you want to tap into its antiseptic properties, such as when you have an infection like swimmer’s ear. Follow these steps:
If rubbing alcohol is too harsh for your ears, it can be mixed with equal parts white vinegar. Keep in mind that because rubbing alcohol has drying properties, using it too often can lead to inner ear dryness, flaking and itching.
While rubbing alcohol can help in the situations above, there are some situations where you should avoid using it and seek medical attention instead, including:
Other ear conditions and situations where rubbing alcohol should not be used include:
Rubbing alcohol isn’t the only method for cleaning your ears. Other options include the following:
The best way to avoid needing to use rubbing alcohol is to protect your ear health. Here are a few tips to keep your ears happy and healthy:
Using rubbing alcohol on your ears isn’t a universal solution. If you’re experiencing the following symptoms, contact your doctor.