Should You Use Q-Tips In Your Ears? 7 Reasons You Absolutely, Positively Should Not

Twisting and turning a pillowy Q-tip inside the crevices of your ear is one of life’s small pleasures. Pushing that cotton swab into the dark, sticky regions of your ear (where you’re grandmother warned you it should never go) is strangely fulfilling, like giving yourself an inner-ear massage. And the waxier that swab is when it emerges, the more satisfying the experience. It's so satisfying, it made the 1,000 Awesome Things list. Well, I hate to be a buzzkill, but you’re going to need to find a new simple pleasure — perhaps the cool side of your pillow? Freshly shaven legs in clean bed sheets?— because cleaning your ears with a Q-tip is just about the worst thing you can do with that two inch piece of cotton. 

Don't believe me? Here are just six reasons you should keep cotton swabs far from the ear canal:

1. The actual Q-tip box explicitly tells you not to. 

Sure, this warning the equivalent of putting "do not eat" on a chocolate wrapper. And yes, Q-tip is probably just trying to protect itself from a potential lawsuit, like every other company in the United States. But the fact that the company felt the need to include that specific instruction should set off a few alarm bells.


Yep. The label warns against that exact action.

2. Cotton swabs have been recalled from supermarkets

After their flimsy cotton tips detached from their cottony bodies and surrendered to the stickiness of peoples’ earwax. “This won’t happen to me. I’ve been using cotton swabs for years! I’m a cotton swab veteran!” I see you thinking. I thought the same until this happened at my local supermarket and a friend had to make a visit to the doctor to get a Q-tip head removed from her ear. Not pleasant.

3. Doctors are against it. 

Some even go so far as to describe themselves as “venemous and unsympathetic opponents” of Q-tips. Any good doctor will tell you that ear wax isn’t gunk, it’s your body’s way of keeping your ears clean. It serves as the windscreen wipers for your ears, preventing excess water and other grime from entering the ear canal. Following this logic, Q-tips are little cotton weapons of ear destruction. They can cause ruptured ear drums and send an open invitation for a bacteria dance party inside your ear canal. So perhaps you should open up your ears and listen to dear old doctor?

4. This disgusting scene from Season 2 of Girls.

If product warnings and medical reasoning aren’t convincing enough, you’ll definitely be deterred by the scene in Girls in which the obsessive-compulsive Hannah (Lena Dunham) bursts her eardrum after cleaning her ears a tad too vigorously with a Q-tip. It’s gruesome stuff, so I’d only recommend watching if you have a strong stomach or haven’t eaten in the past calendar year…

5. We should give all the Q-tips in the world to this guy, instead.

Now that is commitment.

6. Or better yet, to this guy.

Artist Jim Dingilian draws landscapes inside glass bottles using smoke and Q-tips. Eerie yet incredible.

7. Because Q-tips are trying this gendered marketing approach.

Nice try, Q-tips, but I can’t see men adding Q-tips to their power tool kit anytime soon.

Not putting Q-tips in your ear might seem completely counterintuitive at this stage of your life, but hopefully this list will make you think twice next time you find yourself reaching for those cottony buds.

Images: Jody/Flickr; HBO; Jeff Milner/Flickr; Asylum_art/tumblr

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