How to Clean a Baby's Ear: Safely & Comfortably

In the realm of tiny hands and feet, keeping a baby’s ears clean was considered a cornerstone for their well-being. Not just a matter of cleanliness, it was a golden shield that could protect your young knight or princess from the dragons of painful ear infections, the ones known for their unwelcome habit of stealing away baby's sleep and turning their giggles into a chorus of tears.

It may seem like a daunting task at first, but fear not! The art of cleaning a baby’s ears is an easy one. But remember, this journey is to tread lightly. A baby's ears are as delicate as a butterfly's wings, as sensitive as a morning glory at dawn. The key lies in employing the right technique, just as you would when swaddling your baby or mixing their formula.

And who better to guide you on this mission than us, your faithful companions at 123 Baby Box? We're here to unfurl the scroll of knowledge, to illuminate the path to clean and healthy baby ears. So gather round, parents of the realm, and let's venture forth together into the land of baby ear hygiene. Let us arm you with the wisdom you need, making this a quest where you will always emerge victorious!

Related: How to Bathe Your Newborn Baby

a close up of a baby’s ear

Why is Cleaning the Ears so Important?

Not only is cleaning the ears an important part of taking care of your baby’s hygiene, but it can cause some serious health problems if you do not do it. Letting your baby’s ears get dirty can lead to issues such as ear infections, hearing problems, and ear pain.

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What is Ear Wax?

Cerumen, commonly referred to as ear wax, is a waxy oil produced by glands located in the ear canal. Ear wax is made of a mixture of oils from the sebaceous and apocrine glands, combined with mostly dead skin cells. While it can sound pretty gross, ear wax protects your baby’s sensitive ears from dirt, germs, and debris while helping to keep your ears lubricated.

As helpful as ear wax is, it can cause a problem if there is a buildup that causes an impaction in the ear canal. This can cause loss of hearing, ear infections, and tinnitus, a chronic ringing in the ears.

What is an Ear Infection?

Acute otitis media, better known as an ear infection, is a common condition that babies are especially susceptible to. This condition is usually caused by bacteria or viruses that infect a little space behind the eardrum called the middle ear. Ear infections can be incredibly painful for babies and can cause serious harm if it is not treated properly.

Babies have Eustachian tubes that are much shorter and smaller than adults which means that there is more risk for impaction from smaller amounts of earwax buildup. It also gives germs an easier path to infect the baby’s middle ear. 

Related: Baby's First Bath: A Complete Guide

If your baby has an ear infection, you may notice your baby tugging at their affected ear, running a fever, having trouble sleeping, and increasing their fussy crying especially when they are lying down. If you notice these signs, especially the fever, make sure you talk to your baby’s pediatrician since antibiotics may be necessary to treat a severe infection.

What Are Other Common Causes of Ear Pain in Babies?

Ear pain is a common issue in babies that can be caused by issues such as an ear infection, impacted ear wax, baby allergies, and even teething! 

If you are flying with your baby, they can experience airplane ear. Airplane ear is a condition that is caused by the significant and sudden changes in air pressure that travelers experience on planes, especially during takeoff or landing. This change in cabin air pressure can trigger ear pain in babies.

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Babies with allergies can experience inflammation in the ear canal which can lead to irritation and pain. Since your baby’s Eustachian tubes are much shorter and more narrow than those of adults, they are vulnerable to allergies. Children that have nasal allergies grow up with an increased risk of developing asthma.

a baby tugging at their ear

Babies that are in the process of teething can have ear pain. This means that the pain of their teeth tearing through the gums can cause pain in their ears, making them cry and tug at their ears. Since the symptoms of both teething and ear infections can be similar, make sure you talk to your baby's pediatrician, especially if your baby has developed a fever.

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How to Clean a Baby’s Ear

Before you start, make sure you gather up everything you need which is a washcloth, cotton balls, warm water, and a clean, dry towel. 

Start by preparing a warm washcloth for your baby’s cleaning by wetting the cloth in warm water and wringing it out. You don’t have to get all the water out while wringing it, you just want it damp but not dripping.

a jar full of cotton balls


Use the warm, damp washcloth to gently wipe around your baby’s ears, concentrating on the area behind the ear and the outside portion of the ear. Wet a cotton ball with warm water and wipe the inner portions of the ear. Never insert anything in the baby’s ear.

Babies have extremely delicate and sensitive inner ear canals and even light pressure can cause serious damage. Cotton swabs often do more harm than good since they can cause an impaction of ear wax by pushing ear wax deeper into the ear canal. 

After cleaning, use a clean and dry towel to gently dry the area around the baby’s ears. If you notice any yellow or green discharge from your baby’s ear, make sure to call the pediatrician right away.

Final Thoughts

In our story of growing sprouts and budding love, tending to your baby’s ears regularly is a small chapter that contributes to the grand tale of their happiness and health.

In this tale, there's an important rule we must always heed. Picture a mysterious forest in the world of baby care - the ear canal. Our first instinct might be to venture deep into the forest with a trusty tool. But here's where our tale takes an unexpected turn.

The sage wisdom of generations speaks: "Never insert anything into the ear!" For this forest, my dear parents, is home to a delicate balance, one that could be disturbed easily. Any intrusion could risk more than just the serenity of this peaceful forest—it could turn our tale of joy into a story of discomfort for your little one.

As the pages of our parenting story continue to turn, we hope this guide from 123 Baby Box has become your friendly gnome, whispering the secrets of baby care into your ears, sharing the magic that keeps your baby healthy, clean, and safe.

So let's continue our journey, stride with confidence, knowing we are giving our best to our little ones, preserving their giggles, and nurturing their dreams. After all, we're writing one of the most important stories together—the story of their life.

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The blog posts for 123 Baby Box are typically written by content writers who specialize in parenting, child development, and health. These writers often have backgrounds in journalism, education, or healthcare, providing them with the expertise necessary to produce reliable and valuable content for parents.

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