Two personal hygiene questions -- TMI warning

There’s no pretty way to say this. Is it a part of basic hygiene to squeeze your nose in a manner that makes white gunk squirt out of the pores? I know many people that do this, but I never have, am I missing out?

Also, is cleaning your ears with q-tips every day really necessary?

Read the q-tips container. It says never insert them in the ear canal.

If you have the opportunity for a good sweat on a regular basis, (exercise or sauna) then that’s as good as squeezing the gunk out. If you don’t do either, you may end up with enlarged pores/blackheads. Myself, I prefer a good sweat to squeezing.

As for cotton-swabbing, the folks that make them claim you should never put them in your ear canal. Probably just legal protection. Personally, I feel gross if I don’t clean my ears regularly. YMMV.

Regarding the Q-tip question…

It is not necessary to clean one’s ears with a q-tip. Take this from a former audiologist. Wax (the medical term is cerumen) is made by certain sebacious cells lining the outer ear. Its purpose is to keep foreign materials out of the ear, most commonly insects and, in the case of babies, peas :wink: . The skin cells of the outer ear have a natural migration outward - that is to say, the skin cells found deep in the outer ear today will have moved closer to the outer rim by tomorrow. Their migration outward carries the wax, thereby serviing as a “self-cleaning system”. Wax is disposed of little by litte on bed pillows and in the shower - one just doesn’t see it since it is usually in very small pieces. By using a q-tip, one is NOT helping their wax management cause, only hindering it by pushing whatever wax that has already migrated outward thus far right back in from where it originally came. Whatever wax one observes at the end of their daily q-tip is probably a small fraction of the amount that one has jammed back down.

I used to see at least one cerumen impaction per day caused by continuous q-tip use in my clinical office. I used to see at least one eardrum perforation per week due to aggressive q-tip use. When either of these conditions arise, an MD has to get involved - either by phyically removing the impacted wax by way of a liquid flush (oooo, cold!) or a pick (which, yes, can be uncomfortable) or an rather involved in-office procedure to patch the eardrum perforation if it’s too large a hole to heal over on its own.

Yes! That is the kind of information that keeps me stuck here at the SDMB.

Uh, on a related note, a few years ago, one of my ears filled up with nastiness from my sinuses when I flew a light aircraft while recovering from a flu, partially deafening me.

It was persistent, and I was far, far from civilization, in a very remote area. (Well, Winter Harbour, anyway.) I used a home remedy – filling the ear with vegetable oil (I think it was vegetable oil - maybe mineral oil? Wasn’t animal oil, anyway :)) , and draining it after 30 minutes.

After about a week, I could hear again.

Since then, I’ve wondered – was that an insane thing to do?
Did it likely help? Or was it just a post hoc kinda thing?

My old roomate used to our a cap full of poroxide into his ear, sit on his side for a couple minutes, and then rinse it out. Supposedly, that helped him, but I don’t really trust it.

I use q-tips, and whereas I used to get impacted wax back when I was about 13, I’ve learned how to use them fairly efficiently (basically, don’t push them back and fourth, but swirl them around the side of the ear, so you’re rubbing, not pushing…make any sense?). I haven’t had a problem since, and I use them probably every other day because I have a huge wax build up problem. Hey, they said TMI.

I’d just like to say that, c-of-cyn, that is one of the best, most informative, easy to understand replies to a GQ I have seen in a very long time.

Excellent! :slight_smile:

Omigod I am going to be ill…!

I know old pillows are sort of yellowish - but I always thought that was from saliva (gross enough). Now I am thinking it’s earwax - I’m never going to want to use a hotel pillow again - I am so grossed out… :eek:

Do you have large pores on your face? I have to to this maybe monthly… I can’t wear my facial piercings at work, and the nose is the one I really have to clean before dropping back in. A good squeeze is never a bad thing when you’re cleaning up, if you have white goo coming out, why wouldn’t you want to get rid of it?

If I get goo from the piercings, I know something is wrong-- Otherwise, I know it’s just me having human skin. Acne, blackheads, etc…


When I was swimming a lot, I got into the habit of using an over-the-counter ear wash consisting of boric acid and plain 70% isopropyl alcohol after swimming because I mostly swam in rivers and lakes. I still use the isopropyl after showering just out of habit. Is that good, bad,indifferent?

Remember kids to recycle your old pillows for use as yard candles.


I get that problem a lot and I usually get it cleared up within a week without use of oil. I just chew gum a lot, swallow hard, blow my nose a lot. You need to get the tubes opened up again and that stuff drains internally. I wouldn’t think that the external application of oil would assist in this, but I eagerly await c-of-cyn’s response.

I never liked using q-tips to clean my ears, but now I have a reason. thanks c-of-cyn :cool:

getting back to the nose part of the OT, what is that white gunk, and what is the recommended technique for removal? I rarely get whiteheads, blackheads, or zits on my nose; should I leave well-enough alone, or am I building up massive stores of crud in my skin that is going surface when I least expect it?

Actually, I’ve fought off ear infections with peroxide use, whether or not it is recommended. However, I diluted the peroxide by at least 3 parts water to one part peroxide. Any more hurt and was VERY loud.

Also, I’ve replaced cotton swabs with… [uh-oh]… pen caps. I simply scrape the inside of the ear to remove what I can. In principle it shouldn’t be pushing any of the wax back into the ear.

I love cleaning my ears. Feels so good… :slight_smile:

Funny you should mention that, El Elvis Rojo. When I have time, the ol’ half capful of peroxide in the ear trick works for me everytime. My mom used to make my brother and me clean our ears using that method when we were little.

You should give it a whirl sometime. It makes for a very clean ear!

Okay, TMI: I seem to have an overabundance of earwax—which allows me to do this cool party trick with string and a zippo, but that’s another story. Anyway, I never use q-tips, but I do clean the outside of my ears (I’m not a total barbarian), and every few months I have to use some over-the-counter ear wax removal drops and flush all that stuff out. Sometimes it’ll build up to the point that I have to have the doctor fire hose it out–not pleasant, but boy can I hear well afterwards! I’ve always wondered if there’s anything else I could do to prevent this nastiness from happening? Also, what’s with the white goo?

I would guess the white gunk is the buildup that accumulates in open pores. For some people, maybe it turns into pimples and in others it doesn’t? For example, not all my white-stuff-collecting-nose-areas develop into pimples, just some of them. Perhaps it’s dead skin.

I have a book by Paula Begoun called Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me; it’s kind of a Consumer Reports of cosmetics and skin care products. In the section about how to care for skin, she says that squeezing gently, so as to not break the skin or otherwise damage it, is fine. I think that may be accumulated oils that have clogged the pore, but I’m not sure at all.

Larry Mudd:
I’ve thought about this oil thing and tried to figure out some logic in it, and I’ve come to the decision that it was a post hoc sort of thing.

You’re right to assume that your trouble was caused by flying with a sinus infection. The pressure changes involved in changing altitude causes one’s Eustacian tubes to go into overdrive. Some of the mucous from your sinus area probably seeped into your middle ear cavity causing a dull quality to sound. The middle ear is normally an air-filled space, so once any sort of fluid gets in there (either by a Eustacian tube problem bringing in foreign matter from the sinus, water seeping in by way of an eardrum perforation, or in response to a middle ear bacterial infection) - well, just think of talking underwater. Your condition probably just took care of itself in time - all the middle ear fluid recessed back down the Eustacian tube to the back of your throat (<-- this part was especially mentioned to all you who are “grossed out”) :slight_smile: - and you just THOUGHT that the oil treatment was the cure. That’s my take on it, at least.
ageless 6:
This alcohol treatmet is just not necessary. It wasn’t even necessary when you were an avid lake and river swimmer. Whatever bacteria that may have gotten into your ears through that experience stayed in your outer ear (I’m assuming you didn’t have a eardrum perforation here) which is not very prone to infection. Infection IS possible, but not likely since the outer ear has been built to be “exposed the elements”. That’s why it has skin. Actually, most of the outer ear infections I saw started as lacerations to the thin skin (usually through aggressive q-tip use, btw) which went unchecked.

Continuing this relatively constant post-shower alcohol treatement is just plain overkill. Just letting some warm water run in and out of your ears a couple of times will do the trick. The alcohol exposure will only dry out your ear’s skin, thereby making your wax dryer, thereby making your wax more likely to get impacted (gooey wax moves out more easily, whereas crusty wax likes to stick to the ear walls). Then there’s the fact that dry skin becomes itchy skin, so you may be leading yourself down the path to which erislover has already succumbed: scratching that itch with pen caps (I shudder at the thought…my Dad uses a pencil!)
For my patients who had a chronic cerumen impaction problem, oil or peroxide treatment would be recommended (to “loosen things up”). It just isnt’ necessary otherwise. Peroxide flushed in and out of the outer ear really doesn’t affect much that goes on in the middle ear. Remember that these two sections are completely separated by the eardrum. Peroxide will not get into your middle ear cavity by way of the outer ear (unless, as I’ve said before, you have an eardrum perforation), and the middle ear is where most ear infections happen. While peroxide is less potent than alcohol, I think it will still take the same toll in the long run in drying out your skin and causing the above-mentioned problems.


Thanks; one more thing I can give up, this one easily.

Drinking alcohol(not isopropyl) was the hard part.

Welcome(to you and your knowledge) to the SDMB.