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How to safely remove water stuck in your ear

Try these easy, at-home remedies to drain water from your ear canal

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jessica Hinson

Writtenm by

Dr. Jessica Hinson

Updated:

May 13, 2024

The 3 key takeaways

  • Water usually drains on its own — While it’s an unnerving feeling, water trapped in the ear canal often resolves without any intervention.
  • Kids can be more likely to get water in their ears — This can be due to their smaller ear canals or simply from spending more time in the water during summer months.
  • Take steps to prevent recurring swimmers’ ear — If you’re in the pool a lot, taking preventative measures like wearing a swim cap or earplugs will prevent water from getting in the ear canal.

If you’ve experienced a clogged ear sensation directly after swimming or showering you may have water trapped in the eustachian tube, commonly known as the ear canal. This is a common experience, and the water usually drains out on its own. However, trapped water can lead to an infection known as swimmer’s ear or otitis externa. It’s important to remove the water as soon as possible to avoid discomfort and risk of infection.

How to get water out of your ear safely

If pesky water isn’t draining on its own, try some of these at-home remedies for a clear ear canal. Some techniques may not work for young people or those with a narrow ear canal. Check with a medical professional if you have perforated ear drums or tubes in your ears before trying any home remedies.

1. Tilt your head and let gravity do the work

Lay on your side with a towel under the ear with the trapped water. Oftentimes, laying in this position allows the water to release on its own with the help of gravity. You should feel the water coming out of your ear canal after just a few minutes.

2. The jiggling earlobe method

Tilt your head to the side, so the ear that is clogged is parallel to the ground, then gently tug on your earlobe. This movement shifts the ear canal and often releases the trapped water.

3. Jaw movement, chewing gum

Moving the jaw by yawning or chewing can shift the ear canal and cause the trapped water to come out. It usually helps to do this while tilting your head to the side of the blocked ear.

4. Using the vacuum method

In this method, use your hand to create suction to help pull the water out of the ear. Do this by gently pressing your palm against your outer ear to create a seal. Then, rapidly pull back and cup the palm of your hand. Do this a few times in rapid succession and tilt your head to encourage the water to drain.

5. How to use a blow dryer to remove water

You can evaporate moisture from the ear canal by using the warm air from a hair dryer. Always hold the blow dryer at least one foot away and on the lowest possible heat setting to avoid burning yourself. Gently tug your earlobe simultaneously to allow the maximum amount of heat to enter the ear canal.

6. Add more water (yes, really)

Adding more water into your ear can help draw the trapped water out of the ear canal. Use a clean dropper with warm water to irrigate the ear while lying on your side. After about a minute, turn your head to allow the water to drain out. You can repeat this process if necessary.

7. Over-the-counter alcohol-based ear drops

Ear drops containing alcohol are designed to evaporate the trapped water in the ear. They can also kill any bacteria that may be present. These drops are straightforward to use and can be purchased at most pharmacies and drug stores, but avoid using them if you have a perforated eardrum.

If you don’t have ear drops handy, an alternative and equally effective option is regular rubbing alcohol. Use a clean cotton ball to absorb the rubbing alcohol. Then, lay on your side and squeeze the alcohol into your ear. Wait a few minutes, then turn your head to release the liquid.

8. Olive oil

Similar to the adding water technique, some people swear by adding warm olive oil to the ear to encourage water drainage. The oil is thought to help soften any earwax that may be trapping the water. Always use a clean dropper and allow the oil to sit in the ear for a minute or two before tilting your head to let it drain out.

What NOT to do to remove water from your ear canal

Be extra cautious of at-home remedies if you have a history of ear infections or have tubes in your ears. Don’t put any liquid in your ears if you have a perforation or tubes unless prescribed by your doctor. You should never attempt to put a Q-tip or cotton swab in your ear canal, as they can cause further blockage. Even using your finger or nail too forcefully can cause damage to your ear canal. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide in the ear, as it is unlikely to help remove water from the ear canal.

When to seek medical attention

Fever, increasing discomfort, redness of the outer ear, ear pain, and pus draining from the ear are all symptoms of swimmer’s ear, meaning there is an infection that must be treated. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic ear drops along with pain medication. This usually helps clear the infection in about a week.

Conclusion

Trapped water in the ear canal usually resolves on its own, but it’s good to have a few tips and tricks for if it should happen to you. Remember, never put foreign objects in your ear, as they often cause more harm than good. Be sure to see a healthcare provider if you have signs of infection, such as pus draining from the ear or a fever.

Why trust us

All of our information has been medically reviewed and fact-checked by Dr. Jessica Hinson. Dr. Hinson holds her Doctor of Audiology degree and currently practices in an ENT office in Fairhope, Alabama, where she specializes in adult and pediatric audiology.

Frequently asked questions

Is water stuck in your ear canal dangerous?

Not usually, however, unclean water can have bacteria which may lead to an infection if left untreated.

Can water in the ear lead to any complications?

Yes, especially unclean water which contains bacteria can lead to an infection known as swimmer’s ear.

What's the fastest way to get water out of your ear?

Allow gravity to help by tilting your head to the side and gently tugging your earlobe.

Will water in your ear go away on its own?

Usually, yes, water drains from the ear canal on its own without any intervention.

How can I prevent water from entering my ears?

Wearing swim plugs or a swimming cap while in water and drying your ears thoroughly afterward can help prevent swimmer’s ear.