It’s likely you’ve seen the news articles and website posts regarding cotton swabs and how they should not be used to remove earwax from your ear canal. That’s good advice when it comes to what not to do, but what if you feel as if your ears need a little help now and then? Even though our ears are self-cleaning, sometimes earwax can build up and requires removal. Here are some safe ways to clean your ears.

1. Use warm water

Because earwax is water soluble, warm water can soften it up. You can use warm water in the shower to do this. Tilt your head to one side and run some water in your ear canal, then tilt in the opposite direction so the water flows out. Avoid getting too close to the shower head – you don’t want water to spray into your ear. In a bath, you can use a wet washcloth by squeezing it and allowing water to drip into your ear canal.

2. Use a saline solution

Sometimes a little bit of salinity in the water helps to remove earwax. It’s best to make your own solution instead of the bottled saline. Completely dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a half-cup of warm water. Soak a cotton ball in the saline solution, tilt your head and then use the saturated cotton to drip the salt water into your ear. Allow the water to stay in your ear for a few minutes, then tilt in the opposite direction to drain out the saline. Do this for each ear.

3. Try hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide also works to soften earwax. You’ll want to use the kind in the brown bottle, which is three percent hydrogen peroxide. Fill a bowl with warm water and use it to warm the bottle itself. Do not use a microwave to warm the hydrogen peroxide because strong heat can turn it into plain water. If you don’t want to use the hydrogen peroxide straight, you can mix it 50-50 with warm water. Once the solution is at a comfortable temperature, use an ear dropper or cotton ball to drip it in your ear and proceed as described above.

4. Use an oil softener

Baby oil, glycerin, mineral oil and olive oil can soften earwax. Warm the oil a bit by placing the bottle in a bowl of warm water. When the oil is at a comfortable temperature, use an ear dropper to put about three or four drops in each ear. If you want to do both ears at once, use cotton balls to keep the oil from dripping out. After about 10 minutes, tilt your head to allow the oil to trickle out. Use a washcloth or cotton ball to remove any excess oil in your outer ear.

These are safe ways to clean your ears and remove earwax at home. If you have pain, odor or constant itching, you may have an earwax impaction or infection and should see a health care professional.

Additionally, before trying the above methods, don’t hesitate to reach out to your hearing provider to determine if they are necessary or recommended for your particular auditory system.