12.1.3 Removal of ear wax

Wax is a normal bodily secretion and need only be removed if it causes deafness or interferes with a proper view of the ear drum. Syringing is best avoided in patients with a history of recurring otitis externa, a history of ear drum perforation, or previous surgery.

Sodium bicarbonate ear drops and olive oil are considered the standard first line products for the removal of ear wax.

NHS England (NHSE) has published new prescribing guidance for various common conditions for which over the counter (OTC) items should not be routinely prescribed in primary care (quick reference guide). One of these conditions is the build-up of earwax.

Many of these products are cheap to buy and are readily available OTC along with advice from pharmacies. Some self-care medicines are available from shops and supermarkets. Please click here for further information, exceptions, and a patient leaflet.

Some proprietary preparations contain organic solvents which may cause irritation e.g. Cerumol®, and are not recommended.

Olive Oil
  • Ear drops, olive oil in a suitable container
Sodium bicarbonate
  • Ear drops 5% (£1.25 = 10ml)


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