How To Unblock Clogged Ears Naturally – 8 Home Remedies To Try

From tea tree oil to Vicks Vaporub – there are tons of ways to unblock stuffy ears!

Medically reviewed by Dr. Millie Lytle, ND, MPH Dr. Millie Lytle Dr. Millie LytleND, MPH facebook_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc Shaheen Naser MSc Experience: 3 years
Edited by , BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Arshiya Syeda BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English) Dipti Sharma MA (English) Experience: 2 years

Your ears may get clogged for a variety of reasons. This can result in pain and discomfort, as well as hearing loss. This is where natural remedies to unblock clogged ears come into the picture. Keep reading to learn more about the most common causes of clogged ears, their signs and symptoms, home remedies to treat them, how to prevent them, and when you should see a doctor. Keep reading!

What Causes A Clogged Ear?

Woman suffering with clogged ear
Image: Shutterstock

Clogged ears can disrupt the balance, affect hearing, and also cause pain and discomfort. Both internal and external factors can trigger the condition. They include:

  • Barotrauma – It occurs when your ears can’t adapt to the changing pressure on an airplane (1).
  • Ear Infection (Otitis Media) – It is a result of fluid build-up in the ears that may cause virus or bacteria to multiply (2). A cold or flu often triggers an ear infection.
  • Earwax Impaction – It occurs due to an excessive production of earwax, which causes a build-up of wax in the ear canal (3).
  • Presence of a foreign object like cotton inside the ear
  • Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis externa) – This condition results from water being trapped in the ear (4).
  • Smoking

Some of the lesser common causes of ear congestion are migraines and spontaneous cerebrospinal fluidi  XA colorless and clear body fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and the brain and protects them from injuries. (CSF) leakage.

A study showed that an eustachian tube dysfunction can cause clogged ears. This dysfunction is commonly seen in children affecting nearly 90% of them globally. It impacts close to 1% of the adult population with more males younger than 20 years commonly diagnosed with it. Women tend to be affected by it at an older age.

Signs And Symptoms

Woman suffering with ear pain
Image: Shutterstock

The common signs and symptoms associated with clogged ears include:

  • A sensation of pressure in the ears
  • Muffled hearing
  • Ear pain
  • Earache
  • A feeling of fullness in the affected ear
  • Ringing in one or both ears
  • Loss of balance or dizziness
  • Decreased hearing
  • Cough

A clogged ear can indicate fluid build-up in the ear, especially if the person already has a cold or flu. This can increase the risk of developing an ear infection.

Clogged ears can be quite discomforting and may affect your day-to-day life. However, there are several home remedies that may help in unclogging blocked ears. Let’s take a look at them.

8 Home Remedies To Clean Clogged Ears

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar in a glass bottle
Image: Shutterstock

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which can heal chronic suppurative otitis mediai  X A common childhood infectious disease that causes deep ear pain, fever, ear discharge, and hearing impairment.  (5).

It also possesses antimicrobial properties (6). These properties can help with a cold or flu that may have contributed to your clogged ears.

You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of distilled water
  • A dropper
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix one tablespoon each of apple cider vinegar and distilled water.
  2. Using a dropper, pour three to four drops of the solution in the affected ear.
  3. Cover the ear using a cotton ball and tilt your head to the opposite side.
  4. Stay in the position for about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the cotton.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1-2 times daily.

2. Tea Tree Essential Oil

Tea tree essential oil in a glass bottle
Image: Shutterstock

Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (7). These activities of tea tree oil can help reduce inflammation inside the ear and fight the infectious microbes that could be clogging your ear.

You Will Need
  • 4-5 drops of tea tree oil
  • Hot water
  • A large bowl
What You Have To Do
  1. Add four to five drops of tea tree oil to a bowl of hot water.
  2. Lean towards the bowl, with the affected ear facing the steam from the water.
  3. Cover your head with a large towel or blanket to prevent the steam from escaping.
  4. Do this for 10 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1-2 times daily.

3. Vicks VapoRub

Vicks VapoRub contains eucalyptus oil and menthol that possess both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (8), (9). This may help clear clogged ears caused due to inflammation or infection.

You Will Need

Vicks VapoRub (as required)

What You Have To Do
  1. Take a little Vicks on your fingertip.
  2. Apply it behind the affected ear.
  3. Leave it on overnight.
  4. Alternatively, you can also put some Vicks in a bowl of hot water and allow its steam to enter your ears.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this once daily.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is cerumenolytici  XAn agent or property that helps soften ear wax, making it easier to remove it and cleanse the ears. and can help in softening the earwax, making it easy to remove. Hydrogen peroxide may be as effective as any other ear drops for clearing ears clogged due to earwax build-up (10).

You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 tablespoon of distilled water
  • A dropper
  • Tissues
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix a tablespoon each of 3% hydrogen peroxide and distilled water.
  2. Using a dropper, put two to three drops of the solution in the affected ear.
  3. Let the solution sit inside your ear for about 5 minutes.
  4. Blot your ear with a tissue.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this once daily for 4-5 days to clear the earwax build-up.

Caution: Consult a doctor before carrying out this procedure. Avoid it if you have an ear infection.

A YouTuber from the channel JMG ENTERPRISES, demonstrates how to use hydrogen peroxide safely for removing earwax, claiming it helps him save money and avoid the discomfort he feels during medical earwax removal procedures. He shares, “Sometimes I’ve had it where a small pea-sized piece of wax fell out of my ear, not to be gross but it just, I could hear everything. It was like superhuman hearing, it was amazing (i).” He has been using this remedy for the past 5-6 years.

5. Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is an excellent option if you are trying to unclog ears that are clogged due to earwax build-up. It is as effective as water-based ear drops in helping to get rid of earwax build-up (11).

You Will Need
  • Mineral oil (as required)
  • A dropper
  • Tissues
What You Have To Do
  1. Using a dropper, put two to three drops of mineral oil in the affected ear.
  2. Tilt your head and allow the oil to work on your clogged ear for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Blot your ear with a tissue.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily for 2-3 days.

6. Warm Compress

A warm compress can help reduce the pain caused due to clogged ears. The steam from the compress can enter the ear canal and loosen the earwax build-up, making it easier to remove.

You Will Need

A warm compress

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply a warm compress below the affected ear for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Alternatively, you can also use the steam from hot water on the affected ear.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 2-3 times daily.

7. Gargle Salt Water

Salt water in a glass
Image: Shutterstock

Gargling with water (with/without salt) may help prevent upper respiratory infections (12). It can also help ease symptoms of nasal congestion and clogged ears associated with a cold or flu.

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of table salt
  • 1 glass of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of table salt to a glass of warm water.
  2. Mix well and gargle with the solution.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this multiple times daily.

8. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can help prevent cerumen impactioni  XThe accumulation of earwax that blocks the ear canal and causes ear pain, dizziness, and decreased hearing. (13). This, in turn, can prevent the clogging of ears.

You Will Need

3-4 drops of rubbing alcohol

What You Have To Do
  1. Put two to three drops of rubbing alcohol with a dropper in the affected ear.
  2. Tilt your head and blot your ear with a tissue
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this once a day

9. Passive Techniques

If you are in an airplane or traveling to a hill station, you may experience blocked ears. Wondering how to unblock your ears in such situations? Some passive techniques may help:

  • Yawning – Let out a yawn until you hear a pop in your ears. It will clear the pressure built up inside your ears.
  • Swallowing – Swallowing can also help clear blocked ears in an elevated area.
  • Chewing – Chewing gum can also help.
  • Valsalva maneuver – Take a deep breath and pinch your nose soon after. Exhale from your nose with your mouth closed. This is the Valsalva maneuver that can help in popping blocked ears (14).

So, this is how to open a blocked ear at home. All the above remedies are quite effective. However, there are some other treatment options available to unblock clogged ears. Scroll down to know in detail.

Treatment Options For Clogged Ears

Here are some potential treatment options for clogged ears:

  • Over-The-Counter Ear Drops: Using over-the-counter ear drops, containing ingredients like hydrogen peroxide or glycerin, may help soften the ear wax, making it easy to remove.
  • Ear Irrigation: It is also known as ear flushing. Your healthcare provider uses a syringe to irrigate the ear with warm water to remove hardened ear wax.
  • Over-The-Counter Nasal Spray: If your clogged ear is due to nasal congestion, you may use a nasal spray to alleviate the condition. It may unclog your ear by relieving blockage and related inflammation.
  • Medications: Your healthcare provider may suggest antibiotics to treat the underlying infection if the blocked ears are the result of an ear infection.

These are some treatment options for clogged ears. However, there are also some precautions that you may have to follow to prevent your ears from clogging.

How To Prevent Clogged Ears

  • Avoid cotton swabs or tools to clean your inner ear as it can push the earwax deeper in.
  • Avoid candling. It is a procedure that uses a cone-shaped candle to pull out excess earwax. However, it doesn’t work, and people are quite likely to burn their hands or ears while doing so.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Keep your nasal passage moist.
  • Remove any water or foreign object that may have entered your ears.
  • Remove any excess wax every now and then to avoid excess wax buildup.
  • Blow your nose to get rid of trapped mucus in the ears as well as chest.
  • Wear earplugs while swimming or bathing. This can help reduce the risk of water entering deep into the ear canal.
protip_icon Quick Tip
Avoid airplane-related barotrauma by using a nasal decongestant an hour before taking off and before landing.

When To See A Doctor For Clogged Ears

Dr. Carlos Green, MD, Otolaryngology Specialist, says, “Prolonged clogged ears greater than 5 months should be evaluated by an ENT to check the hearing process and rule out other dangerous causes.”

In addition, if the above remedies and tips fail to unblock your ears, consult your doctor immediately. Check if your condition is accompanied by the below symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Pain in the ear, head, or face
  • Swelling in the ear, head, or face
  • Symptoms that last for a week or keep recurring

Experts of otorhinolaryngology and audiology can aid in understanding the problems associated with clogged ears and to what extent they may be harmful or otherwise.

Infographic: 4 Easy Natural Ways To Unblock Clogged Ears At Home

Clogged ears not only leave you with a stuffy feeling, but they cause earwax build-up and can be painful. Natural home remedies may bring some relief by unblocking clogged ears within a few minutes.

Check out the infographic below to know the 4 best simple and effective remedies to unblock clogged ears.

4 easy natural ways to unblock clogged ears at home (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

protip_icon Quick Tip
An acoustic neuroma (a non-cancerous tumor on the nerve that leads from the inner ear to the brain) can also cause clogged ears.

Clogged ears may seem inconvenient and cause pain and discomfort as well. The above mentioned home remedies, tips, and tricks can help unblock clogged ears safely and easily. Apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, warm compress, and even Vicks VapoRub are some of the common ingredients that can provide you some initial relief from clogged ears.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can covid cause blocked ears?

Dr. Green says, “Yes. Covid, as well as any virus that causes rhinorrhea (runny nose) and nasal obstruction, are the most common causes of clogged ears.”

What medicines will treat clogged ears?

Over-the-counter painkillers and decongestants like nasal sprays or tablets are often prescribed to help with clogged ears and their symptoms.

Why is my ear clogged after swimming?

If your ears are clogged and infected after swimming, the condition is known as swimmer’s ears. It is caused when water gets trapped in the ears.

What to do when your ear is clogged?

Try out any of the above tips and remedies to get rid of clogged ears. If nothing seems to help, see a doctor immediately to rule out the possibility of any serious underlying medical condition.

Will a clogged ear unclog itself?

Yes, a clogged ear may unclog by itself within hours or days. However, you can try home remedies to fasten this process.

Why has my ear suddenly gone muffled?

The muffled hearing may be caused by a clogged ear or congestion from the common cold.

Will a hot shower unclog my ears?

A hot shower may help get steam into your ear canal and unclog the ears. Therefore, you can try taking a hot shower to unclog your ears.

Can a hair dryer unclog ears?

Yes, the heat from a hair dryer may help evaporate water and unclog ears. You may keep your blow dryer to its lowest setting and hold it about a foot away from your ear and move it in a back-and-forth motion. However, it may not be a safe option to try.

Key Takeaways

  • Ear congestion can be caused by many factors, such as ear infections, cold, or accumulation of water or ear wax.
  • Using mineral oil, tea tree essential oil, or warm compress can loosen ear wax and relieve congestion.
  • Gargling with salt and water can also help relieve nasal congestion and ease clogged ears.
  • Passive techniques, such as chewing gum or yawning can also help relieve ear congestion.
unblock clogged ears

Image: Dall·E/StyleCraze Design Team

Discover the secrets to naturally unclogging your ears using simple home remedies, as showcased in this informative video! Check it out!


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Barotrauma. Injury, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  2. Update on otitis media – prevention and treatment, Infection and Drug Resistance, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  3. Earwax Impaction: Symptoms, Predisposing Factors and Perception among Nigerians, Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  4. Acute otitis externa, Paediatrics & Child Health, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  5. The Management of Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media With Acid Media Solution, The American Journal of Otology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  6. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression, Scientific Reports, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  7. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties, Clinical Microbiology Reviews, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  8. Immune-modifying and Antimicrobial Effects of Eucalyptus Oil and Simple Inhalation Devices, Alternative Medicine Review, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  9. Mechanisms of Antibacterial Action of Three Monoterpenes, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  10. Ear Drops for the Removal of Ear Wax, The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  11. The effectiveness of topical preparations for the treatment of earwax: a systematic review, British Journal of General Practice, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  12. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence, CMAJ, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  13. A prospective study to evaluate the efficacy of isopropyl alcohol irrigations to prevent cerumen impaction. Ear, Nose, & Throat Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  14. Eustachian Tube Function in Adults Without Middle Ear Disease, The Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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