How to Unclog Ears After Swimming

By Max. D Gray. Updated: June 12, 2017
How to Unclog Ears After Swimming

We humans may be land dwellers, but going for a swim in water is one of the best types of aerobic exercise (cardio) we can get. Using our whole body to tone and strengthen a variety of muscles while significantly improving blood circulation. Although this will contribute to our good health, we need to be careful we don't end up worse off than before we went into the water. Having water trapped in your ears is common, but in severe cases it can lead to otitis externa (also known as swimmer's ear), an infection which can turn nasty in acute cases. This is particularly so in public swimming pools where myriad strands of bacteria may be present. oneHOWTO tells you how to unclog ears after swimming to reduce the chance of infection.

You may also be interested in: How to Get Water out of Your Ear
Steps to follow:

The first thing to do when you feel a little water clogged in your ear is nothing. Often it will unclog itself as you move about. Do not get frustrated and agitated. As tempting as it might be to stick your finger or a cotton bud in there, it won't help and could even cause damage to your ear canal. This is mainly because the water is much deeper than we think and trying to rummage around can cause agitation of the canal or even perforation of the ear drum.

If we find water trapped in our ear after swimming, we may feel the urge to use at hand. unless we are fortunate enough to have our own swimming pool, this means we only have what we bring to the public pool. Some people try to push the corner of a towel or cloth in their ear to remove the water, but this is very dangerous.

There is an idiom you may have heard, "don't put anything in your ear bigger than your elbow". The essential meaning is that you shouldn't put anything in your ear at all. Even cotton swabs which people use to remove collected ear wax should only be used to clean the outside of the ear and not to be pushed down into the canal. Even this use has offered little in the way of medical benefit, but has certain medical concerns. It is thought that it is the leading cause of otitis externa in children, so whether you have water clogged in your ear or not, do not try to rummage in your ear.

How to Unclog Ears After Swimming - Step 1

Another proposed way to unclog ears after swimming is to use a hair dryer. It says to hold a hair dryer about a foot away from your ear, set it on the lowest setting and tug on your ear as you waft the air into it. However, this is at best ineffective and at worst dangerous. Blowing hot air into your ear can cause a lot of damage, especially if it's on high and close to the ear. The reasoning many people give for this effectiveness is because the hair dryer will heat up the water and evaporate it, but having heated up water in your ear canal with all those sensitive pieces of ear equipment is very dangerous.

Some suggest creating a vacuum to help suck the water out of your ear. This is a legitimate method for removing build up or obstructions in your ear canal. However, it is only to be done by medical professionals. if you try to unclog your ears after swimming by creating suction, you run the risk of great damaging your ear drum. Even the over the counter ear suction equipment you can buy is ill-advised as many report it not being strong enough to make any difference.

Ear candles are another way some claim effective if you want to unclog your ears after swimming. However, there is little to no medical evidence to back this up. Again, it is a procedure which can do more harm than good. Even as a means to remove ear wax it is ineffective as the residue left in the ear after use tends to be from the candle itself.

A heating compress (heat can damage the ear), hydrogen peroxide (not advisable for putting into the ear canal), garlic or olive oil (both ineffective) are similar home remedies which we do not advise trying when you want to unclog your ears after swimming.


The first way you should try to unclog your ears after swimming is the simplest. After you get out of the swimming pool and have given your ear time to unclog naturally, try to lie on the side which has the water clogged inside. Stay there for about 5 minutes without attempting to jerk the water out.

The water should be able to release itself fairly easily. If it does, and you have water blocked in your other ear also, turn over to the other side and repeat the same instructions. If it does not leave after 10 minutes, gravity may not be enough to unclog water from ears after swimming.

How to Unclog Ears After Swimming - Step 3

If laying your head on its side alone doesn't work, then you can try adopting the same position and moving your head slightly to stimulate the flow of water. Again, do not jerk or move violently as this can also be more damaging than beneficial.

If this does not work, you can try tugging gently on your ear. Do not do it fast and/or had. Instead, pull the ear lob down gently to try to enlarge your ear hole and then tilt your head down. This should help encourage the water to escape as you have now provide an easy way out. Some people may have small benign growths in their ear which we are unable to see. If this is the case, these techniques may not be helping to unclog ears after swimming. The best advice is to seek a doctor's opinion.

You can also try chewing gum or sucking on a boiled sweet to help clear out the Eustachian tubes. This is similar to the Valsalva manoeuvre, a procedure whereby you hold your nose and mouth closed and try to release pressure through the ears. This could be useful, but do not try to hard. If you blow too hard and try to unclog water in your ears, you may end up damaging these tubes.

For more information take a look at how to get water out of your ear.


You may have seen parents after a trip to the swimming pool holding their children's head and dropping something into the ear with a pipette. This is a technique which involves putting a solution of rubbing alcohol mixed with white vinegar. How it works to unclog ears after swimming, is the alcohol helps the water in your ear canal evaporate more quickly. The acidity of the vinegar can also help break down waxy build ups.

To use this method of unclogging ears after swimming, mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Use a pipette to suck up some drops of the solution and drop several into the ear canal. This can also help prevent infection as the alcohol will help break down bacteria in the ear canal. Make up a solution before you go swimming as a precaution.


If you do not find any relief from water clogged ears after swimming, then you should seek a doctor's advice. They will be able to have a look and see if there is any underlying problem or risk of infection. If they do find an infection or a case of swimmer's ear, they will be able to treat it with ear drops containing anti-fungal solution or antibiotics.

How to Unclog Ears After Swimming - Step 6

As is always the case, prevention is better than cure. Ear plugs designed for swimmers are the best way to prevent water from getting in your ear by creating a physical barrier between the water and the ear canal. They are often aerodynamic and are held together by a cord or elastic. It is advisable not to use any old ear plugs as they are likely to get lost and may not be effective in preventing water coming in.

It is the owner of the pool's responsibility to keep it clean and well maintained. If it is obvious that the water is dirty, do not swim in it. If you are unsure, you could take a pH balance test.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Unclog Ears After Swimming, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.

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