closeup of a persons hand using a dog ear wipe on a golden retriever why oxyfresh pet ear cleaner is a better solution

Dog Ear Wax Removal: Read This Before Reaching for the Dog Ear Wipes

Dog ear wipes are darn convenient ... but when it comes to removing itchy, stubborn ear wax, well, let’s just say they’re more participation ribbon versus trophy.
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As busy dog parents, we’re all looking for ways to simplify our lives. That’s why dog ear wipes are so pup-ular (sorry) ... you just swipe and go, without all the mess.

But when it comes to stubborn dog ear wax removal, they sadly come up short. This can spell bad news for dogs, especially those prone to ear infections. Keep reading for when to use ear wipes, effective alternatives and DIY disasters to avoid.

Why Dog Ear Wipes Fall Short in the Ear Cleaning Department

The problem with dog ear wipes is they’re not able to clean deep into a dog’s ear canal. Dog ear canals are long and narrow and then branch off into a right angle. (Picture an L shape.) Because of this unique shape, it’s impossible for a dog ear wipe to clean deep down in the dog’s ear canal where all the gunk and waxy buildup is. And if you try to go in too far with an ear wipe wrapped around your finger, not only can this cause trauma to the dog’s ear, but it can push the debris even farther into the ear canal.

This excess debris can easily lead to a dog ear infection. The ear canal lacks airflow as it is, and an abundance of ear wax makes it worse, which can cause yeast and bacteria to grow out of control. Bacteria and yeast overgrowth are the main causes of ear infections.

Are there any benefits to using dog ear wipes?

Yes! We’re not here to rain on the dog-ear-wipe parade. There IS value in using ear wipes as part of your dog’s grooming routine:

  • Instant aesthetic. If you’ve got unexpected guests coming by and you don’t have time to use a liquid cleaner on your dog’s ears, a good swipe will get their ears looking best-in-show worthy.
  • Odor control. Dog ear wipes help keep the ears smelling fresh. This is especially important if you have a dog that tends to produce a lot of ear wax, such as Spaniels, Poodles, Basset hounds, Bulldogs and Retrievers.
  • Convenient for on-the-go. If you’re on a camping trip or hike and your dog goes crazy playing in the dirt, ear wipes are an easy way to remove the debris, so people who give your dog a pet aren’t like, Eww, what’s up with their dirty ears?
  • Baby steps. Dog ear wipes can help ease your way into using a liquid ear cleaner. Some dogs don’t like having their ears handled, so this is like a baby step into the world of "big dog" ear cleaning.

Buying tip: If you want to try dog ear wipes, look for a brand that is alcohol free (no sting) and hypoallergenic with no fragrances or dyes. You don’t want ingredients in the wipe that will irritate your furry bestie’s ears. Their ear skin is thin and sensitive, so a dog ear wipe that’s safe and gentle is a must.

How to Make My Own Dog Ear Cleaning Wipes with Coconut Oil

If you have some extra time on your paws, and love to DIY, look no further than coconut oil to make your own dog ear wipe. Everyone is nuts for coconut oil because of its natural antibacterial and soothing benefits.

This makes it a fantastic homemade dog ear cleaner.


  • Pure, unrefined (virgin) coconut oil, preferably organic
  • Cotton ball, make-up remover pad, or soft cloth


  • Gently warm the coconut oil in a pan on low heat until it’s a liquid. (The liquid should NOT be hot.)
  • Dip your cotton ball, gauze pad, or cloth into the liquid.
  • Wipe the inside of your dog’s ear, being mindful not to go too deep.

Pro tip: If you’ve got a flat-faced dog breed like a boxer, you know they tend to get dry, crusty noses. Well, this can double-down as a snout soother too!

Don't invite tea tree oil to the homemade ear wipe party

Don’t add tea tree essential oil (or any essential oil) to your coconut ear wipe solution without first consulting your veterinarian. Tea tree oil, a natural antiseptic, is very potent and if not diluted properly, it can burn your dog’s skin and even be toxic. Many dogs have had adverse reactions to tea tree oil.

Additionally, dogs’ smell receptors are 40 times more powerful than ours, so if an essential oil smells off-putting to us, just imagine what it’s like for dogs. While humans love essential oils, dogs aren’t so keen on them, so only use them at the advice of your vet.

Why Liquid Ear Cleaners Are Superior for Dog Ear Wax Removal

While a small amount of pale-yellow wax is normal and even healthy for a dog’s ear, if the wax is excessive, this spells trouble, as too much ear wax is a cause of ear infections.

If your dog has stubborn wax buildup, removing it from deep in the ear canal is key, which a dog ear wipe won’t be able to do. (PSA: don’t stick your finger, a Q-tip or anything else in your dog’s ear. It will push the wax farther in and could damage your dog’s ear ... after all, sitting still is not one of dogs’ strong suits!)

A liquid ear clear will penetrate through stubborn waxy debris and dislodge it from the ear as the dog shakes their head after having the liquid in their ears. Is this process messier than using dog ear wipes? Absolutely, but it’s worth it to get a deep clean and help prevent bacteria and yeast overgrowth in their ears.

Homemade dog ear cleaner liquids: look before you leap!

As a rule, liquid homemade dog ear cleaners should only be used on the ear flap (NOT squirted into the ears) and ONLY if your dog does NOT have an ear infection or open cuts.

Because abundant ear wax is one of the signs of a canine ear infection, you'll want to be on alert for other symptoms like:

  • Excessive head shaking
  • Ear scratching
  • Strong ear odor (oftentimes yeasty)
  • Rubbing the ears on the ground or other surfaces
  • Ear skin looks red or inflamed
  • Not wanting to be touched around the ears

If your dog has an ear infection or ruptured eardrum, ingredients in homemade dog ear cleaners can make the situation worse and really hurt your dog. For example, many homemade dog ear cleaners call for vinegar. Vinegar is acidic. If you’ve ever had a cut on your hands and squeezed a lemon, then you know: acid + cuts = OUCH.

Dogs who are scratching their ears due to itchy wax buildup or infection often get small cuts and abrasions in their ears. So imagine having an acidic liquid dumped on the wounds. Not only does this hurt ... it can completely terrify your dog and make handling or cleaning their ears that much more difficult in the future. Same story for hydrogen peroxide and alcohol. These ingredients in homemade dog ear cleaners really sting and can cause further irritation to your dog’s ears.

The bottom line: if you’re interested in using a homemade dog ear cleaner, ask your vet first and follow the recipe THEY advise.

How to Clean Dog Ears with Liquid Ear Cleaner

When it’s time to clean your dog’s ears, make sure you’re prepared and that you have a level of patience that would make your mom proud. On paper (or screen), how to clean dog ears sounds easy-peasy, but it can be challenging the first few times until you and your dog get the hang of it. Stick with it: it’ll be worth it for your dog’s ear health and comfort.

Steps to clean your dog's ears:

  • Pick a time & location. Make sure your dog is calm, like after a walk. If possible, clean their ears in an area of the house where you don’t have nice furniture or a priceless masterpiece hanging on the wall. It can get messy! Outside also works well, weather permitting.
  • Gather your supplies. You’ll need a liquid ear cleaner (make sure the cap is open and ready to go); cotton balls, gauze pads, or a cloth; and TREATS!
  • Keep your dog still. When you’re first starting out, it helps to make this a two-person job. For small dogs, you can wrap your arm around them, whether they’re on your lap (backside facing you), table or counter. For larger dogs, have your dog lie on their side, paws facing away from you. Gently set your knee on your dog’s shoulder and use one hand to gently hold your dog’s head. (You can have your +1 feed your dog treats as a distraction during all this.) If getting your dog to lie down is impossible, put them in a sit, preferably in a corner so they can’t bolt and then kneel or bend down to the side of them. If all this sounds like a game of Twister, don’t worry. You’ll find what works best for you. Tip: Talk calmly during ear cleaning. Never yell at your dog or restrain them aggressively or they’ll develop a negative association with ear cleaning.
  • Squirt the liquid ear cleaner into your dog's ear. Do one ear at a time (unless you’re a total showoff or seasoned pro). Hold your dog’s ear flap – pull it slightly up and out to straighten the ear canal and then add the liquid ear cleaner into the ear.
  • Massage. Massage the base of your pup’s ear for 30 seconds to get the solution moving throughout the ear canal. Hearing a squishy sound is totally normal, BTW.
  • Stand back. Let your pet shake, shake, shake, then wipe away any remaining solution from their ears with a soft cloth, cotton ball or gauze. Then it’s time to do the other ear.
  • Treat. Always give a treat after ear cleaning, even if it didn't go well. This will build a positive association with it.

Best Liquid Ear Cleaner for Sensitive Dog Ears

It’s important that dog ear wax removal is a pampering, no-sting experience for pets. So avoid any liquid ear cleaners with alcohol, peroxides (they bubble and freak pets out) or fragrances. Fragrances serve no purpose other than to mask odors. And they can really irritate pets’ ears.

The top-dog ear cleaner veterinarians, dog groomers, and pet parents trust is USA-made Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner. This is an ultra-gentle, hypoallergic liquid ear cleaner that blows dog ear wipes out of the water!

Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner loosens and removes stubborn ear wax like magic, instantly soothes irritation, and best of all, NEVER stings your dog’s delicate ears. Just be sure to duck for cover: you’ll be amazed (and oddly satisfied) by all the gunk that comes flying out of your dog’s ears.

Gonna wax poetic about this dog ear wax removal solution

  • Loosens & removes deep-down ear wax like magic
  • Immediate soothing relief from itching & head shaking
  • Formulated for sensitive dog ears: no alcohol, dyes or peroxides
  • Eliminates smelly ear odors without fragrance coverups
  • Works better than dog ear wipes (you’ll know by all the gross stuff that comes out)

Make Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner an essential part of your grooming routine: your dog will thank you!

melissa gulbranson oxyfresh cmo

Meet the Author

Melissa Gulbranson is the Co-Chief Operating Officer & Chief Marketing Officer for Oxyfresh. A recipient of the Pet Age's "Women of Influence" Award, she’s passionate about educating pet parents in ways that really resonate with them. Melissa loves days on the lake and hiking with her fur kid, Parker, and husband, Doug. Parker (a total ham) can be spotted running laps through the office each morning, greeting every team member. You can find Parker near the treats, and Melissa on Linkedin.