How To Get Water Out Of Ears

How To Get Water Out Of Ears
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Usually, the water drains out on its own. If it doesn’t, the trapped water may lead to an ear infection. This type of ear infection in the external auditory canal of your outer ear is called swimmer’s ear.

12 Ways to Get Water Out of Your Ear

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Remove excess water from your ears with methods like blow drying, using different types of ear drops, performing the Valsalva maneuver, and even adding more water.

Although swimming is often the cause, you can get water trapped in your ear canal from any exposure to water. If this happens, you may feel a tickling sensation in your ear. This feeling may extend to your jawbone or throat. You may also not be able to hear as well or only hear muffled sounds.

Usually, the water drains out on its own. If it doesn’t, the trapped water may lead to an ear infection. This type of ear infection in the external auditory canal of your outer ear is called swimmer’s ear.

It’s not hard to get water out of your ear on your own. These 12 tips can help.

If water gets trapped in your ear, you can try several at-home remedies for relief:

1. Jiggle your earlobe

This first method may shake the water out of your ear right away.

Gently tug or jiggle your earlobe while tilting your head in a downward motion toward your shoulder.

You can also try shaking your head from side to side while in this position.

2. Make gravity do the work

With this technique, gravity should help the water drain from your ear.

Lie on your side for a few minutes, with your head on a towel to absorb the water. The water may slowly drain out of your ear.

3. Create a vacuum

This method will create a vacuum that may draw the water out.

  1. Tilt your head sideways, and rest your ear onto your cupped palm, creating a tight seal.
  2. Gently push your hand back and forth toward your ear in a rapid motion, flattening it as you push and cupping it as you pull away.
  3. Tilt your head down to allow the water to drain.

4. Use a blow dryer

The heat from a blow dryer can help evaporate the water inside your ear canal.

  1. Turn on your blow dryer to its lowest setting.
  2. Hold the hair dryer about a foot away from your ear and move it in a back-and-forth motion.
  3. While tugging down on your earlobe, let the warm air blow into your ear.

5. Try alcohol and vinegar eardrops

Alcohol can help evaporate the water in your ear. It also works to eliminate the growth of bacteria, which can help prevent infection. If the trapped water occurs due to earwax buildup, the vinegar may help remove it.

  1. Combine equal parts alcohol and vinegar to make eardrops.
  2. Using a sterile dropper, apply three or four drops of this mixture into your ear.
  3. Gently rub the outside of your ear.
  4. Wait 30 seconds, and tilt your head sideways to let the solution drain out.

Don’t use this method if you have any of these conditions:

  • a middle ear infection
  • a perforated eardrum
  • tympanostomy tubes (eardrum tubes)

6. Use hydrogen peroxide eardrops

Hydrogen peroxide solutions can help clear debris and earwax, which may be trapping water in your ear. You can find eardrops online that use a combination of urea and hydrogen peroxide, called carbamide peroxide, to unclog earwax in the ears.

Don’t use this method if you have any of these conditions:

  • signs of injury or infection such as pain, swelling, warmth, drainage, bleeding from ear
  • a middle ear infection
  • a perforated eardrum
  • tympanostomy tubes (eardrum tubes)

7. Try olive oil

Olive oil can also help prevent infection in your ear, as well as repel water out.

  1. Warm some olive oil in a small bowl. Place a few drops on your inner wrist to test the temperature.
  2. Using a clean dropper, place a few drops of the oil into the affected ear.
  3. Lie on your other side for about 10 minutes, and then sit up and tilt the ear downward. The water and oil should drain out.

8. Try more water

This technique may sound illogical, but it can actually help draw water out of your ear.

  1. Lying on your side, fill the affected ear with water using a clean dropper.
  2. Wait 5 seconds and then turn over, with the affected ear facing down. All of the water should drain out.

9. Take over-the-counter medication

A number of over-the-counter (OTC) eardrops are also available. Most are alcohol-based and can help reduce moisture in your outer ear canal, as well as kill bacteria or remove earwax and debris.

How to Get Water Out of Your Ear

Claire Gillespie is an experienced health and wellness writer. Her work appears across several publications including SELF, Women’s Health, Health, Vice, Verywell Mind, Headspace, and The Washington Post.

Updated on October 31, 2022
Medically reviewed by

Lyndsey Garbi, MD, is a practicing pediatrician and assistant professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

You don’t have to be a swimmer to get water trapped in your ear canal. It can happen after any type of exposure to water, and it’s fairly obvious when it does. You may experience a tickling sensation in your ear, and it can affect your hearing as well.

In most cases, the water drains out of the ear on its own pretty quickly. But if it stays trapped, it can be very annoying and could lead to an ear infection known as swimmer’s ear.


“Swimmer’s ear is an infection of your outer ear canal, which is bone and cartilage covered by skin and runs from your tympanic membrane (ear drum) to the outside of your head,” Christopher Thompson, MD, an otolaryngologist with Providence Mission Hospital in Orange County, Calif., told Health.

Water in your ear can result in either a bacterial infection or a fungal infection, and it’s most often caused by water that remains in your ear canal, possibly trapped behind cerumen (ear wax). This moist environment allows bacteria or fungus to grow, Dr. Thompson explained.

Luckily, it’s not difficult to get water out of your ear on your own. Here are some things you can do when water is trapped in your ear.

Tilt Your Head

The quickest and easiest way to get water out of your ear is simply to change your head position by tilting it, Daniel Jethanamest, MD, director of the division of otology and neurotology in the department of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at NYU Langone, told Health.

To help draw the water out of your ear, create a vacuum by tilting your head sideways and resting your ear on your cupped palm to form a tight seal. Then move your hand back and forward, quickly but gently. Keep your head tilted until the water drains out of your ear. You could also lie on your side for a few minutes with your head on a towel to absorb the water.

Gently Pull on the Ear

Another simple way to get water out of your ear is to gently tug on your earlobe toward the back or downward, Dr. Jethanamest said. “This can often move the cartilage of the ear canal, making it straighter to encourage the water roll out,” Dr. Jethanamest explained. “Physicians gently pull on the ear this way when we want to examine the ear and tympanic membrane.” While doing this, you could gently shake your head from side to side too.

Flush Your Ear Out

If gravity and movement don’t work, you could try to flush your ear out with a 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar, using a dropper or small syringe, Dr. Thompson said. “The rubbing alcohol helps dry up the ear and the vinegar creates an acidic environment that bacteria do not like to grow in,” Dr. Thompson explained.

Apply three or four drops of the mixture into your ear, then gently rub the outside of your ear. After 30 seconds, tilt your head to the side to let the mixture drain out. Be aware that you shouldn’t use this method if you have an outer ear infection, perforated eardrum, or tympanostomy tubes (eardrum tubes).

Use a Hair Dryer

To help air-dry your ear, you could try using a hair dryer on a very low/cool setting, Dr. Jethanamest suggested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that you should keep the hair dryer inches away from your ear. While moving it back and forth, gently tug down on your earlobe.

Dissolve Wax With Hydrogen Peroxide

If you feel like you’ve got a buildup of wax as well as trapped water in your ear, Dr. Jethanamest recommended using a dropper to insert hydrogen peroxide solution into the ear canal. “The hydrogen peroxide can sometimes loosen or dissolve the wax and help get rid of the water trapped in the ear canal,” Dr. Jethanamest explained.

You can get eardrops online or over the counter that combines urea and hydrogen peroxide, known as carbamide peroxide, to dissolve earwax. However, don’t use this method if you have an outer ear infection, perforated eardrum, or tympanostomy tubes (eardrum tubes).

Stay Away From Cotton Swabs

You might be tempted to reach for cotton swabs and start poking around in your ear to dislodge the trapped water, but this method is discouraged. Dr. Jethanamest warned against inserting anything deep into your ear as it can cause more harm than good. You could add bacteria to the area, push the water deeper into your ear, injure your ear canal, or even puncture your eardrum—possibly requiring a trip to the emergency room.

When To See a Healthcare Provider About Water in Your Ears

If the above tips don’t work, and the fluid sensation has been there for more than a couple of days, get it checked by your healthcare provider. “Fluid can quickly turn into an outer or middle ear effusion [when liquid behind the eardrum becomes thick or sticky] if not treated appropriately,” Dr. Thompson warned.

Signs you may have trapped water in your middle ear (otitis media) rather than the external ear canal include a sensation of fullness or congestion in the ear, hearing loss, and possible crackling or sloshing sounds in the ear when it’s in different positions, Dr. Jethanamest said.

But it isn’t something you should try to diagnose yourself, so you’d need to make an appointment with your primary care provider. “In order to properly diagnose a middle ear infection, a doctor would need to examine you with an otoscope or microscope,” Dr. Thompson said.

Sometimes, middle ear fluid can be caused by nasal congestion; in these cases, over-the-counter decongestants or nasal steroid sprays might be recommended. But it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from your healthcare provider, Dr. Jethanamest said. And if you have more severe symptoms like pain or swelling of the skin or areas around the ear, this could be due to an ear infection—another reason to check in with your healthcare provider.

A Quick Review

Getting water stuck in your ear is never a pleasant sensation. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to get it out, from tilting your head to using a hair dryer. Just make sure to stay away from cotton swabs, as they can cause damage to your inner ear. If you’ve tried a few methods and the water still won’t budge, or this is happening frequently, reach out to a healthcare provider for further evaluation.

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How To Get Water Out Of Ears

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6 Ways to Get Water Out of Your Ears

Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.

Updated on August 21, 2022

John Carew, MD, is board-certified in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. He is an adjunct assistant professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center and NYU Medical Center.

There are many ways to get water out of your ear if you’ve been swimming or have recently taken a bath. You can try tilting your head down, placing facial tissue against your ear, or using ear drops.

Having water in one or both of your ears may decrease your hearing, make your ears feel like they need to pop, or otherwise just feel annoying.

A swimming instructor with her students

Leaving excess water in the outer ear canal can increase your chances of developing an infection called swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear occurs when moisture allows bacteria or fungi inside the outer ear canal to grow. It can be prevented by keeping your ears dry.

Some people are more prone to developing swimmer’s ear than others. If you’ve had this infection in the past, you should be extra cautious about keeping your ear canal clean and dry.

You can prevent getting water in your ears in the first place by wearing earplugs (available over the counter at most drug stores) while bathing or swimming.

How to Get Water Out of Your Ears

Try these techniques for getting water out of your ears after swimming or bathing:

  • Tilt your head down or lay on your side so that gravity allows the water to run out. You might wish to place a folded towel under your head and lay down on a pillow. It may be helpful to gently pull your ear lobe down to straighten the ear canal out and make it easier for the water to run out. You can also try gently shaking your head from side to side. (Do not shake anyone’s head side to side if they are an infant or child.)
  • Use a hairdryer on a low (cool) setting to gently dry your ears. Be careful not to hold the dryer too close to the ear to avoid burns. It may be helpful to tug on your ear lobe (pulling it down toward your shoulder) or gently move it from side to side while using the blow dryer.
  • Use a facial tissue to draw water from the ear canal. Place a tissue gently against your ear and tilt your head to the side, allowing the tissue to absorb water.

Ear Drops

If the above methods don’t work and you don’t have a condition that has impaired your eardrum, you can try ear drops.

  • Rubbing alcohol and vinegar: Use one part rubbing alcohol and one part vinegar. Lie on your side while another person uses a dropper to put three to four drops of the solution in your ear. Remain on your side for another 30 seconds, then tilt your head to allow all the fluid to run out of your ear.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Use three to four drops of hydrogen peroxide. Leave it in your ear for one to two minutes before tilting your head to allow the fluid to run out.
  • Over-the-counter ear drops: If you choose an over-the-counter ear drop, make sure you follow the directions on the package. The ear drops should be used at room temperature. If they are too cold, you might get dizzy or feel strange when you put them in your ear.

What Not to Do for Water in Your Ears

Never stick anything into your ears to try to get the water out, including cotton swabs. You could accidentally push the water further into your ear, introduce bacteria, or even damage the ear canal or eardrum.

Do not put any kind of drops in your ear if you have had recent ear surgery, have had surgically placed ventilation tubes, or could have a ruptured eardrum.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

Even if you are unable to get the water out of your ears with one of the methods listed above, your ears will usually clear out on their own within a day or two.

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Ear pain
  • Redness, itchiness, or flaking skin in the ear canal
  • Sudden or persistent hearing loss
  • Drainage from the ear that is bloody, yellow, green, milky, or foul-smelling
  • Any other symptoms that seem unusual or do not go away

It should also be noted that fluid can be trapped behind the eardrum. This is not the same as getting water in the outer ear canal after going swimming or taking a bath, though both conditions can cause similar symptoms. Fluid in the middle ear is much more common in small children than in adults, although it can occur in all age groups.

If you have fluid behind the eardrum, you won’t be able to get rid of it with one of the methods listed in this article. Your healthcare provider may choose to observe you and see if the fluid goes away on its own (usually over a period of months) or to prescribe an antibiotic, or you may need the surgical placement of ventilation tubes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to keep water out of my ears when I swim?

Well-fitting ear plugs should do the trick, but you can get extra protection by wearing a tight swim cap made of silicone that fits over your ears.

What causes swimmer’s ear?

Typically, swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, is caused by a bacterial infection. The bacteria most often involved are Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Less often, a fungal infection is the reason for outer ear infections.

What kind of ear plugs work best for keeping water out of the ears during swimming?

Any type of ear plug sold for swimming should work. You may need to try different ones to find a pair that feels comfortable and stays in place in your ear. Do not use foam plugs designed to block noise; they won’t prevent water from seeping in. You also can see an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in the ears, nose, and throat, about having custom-fitted ear plugs made.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa).
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ear infections.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Swimming and ear infections.
  4. Wiegand S, Berner R, Schneider A, et al. Otitis externa. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2019;116(13):224-234. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2019.0224

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.