A range of single-use plastic products including cotton buds and plastic straws have now been banned from sale and distribution in England. Cotton buds are small and seem like a harmless way to clean our ears but when disposed of, they take a long time to break down. Most people flush them down the toilet after use and this can harm marine life and birds. So how do you clean your ears without using cotton buds?
English people use about 1.8 billion cotton buds each year, but it’s now officially illegal to sell or supply cotton buds in England.
This law was meant to come into force in April, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused the Government to postpone the ban.
Plastic straws and stirrers are also banned, with exemptions in place to protect those with disabilities and medical conditions that mean they require plastic straws.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just the next step in our battle against plastic pollution and our pledge to protect our ocean and the environment for future generations.”
Some people naturally have more earwax than others, and this can be genetic, down to your age, down to your hearing aids, or because you have hairy or narrow canals.
We need earwax to protect our ears from dirt and germs, but having excess wax isn’t pleasant.
Using cotton buds to clean your ears will only make the situation worse.
If your ears are particularly waxy, you can use ear drops to soften it and encourage the wax to fall out on its own.
Earwax is only a real problem if you have blocked ears or an infection.
You can tell if your ear is blocked with earwax if you have earache, difficulty hearing, itchiness, dizziness, an ear infection, or tinnitus.
If your ear is blocked, the NHS recommends putting two to three drops of olive or almond oil in your ear twice a day.
Keep this up for a few days, and over two weeks you’ll notice lumps of earwax falling out of your ear.
Don’t worry, this probably won’t happen while you’re at a fancy dinner or working up a sweat in the gym… it’s most likely to come out at night when you’re lying down.
If this doesn’t work, your pharmacist will be able to suggest a treatment that will help you.
For example, you may be able to use chemical drops to dissolve the wax.