Best Ways to Clean Your Dog’s Ears at Home

Best Ways to Clean Your Dog's Ears at Home
Poor Calvin. He’s not the biggest fan of getting his ears cleaned.

In fact, he’s quite a big baby about it.

Unfortunately, he’s prone to getting ear infections, which is typical for his breed. If we don’t clean his ears weekly, he gets terrible ear infections that can last for over a week.

Thankfully, my other two canines never get ear infections (knock on wood), so weekly cleanings aren’t necessary.

Why You Should Clean Your Dog’s Ears

  • As a preventative measure – Some dogs, like Calvin, need regular cleanings to keep infections at bay.
  • Infection – Symptoms of ear infections include:  odors, redness, swelling, head shaking, and brown gunk in the ears.
  • Ear Mites – Symptoms of ear mites include a red/brown/black crust, shaking their head, itching their ear excessively, and build up in the ear canal that resembles coffee grounds.
  • Odor – Can be from allergies, too much moisture (be careful when washing your dog), or infection.
  • Debris can get trapped in the ear canal – Though rare, it’s possible for dogs to get foreign debris in their ears.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

how to wash clean dog ears at home prevent infection mites odor

Keep your pupper’s ears dry, clean, and perky!

Here are the two main methods for cleaning your dog’s ears.

One thing to note:

Never stick a cotton swab or other foreign object into the ear canal. If your dog jerks its head or you go too far, you can damage the eardrum.

Liquid Cleanser Method

Holding your dog’s head gently but still, slowly squeeze the cleaner directly into the ear canal.

Now, gently massage the base of the ear to move the cleanser around, then let your dog shake its head.

Using a clean gauze pad or paper towel, wipe up the outer ear to remove any excess liquid.

Cleaning pads

Though these can work great, they do not get into the ear canal like the liquid cleanser

To use a cleaning pad, either one you made or purchased, hold your dog’s head gently but still while you wipe the outer ear and the top of the ear canal.

Cleaning pads are also great to get rid of the brownish stubborn wax build up.

What Products are Safe to Clean Your Dog’s Ears?

Home Remedies

Bragg organic apple cider vinegar ear wash treatment irritates skin

While vinegar has other uses, keep it out of your dog’s ears!

I’m as much a fan as the next person when it comes to home remedies and fewer chemicals.

Unfortunately, most experts do not recommend the use of some home remedies such as alcohol and vinegar as they can often irritate the skin, having the opposite result of preventative treatment.

Also, Dr. Michael Lund, veterinary staff manager for ASPCA’s Community Medicine Department in New York, states, “At-home remedies are often half water, and water in the ear is what can predispose many dogs to ear infections.”

However, there are two pretty gentle treatments you can try:

Coconut or Olive Oil

You can drip a small amount of coconut or olive oil into the ear canal as well as rub the oil on the top of the ear canal.

The oils soften the excess wax and help it move up and out where it can be wiped away with a tissue, according to Erika Halle, DVM, a veterinary acupuncturist and chiropractor in Oregon.

You can then use the coconut oil as a carrier oil for flea-repellent essential oils!

Florida laboratories granular boric acid powder solution cleaning drying preventing yeastBoric Acid

Boric acid can also aid in preventing ear infections.

Sprinkle the powder in your dog’s ears after swimming or bathing.

The acidic nature of the powder discourages the growth of yeast.


Over the Counter Ear (OTC) Cleaners for Dogs

Natural Ingredients

I prefer to buy products that have natural ingredients. Safe natural ingredients can be used for everything from dealing with fleas to discouraging your dog from eating poop!

But I feel it would be irresponsible of me not to state that some of these ingredients used on their own, used incorrectly, or in more significant quantities can cause great harm to our beloved canines.

So, always check to see how to best to use these products.

That being, said here are the properties of some natural ingredients to look for in the following products:

Burts Bees for dogs relieving ear rinse care plus chamomile rosemary

Burt’s Bees Care Plus+ Relieving Dog Ear Rinse

What I like about it:

  • Contains: Peppermint oil, Witch Hazel, and Tea Tree Oil

Virbac animal health epi-otic advanced ear cleanser for dogs puppies salicylic acid

Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner for Dogs & Cats

What I like about it:

  • Veterinarian recommended
  • Helps to remove and prevent wax build up
  • Drying, prevents moisture build up

Naturvet ear wash baby powder plus tea tree oil aloe vera cleaning dogs

NaturVet Ear Wash with Tea Tree Oil for Dogs & Cats

What I like about it:

  • Natural active ingredients
  • Contains Tea Tree Oil

Over the Counter (OTC) Ear Cleaning Pads for Dogs

Ear cleaning wipes are a good alternative to liquid washes. They can be more expensive long-term but are easier to use, especially with wiggly pups!

Vet's best nature's health care clean ear finger pads easy to use removes wax odors

Vets Best Clean Ear Finger Pads

What I like about it:

  • The pad fits around the finger making it easier to clean the ears effectively
  • Contains Aloe Vera

Earthbath natural pet care ear wipes cleans deodorizes dogs cats puppies kittens biodegradable

Earthbath Ear Wipes for Dogs

What I like about it:

  • Contains witch hazel
  • 100% bio-degradable


There’s a lot of products out there to keep your dog’s ears clean and, it’s important to find a product you’re comfortable using.

Always remember: If you think there’s an infection, get your dog into the vet since ear infections left unattended can lead to severe complications including permanent hearing loss!

FAQs, Tips, & Fun Facts

What is the brown stuff in my dog’s ears?

military working dog ear examination brown gunk stuff signs dirty ear

Dr. Joanna Kuecker, U.S. Army Public Health Command District-Carson, examines a military workin’ dog.

It could be a buildup of yeast, which is smelly and indicative of an infection.

Or it could be dirty earwax, which doesn’t have an odor.

Flea infestation sign can also look like brown stuff in your dog’s ears!

Fun Fact

Earwax functions to collect dirt, debris, dead cells, microbes, pollen, etc.

Earwax then slides and glides its way slowly out of the ear canal, carrying all the unwanted items with it and cleaning the ear naturally.

How do you clean the wax out of a dog’s ear?

If your dog has excessive earwax buildup, it’s good to remove the brown debris so the ear canal doesn’t become blocked. Then use a wash such as Epi-Optic, which helps lubricate the ear canal so the wax can flow out on its own.

Most dogs don’t suffer from this issue, but some breeds like basset hounds, English Bulldogs, and Golden Retrievers are more prone to suffer from chronic earwax buildup.

Pup Tippuppy training tip play with ears early easier vet exam later

If you have a puppy, go through the motions, minus the cleanser, of cleaning the ears.

Make it a fun game and use lots of treats and positive reinforcement. This will help if your dog does have ear infections in the future since they will be used to you handling their ears.

It’s not uncommon for dogs to act adversely to having their ears cleaned, especially if they weren’t properly exposed to it as puppies.

If you do have a dog that’s sensitive to having its ears touched, you can do the same training to help desensitize your dog.

However, if your dog is aggressive when their ears are touched, please consult a professional to avoid being bit!

About the author

Jessica Mabie

Jessica and her husband share their lives with four amazing high energy Brittanys and one very awesome cat. You’ll rarely see her without her 4 pack, they go everywhere with her, including most vacations. So, if you see her out and about with her family don’t hesitate to say “Hi!”, (You’ll know it’s her since few are so daring as to have 4 Britts).