6 Ways to Get Water Out of Your Ears

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
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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.

4 Sources
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 externaDtsch 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.