Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-p2v8j Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-13T05:53:17.090Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Finding the most effective cerumenolytic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 October 2013

C Saxby*
ENT Department, Torbay District General Hospital, Torquay, UK
R Williams
ENT Department, Torbay District General Hospital, Torquay, UK
S Hickey
ENT Department, Torbay District General Hospital, Torquay, UK
Address for correspondence: Ms C Saxby, ENT Department, Torbay District General Hospital, Newton Rd, Torquay TQ2 7AA, UK Fax: +44 (0)1803 655 506 E-mail:



To conduct an in-vitro study to determine the most effective topical cerumenolytic.


Cerumen was collected from patients who attended the ENT out-patient clinic. The collected cerumen was formed into a homogeneous ball. Discs of wax were punched out and weighed to create samples of uniform shape and size. Each cerumen sample was placed in a tube which contained one of six test solutions. The tubes were observed at specific time points. Digital photographs were taken to record the degree of cerumen disintegration. The cerumen discs were then removed from the solutions, dried and re-weighed.


Distilled water caused the greatest reduction in the mass of the cerumen disc. Cerumen placed in distilled water and in sodium bicarbonate solution showed substantial disintegration at 12 hours. Cerumen placed in solutions containing oil-based agents showed no visible sign of disintegration and no reduction in dried weight.


Distilled water resulted in the greatest degree of cerumenolysis. Oil-based cerumenolytics were ineffective.

Main Articles
Copyright © JLO (1984) Limited 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1Guest, J, Greener, M, Robinson, A, Smith, A. Impacted cerumen: composition, production, epidemiology and management. QJM 2004;97:477–88CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
2Chai, TJ, Chai, TC. Bactericidal activity of cerumen. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1980;18:638–41CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
3Burton, MJ, Doree, CJ. Ear drops for the removal of ear wax. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2009;(1):CD004326CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
4Grossan, M. Cerumen removal – current challenges. Ear Nose Throat J 1998;77:541–6, 548CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
5Hand, C, Harvey, I. The effectiveness of topical preparations for the treatment of earwax: a systematic review. Br J Gen Pract 2004;54:862–7Google ScholarPubMed
6Anonymous. British National Formulary. London: BMJ Group and Pharmaceutical Press, 2012Google Scholar
7Fraser, JG. The efficacy of wax solvents: in vitro studies and a clinical trial. J Laryngol Otol 1970;84:1055–64CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
8Mehta, AK. An in-vitro comparison of the disintegration of human ear wax by five cerumenolytics commonly used in general practice. Br J Clin Pract 1985;39:200–3CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
9Horowitz, J. Solvents for ear wax. Br Med J 1968;4:583CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
10Hinchcliffe, R. Efficacy of current cerumenolytics. Br Med J 1955;17:722Google Scholar
11Bellini, M, Terry, R, Lewis, F. An evaluation of common cerumenolytic agents: an in-vitro study. Clin Otolaryngol 1989;14:23–5CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
12Chalishazar, U, Williams, H. Back to basics: finding an optimal cerumenolytic (earwax solvent). Br J Nurs 2007;16:806–8CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed