Prevent Ear Infections This Summer . . . Make Your Own Swimmer’s Ear Drops

swimmers ear

I was born and raised in Southern California. When I was 8 years old we moved into a house with a pool. As wonderful as that was…from that point forward, I was in a constant battle with “Swimmer’s Ear”.  I guess that’s what you get when you spend most of your time in the pool UNDERNEATH the water pretending you are a mermaid. :-)

Swimmer’s ear is an EXTERNAL ear infection that affects the ear drum in the ear canal. When water get stuck in the ear canal after swimming or bathing, the water can irritate the skin of the ear canal which then gets invaded by bacteria. This infection will fester until it builds up enough to cause pain.

To help prevent swimmer’s ear, you can make and use your own Swimmer’s Ear Drops. Although these won’t cure an existing infection, they are very effective at making sure you avoid future ones.

swimmers ear

Even parenting expert and pediatrician, Dr. William Sears, recommends making and using your own Swimmer’s Ear Drops.

He points out that you can BUY swimmer’s ear drops in the drug store, but they do not have any advantage over plain white vinegar and alcohol.

I only WISH I had known about these drops back in the day! Might have saved me many a painful experience….not to mention trips to the doctor’s office!


How to make your own Swimmer’s Ear Drops:

1. Pour equal amounts of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol in a small bottle with a dropper lid. Close and shake the bottle gently to mix the ingredients.

2. Tilt your head to the side and gently pull the ear lobe down. Place 5 to 10 drops of the mixture into the ear. Keep your head held to the side for a few minutes so the ear drops don’t drain out.

3. Hold a towel of some sort up to your ear. Raise your head up and allow the drops for swimmer’s ear to drain out. Wipe off any drops that run out of your ear.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 on other ear.

Important – do not place alcohol into an already sore or infected ear. This will be very painful for an already hurting child. If your child has a swimmer’s ear, and gets water in it, then use just white vinegar.


swimmers ear


As a former FREQUENT Swimmer’s Ear sufferer….I sincerely hope this helps the little swimmer’s out there this summer from having to go through all that unpleasantness and pain….and the parents who have to deal with it. :-)



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  1. Angela says

    This is a great thing to share.It works great, doctor recommended this a few years back when all 3 of my kids got swimmers ear at the same time. I wish someone had told my mom about this when I was younger. It doesn’t smell the greatest but who cares if it prevents the pain and save some $ in the process!!

  2. Mary Malone says

    hmmm. I don’t swim ever! But my golden retriever swims 3 x a week and has had ear infections from me not getting all the wet out of her ear canal. That is what this stuff does, right? Dries out the wet that is in the ear?? hmmmm.

  3. Kathy says

    My grandmother kept a bottle of this mixed for us when we visited her in the summer. That was 40 years ago. I still use it for my kids, and it has been a lifesaver. It really works – and so inexpensive.

  4. Courtney says

    Thank you for this! Two of my kids are prone to swimmer’s ear and we’ve been using store-bought drops. It’s nice to know that when we run out, I can just make my own at home.

  5. Darlene says

    Be really careful with this. We thought my grandson had swimmers ear and put the drops in and he screamed like he was dying. So we took him to the ER and his ear had gotten scratched by the sand when he was in the ocean when he got knocked down by a wave. I will never put anything in their ears again after that.

  6. Celeste says

    GREAT post. Both kids and the husband had swimmers ear last year and the meds cost $100—and that was the adjusted price for insurance. We are doing this after every dip in the pool this year. THANKS!

  7. Stephanie w. says

    We used to put a drop or two of rubbing alcohol in our ears to help get the water out of our ears that we couldn’t seem to get out. My brother and I were on swim team pretty much every year from kindergarten to high school. Another kind of strange thing we used to do is when our eyes were all red and hurt from the chlorine my mom would put a drop of milk in our eyes and it really did seem to help.

  8. Kim S. says

    Thank you SOOOOOOO MUCH!!!! I LOVE your blog!!!!!!!!! Not only is it colorful and easy on the eyes, it’s also full to the BRIM of extremely useful information for this mama!! You save me money and also I know what is going into my family’s products.

  9. ANN MARIE says

    This is the Swimmer’s Ear Drops from when my kids took swimming lessons:
    2/3 Everclear
    1/3 Vinegar
    Using any size dropper/dispenser, I used an empty dropper bottle.
    They did not get ONE ear problem during there lessons! The teacher was nice enough to tell me the recipe.
    I thought I would share with yall :())

    • ANN MARIE says

      Hi Emma,
      Everclear is an alcohol. I actually had to ask the attendant at the liquor store where to find it.
      I usually would not spend the extra & just use cheap rubbing alcohol BUT the proof was in the
      drops, so to speak, with my kids not getting ear infections after swimming lessons. This teacher has
      used this recipe for years & she says works the best.
      Hope that helps.
      Ann Marie :())

  10. brenda says

    i want to add my confirmation of this “recipe” i worked for prominent ENT in so cal and this was their recipe also. so very many children and parents LOVED the gtts and the drs.

  11. Christine says

    Thanks for this! My son has had constant ear problems since he was a baby and he’s so worried about his ears when he swims. I have a related trick that my mom taught me that you might be interested in. Last year on vacation my daughter woke in the middle of the night with a terrible ear infection no doubt brought on by spending the entire day in the pool. Having nothing to give her and no where to take her in the middle of the night (we were on a small island resort ton), my mom suggested putting a few drops of olive oil in her ear. I was nervous, but desperate. To my surprise and relief, I worked! She slept the rest of the night and didn’t complain of any pain the rest o our trip!! I imagine the oil helped separate the water in her ear and it drained right out. Sure beats a trip to the E.R. In the middle of the night!

  12. charlene says

    OK, This may be a silly question…do you use the swimmer’s ear drops before they go in the water, or after they get out of the pool, or later on in the evening? I’m confused….

  13. Michelle says

    So what do you use when one of your kids wake you up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain from swimmers ear because you forgot the drops? LISTERINE! Just put a bit on a cotton ball and place it in their ear.
    I was a little thrown back at this one myself when my husband told me – but it WORKS! I thought it was an old wives tale at first, but was willing to try anything to relieve the pain. It is the antiseptic that is the trick – so not just any mouth wash works. This is not a doctor’s recomendation that I know of – but it works in a pinch.

  14. says

    I am a nurse and will be a pediatric nurse practitioner in a few short months… all of the doctors and nurses and nurse practitioners I have ever worked with ALWAYS suggest this method for preventing swimmer’s ear. It works like a CHARM!!! The alcohol helps dry up the water and the vinegar changes the environment of the ear canal to discourage bacterial growth – tried and true method!!

    One safety consideration, though — Parents should NEVER EVER EVER put this mixture into their child’s ear if their child has TUBES in their ears – it can damage the inner ear!!! no good!!!

  15. Carol says

    I use this formula for my toddler who frequently gets ear infections when he gets a cold. At the first sign of a runny nose, we use the drops nightly. After getting several ear infections in a few months, he hasn’t gotten a single one again since starting drops 8 months ago: )

  16. Lisa says

    Wow, I tried the alcohol (91% isopropyl ) with white vinegar (acetic acid) last night and it is great!!!
    I am a person with lifelong ear problems and while I was going to a otolaryngologist and getting $200 Acetol ear drops (acetic acid, distiller water, and hydrocortisone ) but his office was hard to get an appointment especially since I work 12hrs a day and have 2 kids….so I don’t always have time and so while the drops would fend off infections — I would run out and end up getting serious infections many times a year which then landed me on antibiotics. My issue — so I feel is that I am very susceptible to fungal infections and antibiotics encourage fungal growth. The Acetol drops are great but difficult to always get the prescription and spending $200 for the drops which seem so simple seems silly so I have been looking for something that I can do to get rid of the no stop itch and prevent the infection from coming on. Having had ear infections non-stop for 40 years I can tell instantly when things don’t feel right and when I am starting an infection. I felt that way last night and tried this mixture — careful to use only alcohol and white vinegar and not have any water residue in the dropper or cup I used…..water I feel is the enemy which harbors bacteria and fungus and surprisingly by morning my ears feel great! I am so excited…you have no idea!!!

  17. Stacie Freniere says

    A boil inside the ear will usually burst, drain and heal by itself after a few days, but if you are in considerable pain and discomfort and do not want to wait for this to happen, see your GP. They may be able to remove the pus using a surgical needle. ;”;^

    Have a look at all of the most interesting posting at our very own homepage http://calaguastourpackage.comda Stacie Freniere

  18. Lyn Gooding says

    Since dairy is a likely culprit, try phasing dairy out of your diet for one month. If you experience no change in your symptoms, you’ve ruled out dairy as a possible allergen. If you experience an improvement in symptoms, you know that your body reacts to dairy by producing more mucus, although studies indicate a no clear link between dairy and mucus production…^’*

    Good day <

  19. awatkinson says

    Am retired physician, and my father who was GP had us use this recipe
    50% rubbing alcohol, 50%vinegar. Have trouble finding dropper bottles for my grandchildren. As advised above do not put in ear with active infection, at least the alcohol as it will burn. The vinegar kills the gram-negative bacteria that dominate in ear canal infections or swimmers ear. Use polymixin drops till pain gone for several days then vinegar then mixture. You smell like a salad but it works. Don’t forget to use after bathtub if you go under water like my granddaughter. Try to avoid getting any water in the ears till pain gone for a day or two. AWA


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