Cotton swabs are too often used to clean out the ear canal, despite repeated warnings about the dangers of impacted earwax and irreparable ear damage. Besides the obvious risk of jamming the swab too far into the ear, swabs actually push much of your earwax back into the ear, creating a blockage that could cause temporary hearing loss, tinnitus or to be surgically removed by a professional. Your ears should always be cleaned using warm water, or a couple drops of mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide if the wax is stubborn.

In order to help break you of that misguided habit, we here at Healthy Hearing have compiled a list of other great uses for cotton swabs for you. These tiny tools are great for a variety of life’s little problems, from entertaining children to fixing make-up smudges.

Cotton swabs can be used to clean the intricate
details on furniture, pianos and more. 


Cotton swabs are a boon to the obsessively clean. The little tools are perfectly designed for getting into corners and other minuscule places that accumulate dirt. Try using them to clean:

  • Electronics
  • Jewelry
  • Silver
  • Hard to reach places like the keyboard, computer mouse, back of a hairdryer, remote control, hinges and eyeglasses
  • Tools that need greasing or oiling in tight spots
  • Car wax from hood ornaments and emblems


Cotton swabs were invented in 1923 by Q-tip founder Leo Gerstenzang, who developed the item into a marketable product after watching his wife stick cotton balls on toothpicks. Ever since then, they’ve been ubiquitous in doctor’s offices, make-up artist’s trailers and everyday bathrooms.

Medicine application/removal

The small applicators make them perfect for both applying medicine and removing any excess. This especially comes in handy if you’re using a particularly potent substance like a wart removal medication, where skin damage is possible if you accidentally use too much.

Cleaning/sanitizing wounds

In the event of a cut or a scrape, cleaning the wound is important to avoid infection, especially in the case of small children and the elderly. Cotton swabs have the ability to get the dirt out of all the nooks and crannies where bacteria might live.

Cotton swabs may not belong in 
your ear, but they can help with 
some tight spaces!


Q-tips were so popular in applying make-up that in the 1950s, Hollywood make-up artist Ern Westmore teamed with the company to publish the “Lesson in Loveliness with Q-tips” booklet as a marketing tool.

Lip and eye touch-up

Not only are cotton swabs good for erasing that inadvertent smudge, but they’re also great for smudging your make-up on purpose. Smokey eyes can be done with a fluffed out cotton swab and little bit of eyeliner or eyeshadow.

Manicure and pedicure

Why pay money when you can create a professional look all on your own? Cotton swabs offer the precision necessary for French tips and other minute details.

Blemish concealer

Dipping your cotton swab into your concealer and pinpointing your problem areas can quietly cover what a large applicator brush might leave exposed.

Fake eyelashes

If you’re tired of those little messy glue bottles, squeeze the glue onto a cotton swab first. This lets you apply the glue evenly across the base of the eyelashes, preventing any unwanted globs.


Hold a cotton swab diagonally across your cheekbone as a guide for your blush and concealer. The swab will help give you that defined, contour look.

Make-up remover

Cotton swabs are useful if you need to redo a small area of your makeup, while still preserving the rest of your hard work.


Whether it’s in your purse of your dop kit, cotton swabs take significantly less space than a bottle of perfume or a case of make-up. Soaking a few swabs in your favorite perfume and storing them in a Ziploc bag saves the fragrance, so you can re-touch if necessary throughout the day. If you’re traveling, coat a few in your favorite eyeshadow to save space in place of a make-up kit.

Down to the last

Make-up is expensive, so none of it should go to waste. When you’re down to the last bit, use a cotton swab to get the rest of the corners. You’ll be surprised at how much longer your make-up will last.

Crafts and games

Cotton swabs are not only great tools to use in crafts and games, but as a building material as well. In addition to making fun creations like these, you can use them in a number of activities:

  • Model kit assembly
  • Face painting
  • Pottery detailing
  • Darts: shoot them out of bendy straws at numbered buckets for an easy, inexpensive game.
  • Painting: they can act as tiny paint brushes for small children, creating a much smaller mess.
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