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Cleaning your baby's ears, eyes and nose

3-minute read

Keeping your baby’s head and face clean is important for their good health. That’s because baby skin is fragile and more sensitive than adult skin, so it can easily become irritated. It can take a little while to get used to cleaning their tiny ears, eyes and nose, but with practice your confidence will grow.

Do I need to clean my baby's ears, eyes and nose?

Although young babies don’t move around much, you’d be surprised at how dirty their faces can get. Just like adults, they can develop ear wax and mucus in their nose and discharge in their eyes.

Paying special attention to these parts of your baby’s body will prevent problems in future.

When should I clean my baby's ears, eyes and nose?

Your baby’s ears, eyes and nose should be wiped every day. All you need is some cotton wool and warm water. Don’t use soap because this can dry out your baby’s sensitive skin.

A good time to clean your baby's ears, eyes and nose is just before you give them a bath. Newborn babies don't need a bath every day — 2 or 3 times a week is enough — so on other days you can just wash their face and bottom. This is known as 'top and tailing'.

Some babies get upset when you wash their faces, so choose a time when they’re relaxed. It’s best not to wash their face when they’re hungry, or right after a feed. Talking or singing while you’re washing them might help to calm them down.

How do I clean my baby's ears, eyes and nose?

If you are going to give your baby a bath, fill the bath with warm water and get together everything you need first. Always make sure the water is no hotter than 37 to 38°C. If you don’t have a thermometer, use your elbow or wrist to check the water isn't too hot.

Before you undress your baby, lay them on a safe surface. Dip some cotton wool in lukewarm water. Gently clean the corners of their eyes, wiping from the inside corner to the outside corner. Use a new cotton wool ball for each eye.

Then gently wipe around each nostril to get rid of any mucus. Wipe around your baby's ears, including around the outside.

Use a soft towel to gently dry your baby's skin, making sure you also dry behind the ears.

It's very important not to stick anything into your baby's ears or nose as this can cause damage. It can cause the lining of the inside of the nose to bleed and damage the eardrum. Pushing something into your baby's ear or nose can increase the risk of infection.

When their face is clean and dry, you can undress them and give them their bath.

Should I remove my baby's earwax?

Usually there is no need to remove your baby's earwax. It has an important role in protecting their ears. It blocks germs that could cause infection from reaching the eardrum and it prevents dirt and dust from entering your baby's ear.

Ear wax usually makes its way to the outer ear naturally. You can gently wipe it away when you're cleaning their ears. Don’t ever poke a cotton swab, finger or anything else into your baby's ears.

You should also avoid using remedies to remove ear wax. This risks damaging the ear canal and can even affect your baby’s hearing.

If you think your baby's ears are causing them discomfort — for example, if they're tugging or pulling their ears a lot — then tell your doctor in case they have an ear infection.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2021

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